The Okada Menace in Ghana

Okada, the imported transportation system introduced into Ghana from neighboring West African countries, has become “unofficial but thriving mobility option,” write Oteng Ababio, et al in the African Studies Quarterly, vol. 15, no. 4, Sept. 2015. They add that the problem of policy failure owing to pressure on authorities from riders and some civil society groups and disregard of law enforcement by Okada operators has made Okada continue to thrive in Ghana. As we write, a recent attack on a bullion van killing a policeman in the Ablekuma area in Greater Accra has highlighted the issue again, making Okada a criminal tool.

It will be recalled that the Motor Riders Association of Ghana (Okada) kicked against Vice President Muhammadu Bawumia’s declaration that an NPP government, if reelected in the 2020 general election would not be pressurized to legalize Okada or the commercialization of motorbikes.

A report in 3News quotes the vice president as reasoning that the commercial use of motorbikes is a “risky business,” and instead would offer new cars for Okada riders as taxis to operate safely. In a response to the vice president, the national chairman of the Association Fatawu Ali insisted on riding their motorbikes because in Okada accident casualties numbers are low; they would have to learn how to drive; and that there are potential dangers in driving as well.

He questioned how many cars the government could afford looking at the numbers of Okada riders. “We don’t agree to that. We like the Okada because even residents in the Vice President’s village are using Okada. We need to find a safety solution instead of the car,” Fatawu said. 

President John Dramani Mahama in his campaign for the 2020 elections, on the other hand, disagreed with Vice President Bawumia and promised that Okada would be legalized and premised his argument on jobs being created among the youths. At a time when Ghana was faced with challenges such as unemployment, Mahama’s promise carried wait with the Okada community. Other challenges such as inadequate transportation make Okada convenient.

It has the ability to manage poor road networks and traffic congestion in towns and cities as compared to four-wheel vehicles. Though illegal, Okada is also used for goods and services and as a result it has increased the net-worth of many people who otherwise might be languishing in poverty. It has also become the preferred and easiest means of transportation for many people in Ghana and the West African sub-region.

Notwithstanding its convenience and affordability, Okada has a high rate of accidents that affect mostly people of low socio-economic background. The rate of road accidents in Ghana, and for that matter, other countries in the region with Okada, is high. It is said that some hospitals have special wards for victims of Okada accidents.

According to the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA), motorcycle fatalities in Ghana in 2021 constituted 34 percent of all road accidents, the Director of Planning at the NRSA has said. He added that motorcycle fatalities have seen more than 400 percent increase in road accidents in the past ten years. This indicates that the period under review shows the increase in the number of motorbikes on the country’s roads. Most importantly, the report adds that most of the victims of motorbike accidents happen to be young persons, mostly males.

Mr. David Osafo Adonteng, Acting Director General of the NRSA has disclosed that motorcycle riders were also major stakeholders in the road safety space. He reportedly noted in the report that the engagement of the NRSA with operators of motorcycles has impacted positively on motorbike crashes, reducing death rates. He noted also that most of them were ignorant of the laws and regulations that governed their operations.

He said the NRSA and the stakeholders would continue to include them in their discussions to improve discipline among the ranks of the Okada operators. Okada operators must be educated in traffic rules and regulations to increase their awareness of their role in road safety.

Even more poignant in this editorial is Amandla’s concern for the criminal element in the Okada menace in Ghana. Given the rise in violence we suggest that motorcyclists are not allowed into some business and financial premises.

Motorbikes must not carry a passenger or passengers to within 50 meters of such institutions as banks, petrol filling stations, courts of law and institutions that perform similar functions.

Motorcycles must be strictly prohibited from carrying more than one passenger at a time; and Okada operators must be prohibited from operating at certain hours of the night and only after daybreak. It has been observed that most times those riding the pylon as passengers carry the firearms that are used to commit heinous crimes.

We also urge the police to exercise more vigilance and ensure discipline in traffic. Ghana will be better for it.

Posted by on Jul 12 2023. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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