" ITREALMS: MTN’s balancing act for Okada riders


Join us @2023 NDSF ... coming loaded only for 5G - ITREALMS

ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news! The 2023 Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum, Internet Governance, Development, IG4D, is comi...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MTN’s balancing act for Okada riders

The Volkswagen bus stop end of the Lagos-Badagary Expressway was as chaotic as always one Saturday morning sometime last year. The gridlock began from Okokomaiko and stretched as far as the International Trade Fair Complex. Dozens of impatient motorists had broken the one-way traffic rule and had complicated the crisis, ensuring that there was no movement of motor vehicles on either side of the very busy expressway.

There was ‘absolutely nothing wrong’ with this for the people who live along this route as such scenes are common occurrence. What was not common was the sight of a bride in her full white gown pacing up and down with her best lady in tow beside a gaily decorated Toyota Avensis marked To The Alter.

It was obvious that the convoy, which was coming from Olojo Drive that connects the expressway to the famous Alaba International Market was church-bound. Word soon spread among bystanders and a crowd of other commuters and motorists that the convoy was going to a Catholic church in Festac for a wedding service that was to have commenced some 30 minutes earlier.

The convoy had spent considerable amount of time to proceed to the Volkswagen end of Olojo Drive but had come to a complete standstill, with no hope of being able to get out of the situation anytime soon.

The unthinkable happened. With loud protest from her best lady and some more elderly members of her entourage as the bride flagged down an okada, gathered up her gown and jumped on the passenger seat. Left with no choice, the best lady grabbed the next available one and chased after the anxious bride.

Some other members of her convoy, one after the other, chased after okada riders to ferry them to the church where, it was understood, the very strict officiating minister had already commenced the services as there were four other couples involved.

Despite the traffic jam, with an okada, the bride was guaranteed to get to the church service latest in 30 minutes. Therein lays the foremost value of an okada in the modern Nigerian society. With the appalling state of the roads, gross indiscipline on the part of motorists and a steady rise in number of vehicles using the roads, a very important role has been carved out for commercial motorcycles in the Nigerian transportation system.

This is so crucial that people who would rather not touch an okada with a long pole now on the increasing occasions have to hop on it to meet urgent appointments.

Okada riders would go against the normal flow of traffic, run on the kerb, the road median, the frontages of people’s residences and other such improvised thoroughfares to get their passengers to their destinations and sometimes, to the mortuary too.

Statistics released by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) recently indicated that 60,261 persons were killed through motorcycle accidents (okada) between 1989 and 2007. A total of 40,706 persons were maimed within the same period in a total of 73,766 incidents.

These figures, which the sector Commander, FRSC, Lagos described as Mr. Kayode Olagunju unacceptable, are indeed grossly understated. Only a few of the road accidents in Nigeria get reported to the police and yet only a few of the ones reported at the local stations get forwarded to a central information pool where the statistics are drawn.

The okada probably constitutes more peril to Nigerians today than any other means of transportation because of its sheer pervasiveness. And interestingly not only those who utilise it for transportation are at risk. Okadas have been known to run into commuters for buses or otherwise run down pedestrians.

Managing the menace of Okada in Nigeria has therefore become a major issue to the general public and their appointed leaders. Many of these stakeholders have come up with a lot of suggestions as to how to strip this now accepted means of transportation of its inherent evil for the benefit of the society.

A general consensus is that many of the motorcycle operators lack the necessary safety awareness to run commercial motorcycle operations on the roads. Invariably, this informed the decision of Nigeria’s leading telecommunications company, MTN, to build an extensive safety awareness programme for okada riders nationwide into its recently concluded month-long staff volunteerism campaign, dubbed 21 Days of Y’ello Care 2008.

The staff volunteerism scheme initiated last year by the MTN Group involved staff in its 21 operations across the world taking part in community-based activities.
In Nigeria, MTN employees this year were divided into two major groups, Business Transformers and Share ‘n’ Care, which organised dozens of activities aimed at improving the society. The safety awareness drill for okada riders and commercial drivers were championed by the Business Transformers group, whose activities centred around assisting small and medium scale enterprises acquire sound business practices that can take them to the top.

Working with the umbrella body of commercial vehicle operators known as the National Union of Road transport Workers (NURTW), the group organised informal workshops for commercial motorcyclists and drivers in some of the busiest terminuses in Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and many other parts of the country.

The workshops took the participants through a number of issues like accident prevention and control, first aid treatment, life saving tips and techniques, defensive driving, basic road signs and anger management among others.

In addition, the participants also benefited from free health screening for common ailments that could adversely affect safe operation of motorcycles, principal among which are eye problems. They also received counseling on how to use commercial motorcycling operation as a stepping stone to greater means of livelihood, especially when they become older and incapable of carrying on with the business.

“Our major concern is to ensure that accidents of okada and of course motor vehicles are reduced to the barest minimum” said Coordinator, Business Transformers Project, Okundola Bamgboye. “So we have the burning desire to inculcate the necessary safety awareness in the operators. And secondly, in the event that accidents occur, how do people deal with them? How a victim of accident is handled at the scene can make the difference between life and death or between total recovery and permanent disability. That informed our decision to include a few first aid treatments and serious emergency tips in the programme,” he said.

A number of beneficiaries also lauded MTN for the initiative including Mr. Sikiru Adesokan, an Ibadan-based participant.

“I am personally happy with this programme because I have learnt a lot. Even though I would have been able to make some money during the time I spent on this seminar, I still consider myself lucky to have benefited from the training because, the truth is that you cannot put a cost to what we have learnt, “ Adesokan, who participated at the Boundry/Ajegunle version of the workshop.

Other activities embarked upon by MTN staff during this programme included malaria awareness campaign, HIV/AIDS seminars, visits to orphanages and homes for the elderly, environment sanitation exercises and free eye-screening and blood pressure measurement exercises.

“It has been rewarding. Members of staff were so committed to this programme that they rush down from the mosques on Fridays and even come with their families on Sundays to take active part in the programmes”, said Idris Bello Eneye, MTN Regional Safety, Health and Environment Coordinator, Abuja Regional Office, while the MTN Safety, Health and Environment Supervisor, Ramatou Otini Isah, described the experience as highly enriching.

•Mimi Deke contributed this from XLR8, a public relations consultancy firm based in Lagos.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

No comments: