Some members of the public have urged the government to seize the opportunity presented by the Coronavirus pandemic, to ban the use of motorcycle as commercial passenger transport in the country.
In separate interviews with the Ghanaian Times, they said beyond the potential spread of the deadly virus through the ‘Okada’ business, it remained risky, life-threatening and a nuisance to the public.
For them, if the government does not stamp its feet now and stop the dangerous transport service, it would be difficult when the country wins the battle against the virus and normal life bounces back.
Section 128 (1) of the Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 (Legislative Instrument 2180), states: “The licensing authority shall not register a motorcycle to carry a fare-paying passenger.”
However, there has been a surge in Okada operations in the country, particularly in the Greater Accra Region, despite the arrest of several riders and numerous Okada accidents.
The presidential directive against pillion riding during the three-week partial lockdown in the wake of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic reduced the activities of the Okada business.
But with the lifting of the lockdown, the commercial motorcycle operators have sprung back to full business with the total disregard for the social distance directive.
A visit to the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, Agbogbloshie, central business district and Korle Bu Mortuary Road areas in Accra, where most of these motor riders ply their trade revealed that apart from the issue of pillion riders, those who operated the tricycle did not equally adhere to the protocols.
In an interview with some of the commercial motorcycle riders at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, they said even though they were aware of the directive, they needed to survive with their families.
But a cross-section of Ghanaians insist the business should be banned.
Samuel Addo, a trader told the Ghanaians Times the situation, if unchecked, would aggravate the country’s woes as well as derail all efforts to contain the virus.
“Unlike a vehicle, social distance cannot be observed on Okada. Government must enforce the laws so that we can kick this disease out of the country as soon as possible. We should not waste time because, after all, the business is illegal,” he said.
An entrepreneur, Kwasi Gyasi, said the deaths and injuries caused by Okada business are more than those claimed by the virus, if we can put all these measures in place to curb the virus, we should do something.
When contacted on the issue, the Public Relations Officer of the Accra Regional Police Command, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Effia Tenge said the directive on social distancing was still in force.
She said so far, 301 motor riders had been arrested by the police in special operation with some currently before the courts and others still under investigations. She cautioned the riders to adhere to the directive.
The government is reviewing the law banning the commercial operation of motorbikes, to determine whether to amend the law to regularise its operations or maintain its current form and punish offenders.
The Minister of Transport, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, who disclosed this earlier this year said the review of the Road Traffic Regulation, 2012 was because its non-enforcement had increased Okada operations in the country.
But many groups including the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) have kicked against the move, arguing that legalising the operation of Okada under the current prevailing circumstance was likely to increase the risk to riders, pedestrians and other road users.
Last year, the Ghanaian Times reported that 59 people died out of 2,563 accidents involving motorcycles within the last two-and -half- years at the Korle Bu Accident and Emergency (A&E) Unit.