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Pity! Kano overflows with victims crippled by achaba

Posted by TINA ANTHONY, Kano on 2005/08/07 | Views: 446 |

Pity! Kano overflows with victims crippled by achaba

THE upsurge in road accidents caused by commercial motorcycle riders in Kano State has become a thing of concern to residents.

THE upsurge in road accidents caused by commercial motorcycle riders in Kano State has become a thing of concern to residents. As a result of the accidents involving the motorcycle riders popularly called okada or achaba in the North, many innocent people have lost their lives, some crippled while many with injuries are receiving treatment in hospitals and traditional medicine clinics.

Though there are no official statistics on the number of accidents caused by okada riders in the state, an average of between 30 and 50 accidents are said to be recorded each day because of the large presence of commercial motorcycle riders in Kano metropolis and local government councils. However, investigations conducted by Sunday Vanguard in Kano showed that about 90 per cent of road accident victims taken to both public and private hospitals are either passengers or riders sustaining fracture or both sustaining injuries.

At the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dala, Kano, the medical director, Dr. Kabir Abubakar, said out of every three accident patients treated for open (tibia) leg fracture, two would have been caused by okada riders. He admitted that accidents involving okada riders have been on the increase in recent times.

The story is not different at the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital (MMSH), which has a separate ward specifically reserved for accident victims. Though Sunday Vanguard could not get an official statement from the medical director who was absent at the time of the visit and the other doctors in charge of the hospital orthopaedic unit could not comment on the situation, a visit to the ward showed that the hospital had many cases of okada accident victims, as most of the patients on admission had their legs on Plaster of Paris (POP).

The medical director of National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dala, Kano, observed that the daily increase in accident involving okada riders in the state had constituted a serious strain on the facilities in the hospital, saying the capacity of its accident wards was not large enough to accommodate victims and manage them. He also spoke of inadequate personnel.

Implications: With over 40,000 okada riders plying the streets of Kano, and fresh ones joining the trade on daily basis, it has become dangerous to ride okada in the state because, from the investigations carried out by Sunday Vanguard, over 70 per cent of the riders lack basic training and do not understand road traffic signs. They seem to be in a hurry to join the business without prior training of any form.

Sunday Vanguard also gathered that okada owners usually managed to get their motorcycles registered at the state Board of Internal Revenue to obtain their number plates and vehicle particulars, and only a few manage to get learnerís permit. But it is very rare to see a new okada rider in Kano State using the bold learner's sign even when they have the learnerís permit because they want to join the okada business as soon as they get hold of the motorcycle. An okada rider said they only pay N100 to get the learnerís permit because of the VIO on the roads but would not tie the big (L) sign on their motorcycles because passengers will, as a result of that, not patronize them. He added that the only way to learn how to ride a motorbike is to keep practising which is why they donít hesitate to start riding once they get one.

Kano State Commander of the FRSC, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed, noted that okada riders in the state are not trained before they are issued with riderís licence by the officers in charge: "We are not in charge of issuing licences, it is the VIO and the state licence office that can speak on that, but all I can say on this matter is that we have observed that most of the okada riders don't have the necessary skills to be on the road and carry passengers", Ahmed said.

Why the increase: In recent times, politicians in Kano State, especially members of the National Assembly, have distributed brand new motorcycles to their supporters and members of their various constituencies. What started like a mere generous gesture by politicians, has become the order of the day as a politician can buy as many as 50 new motorcycles and share them to his supporters in the name of boosting his political ambition. There is no local government chairman out of the 44 local government councils in the state that has not bought and distributed free motorcycles to his supporters. Even Governor Ibrahim Shekarau recently purchased about 2500 brand new motorcycles and shared to people across the state. The donors have always argued that the motive behind the sharing of the motorcycles to their supporters is to empower them.

Sunday Vanguard gathered that an average of 10 new okada riders join the business everyday because many youths see it as the easiest way to make a living. No wonder the state government social re-orientation programme has special interest in okada riders because their numerical strength outnumber commercial and private vehicles in the state.

Apart from drinking alcohol while at work, the okada riders have several joints where they drink a local tea herb called gadage. Despite the crusade against consumption of alcohol, sellers of the local tea are allowed to freely sell the tea, which, according to the state commander of NDLEA, Alhaji Malami Sokoto, contains a certain percentage of narcotic substance that is capable of influencing the behaviours of the consumer, but said that NDLEA doesnít have the power to arrest the sellers because it does not fall into the category of hard drugs.

Selling the tea

He, however pointed out that if the state legislators could enact a law, they could check the situation and stop the selling of the tea, which he claimed over 70per cent of okada riders in the state take to enhance their performance.

Injuries: The medical director of the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Kano said most typical injuries resulting from okada accidents are broken leg with open wounds. He said if the injuries are not complicated, the patient would spend at least six months on hospital bed before the leg can be used again, while if it is complicated, the patient may lose the leg or hand and stay on a hospital bed for about a year and that the cost of treating such injuries may even be more than the cost of the motorcycle.

However, Sunday Vanguard gathered that most okada accident victims usually opt for traditional medical treatment as they cannot afford to pay medical bills in the National Orthopaedic Hospital and MMSH because treatment there costs thousands of naira.

An okada rider (Musa Yusuf), said he narrowly escaped being killed in an okada accident. He told Sunday Vanguard at the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital that he had been an okada rider for five years. According to him, the main reason okada riders have accident is because many of them are unskilled while commercial bus drivers are unfriendly to them. "Only God saved me this morning, I would have been killed if I were not skilled, the accident was caused by a commercial bus driver, he nearly crushed my head", he declared in pains and alleged that the bus drivers are jealous that they have taken over their customers because people prefer to ride okada instead of buses in the state.

Perhaps, the high rate of okada accidents in the state is why the government resolved to provide tricycles that will exclusively carry women because the sharia does not allow women to ride okada. But the effort of the state government is being frustrated by okada riders who feel the government wants to cripple their source of income.

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