By Emeka Attah
The ban on the operation of commercial motorcycles within Awka and Onitsha is taking its toll on the affected riders who eke a living from such ventures. Residents of the state are also adjusting to the reality of the situation by resorting to trekking in most cases after the close of the day’s business.
While the bulk of the okada riders are still roaming the streets in search of next thing to do, some residents are applauding the state government for taking the bold step in flushing out okada riders with their accompanying hazards and nuisance on the roads.
There are also another set of former okada riders who are desperately looking for means to upgrade to the tricycle business known as Keke. This set of people are accustomed to the daily bustle and gains of the commercial riding business that they can’t think of any other ready business to switch on to.
Some in this category are desperately looking for micro finance banks and philanthropists who can give them tricycles on higher purchase basis so that they can be riding and paying on installment basis until they can complete the cycle and take full ownership of the tricycle. In their frustrations they have cried out for help.
Kenneth Ahanonu, father of five kids living in the slum area of Okpoko new haven layout said many people in his situation are contemplating suicide while others who have some criminal elements in their system are also thinking of taking to crime to survive.
“The bike I was using became so rickety and I lost both parents in quick succession. The savings I had which I planned using for the replacement of the bike was channeled into the burial ceremony of my parents. After the burial, I had no option than to seek for a new okada in higher purchase system. I had just completed the payment when government came with this ban.
“Right now, I’m so angry and confused because I don’t know what else to do. Even if I see where I can get a tricycle on higher purchase, I’m already demoralized to start afresh coupled with the fact that they give out the keke at such a cut throat amount that by the time you finish paying for it, the keke would have become a complete write-off” he lamented.
It was however a different story altogether for Ekpereamaka Unigwe keke, rider along Atani Road, Ogbaru area, as the young man identified he told this reporter that the difference between those who succeed in any venture and those who don’t , lies in the kind of information they have and the association they keep.
Unigwe told the reporter that while many of their frustrated colleagues who were affected by the Okada ban are looking for where they can get Keke at a better rate, a friend introduced him to a cooperative society in Onitsha known as Fund Trust where things took a positive shape for him.
He said the cooperative operates a very flexible payment pattern where a member just pays a daily token with only five percent interest in the prize of new tricycle.
“I enrolled in their plan and I must confess that it was the beginning of my success story. I started with them in 2016 and I can boast of three tricycles of my own now while I’ve also introduced some of my town’s men who were okada riders before this government ban and they are all smiling.
Desirous of knowing more how the scheme works and what makes it different from other financiers, Unigwe introduced the reporter to other beneficiaries and also volunteered the contact of the President of the Cooperative Society for the reporter to authenticate his claims.
Israel Obodoefuna, Hillary Chukwu and Obiaju Emeka who spoke in separate interviews confirmed that the cooperative society has saved many able bodied men thrown off balance by the government ban of Okada from imminent suicide.
The President, Fund Trust Onitsha North Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Mr Silas Ifeanyi in a chat confirmed that the cooperative is passionate about the keke issue because it is one of the best ways of engaging the teeming population of Okada riders thrown off balance by the Okada ban.
He described it is a way of complementing government efforts in fighting unemployment noting that the keke business takes away touts off the streets of Onitsha.
Ifeanyi stated that it is in the spirit of giving those in the scheme a breathing space to operate that they are given an affordable daily deposit option so that they can still have extra money to take care of other family needs.
“The microfinance companies give them at double the price of keke . Some of them even think that we are government agency but they don’t know that we just take the risk on their behalf so that they can be comfortable. Our target is to give out over 100 tricycles and empower up to 7,000 to 10,000 people this year in tricycle and household property acquisition which we also do here.
“We have passion for those who don’t have hope of anybody to help them. Those rejected by the banks, we go to them and collect those small naira they make in trickles while we give them the money back in bundles. We structure our services to suit them” he said.
Manager Loan Unit of the Cooperative Society, Paulinus Uzuegbu described the keke scheme as the cooperative’s own contribution to the youths in Anambra.
He confirmed that most of the beneficiaries of the tricycle scheme finish up their payment ahead of the stipulated time because of the liberalized method adopted by the cooperative to help them stand on their feet quickly.
By Emeka Attah