10 February 2013

Nigeria: Whither Abuja Impounded Commercial Motorcycles?

In a bid to enforce sanity in the city centre and major settlements within the FCT, the administration banned motorcycles popularly called 'okada' from operating. To many defaulters of the order, such motorcycles are imponded and taken to a designated destination. Uche Uduma writes that at one of the designated points, there are over 10,000 of such motorcycles.

The Federal Capital Territory is a model city, and like every other model cities of the world, not every vehicle is allowed to ply some routes. However, the unprecedented influx of people into the city led to increased congestion and chaos within the metropolis thereby causing security issues and environmental challenges.

In bid to improve mobility as well as restore sanity to the city, the FCT administration in 2006 banned the use of motorcycles within the city centre. The use of motorcycles were limited to only the estates, area councils and the suburbs. In order to enforce the ban and rid the city of motorbikes, Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIO, were given the mandate to seize motorcycles found within the city.

The clampdown on motor bikes led to massive seizure of motorcycles. However unlike Lagos where motorcycles seized are crushed in order to protect the environment, the motorcycles seized in Abuja are abandoned at auto pond, an open space located along the airport road, where they are left to rust. LEADERSHIP Sunday investigation revealed that between 2006 till date, over 10,000 motorcycles have been seized, however, the government, since then, has not opened the door for the owners to claim them.

Speaking with Leadership Sunday, the Public Relations Officer VIO Mr. Iloduba KK stated that the onus lies on the FCT administration to decide on what to do with the seized motorcycles as their own duty is to enforce the ban on motorbikes as directed by the government.

According to him "Between 2006 till date, we have impounded over 10,000 motor bikes and just last week, we renewed our efforts again in the enforcement of the ban by impounding about 434 of them. They have all been evacuated to our auto pond where we keep such items. Basically, where the VIO stands as an organization is at the playing level of enforcement.

VIO as we all know, is under the Transport Secretariat under the Ministry of the FCT responsible for the formulation of transportation policy, so , the decision comes from them. It is our duty to enforce it and ensure that it is followed, so that is how it operates. They formulate the policies over there at Area 11 and we enforce it. The VIO, just like every uniform organisation, is ruled by instruction.

The instruction of the FCT minster is to impound any motorcycle that is found within the FCT. So, when we impound such motorcycles, we keep them and wait for the next instruction. But the truth is that every bike that we impounded between 2006 till date are on ground.

The FCT traffic rules and regulation Cap 548 stipulates that after a given period of time, if you don't come to claim ownership of your bike, you forfeit the ownership to the government, so they are now government property. We have no right to determine who claims them. Right now, the door of claims is not yet open, but by the time it is opened, people will come in and they will be allowed to make their claims."

In bid to unravel the intentions of the FCT administration towards the 10,000 motorcycles abandoned at the auto pond, LEADERSHIP Sunday spoke with the Public Relations Officer Transport Secretariat, FCT, Mrs. Stella Ojeme, she stated that the Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIO are in charge of the impounded motorbikes adding that the FCTA has nothing to do with the abandoned motorcycles.

So far, the exercise is still on-going and the ban is gradually being extended to the suburbs which were not originally included, despite the fact that the FCT administration is yet to decide on what to do with the already-impounded vehicles. VIO Spokesperson, Mr. Iloduba, however, pointed out that the ban of motorbikes only extends to highways in the suburbs.

He stated, "I believe the area you are talking about is the Airport road. It is a very sensitive area in the FCT because it is one of the major gate ways into the city and outside the city. That route is what we call the Presidential Route. Before now, it was a common sight to see motorcycles crossing the express.

You also see the riders crossing the dwarf fences with passengers on bikes. Many times, while presidential or ministerial motorcades are on the move, you see the bike men carrying passengers jostling for space, not minding that the speed of those convoys is always alarming. Most of these bikes that they are going out for, we don't get them on the roads again, so we pursue them to the suburbs.

The ban on motorcycles in FCT is an understandable ban. There are areas we don't want the motorcycles to operate, but the other areas they are allowed to operate, if they stick to the rules, there will be peace. They are allowed to operate in estates, area councils, Kwali, Gwagwalada, Dutse and Kuje. They are also allowed to bring in people from the estates to the bus stops where they can board a bus into the city centre.

But ultimately, the ban on motorcycles were based on improving the mobility as well as restoring serenity to the FCT, he said. "We don't want them within the city centre for so many reasons that we have talked about before now like security, health and other risks they pose. For anyone that violates this law and decides to ply within the city centre, we will impound the bike."

Just recently, mini buses and cabs were barred from entering the metropolis. The FCT administration gave mini buses and cabs three weeks (which has been extended again for logistics reason) to get accustomed to the new routes they are supposed to ply after which the ban will once again come into force.

Although many Abuja residents are yet to get accustomed to the ban of motorcycles, cabs and buses, surprise still awaits Abuja residents as plans are underway to stop the operation of tricycles popularly called 'Keke NAPEP' from operating within the metropolis.

Mr. Iloduba disclosed that there are plans by Vehicle Inspection Office to rid the city of Keke NAPEP "Very soon, we are going to clamp down on Keke NAPEP because they are not actually supposed to be within the city center. They are also supposed to operate at the suburb level and estates bringing commuters from the estates to the bus stops.

There is little difference between a motorbike and tricycle; in fact, the registration is the same. The engine capacity is very light; it is as light as motorcycle, if a trailer is on top speed like 80km/hr, the wind that comes with the trailer is enough to jostle it. It is not designed for the highway, it is designed for rural transportation."

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