It’s a sunny morning in the Tamale metropolis as I set off on my routine journey to work.
I live on a rocky hill in a part of the Tamale metropolis. Due to the bumpy nature of the area, taxis usually don’t ply this route. I always walk about half a kilometer to the main road to pick a taxi.
But on this occasion, I didn’t have to travel far, because my co-tenant spotted a tricycle popularly known as ‘yellow yellow’ or ‘Mahama Camboo,’ she flagged it to stop and asked me to hop in. Initially, I declined. I have an inexplicable fear of these motorbikes and tricycles.
Since the introduction of tricycles into the Tamale metropolis in 2014, I have resisted the temptation to use this latest addition to the transportation means in the metropolis. On this occasion, however, I could not resist the temptation, as my friends collaborated with the weather to break my resistance.
As the country is engaged with the debate of whether or not to legalize ‘okada,’ the use of tricycles for similar purposes is growing on the quiet.
The tricycle has become one of the most popular means of transport in Tamale for many reasons. It is able to manoeuvre its way through the alleys and get to remote corners where taxis don’t go. Residents often tell jokes about the tricycle carrying its passengers all the way to the kitchen.
Moreover, in an environment where commercial vehicles are generally unkempt and emit suffocating odours, the tricycle provides a much airier alternative.
Advocates for tricycles also point to the fact that, it has provided employment for hundreds of youth in the northern region and beyond. For a country struggling with widespread unemployment, this certainly is a major relief.
However, despite these perceived advantages of the tricycle, it poses a major risk to users. According to the northern regional directorate of the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), the introduction of the tricycle has witnessed an alarming increase in road accidents, and deaths through head injury. The NRSC says more than 60 percent of all road accident deaths recorded in the country have been young men aged below 25 years.
Most of the tricycles being used in the Metropolis have no insurance, they are unregistered, ridden by amateurs and mostly overloaded, thereby causing accidents on the road. The tricycle which was originally designed to carry three passengers, now carries five. Riders do this by creating extra seats at the rider’s side.
Another concern about these riders is the spate of indiscipline they exhibit on the road. They jump traffic lights and irregularly crisscross other road users in an attempt to pick passengers. Currently, they have their loading stations along the shoulders of major streets in the metropolis, causing congestion and obstructing traffic.
Every year, the Northern Regional Road Safety Commission embarks on an awareness creation exercise on the use of road signs, traffic regulations and the need to insure and register vehicles and motorcycles in the metropolis.
What hinders the implementation of the laws on tricycles in the Tamale metropolis?
Persons who flout traffic rules are often cautioned and sometimes arrested as part of law enforcement, but these persons never get prosecuted because the offenders apprehended are left off the hook by the intervention of either a chief or other influential people in the society including politicians. This has led to a high level of indiscipline in the region.
The Northern Regional Road Safety Officer, Mr Alexander Ayatta is on record to have said that political interference is a major challenge in dealing with indiscipline on the road. Some chiefs, especially in the Tamale Metropolis, sometimes threaten law enforcement agencies with transfers, in order to force them to release arrested bikes, he stressed.
The author, Diana Ngon is a Citi FM/Citi TV journalist based in Tamale, Northern region
“In Tamale, motor riders ride without side mirrors and crash helmets but we cannot do anything to them because they are being backed by either politicians or the chiefs,” Mr. Ayatah added
Turning attention to motorbike riders in the metropolis, indiscipline is on the high, riders jump traffic lights indiscriminately.
Watching a recent episode of the ‘Point of View’ program on Citi TV hosted by Bernard Avle, I was amazed when a police officer from the MTTU in Accra on the program said, indiscipline among riders in the Tamale metropolis is minimal.
I said to myself “a day of your life in Tamale would make you want effective enforcement of the road traffic regulations.”
Some riders in an interview noted that, when they ride with side mirrors and helmets in Tamale they are seen as archaic while some women were of the view that wearing helmets destroys their hairdo.
Some ladies also complained that they do not use the helmet due to the heat it inflicts on their hair and also the kind of hairstyle they go in for, but experts say riding without crash helmet can result in severe head injury during accident, which may lead to death.
With this, not even the presence of the police and road safety officers on the streets will deter riders to use helmet.
Meanwhile, Tamale is touted as the fastest growing city in Ghana but lawlessness is affecting productivity. The question on many lips is, will tricycles be allowed to continue operating? Currently, there is a cold war between taxi drivers and tricycle riders over who is legally permitted to operate commercially.
Meanwhile, tricycles for commercial transport is a breach of section 128 of the Road Traffic Regulations, 2012, (LI 2180). Section 128 of the Road Traffic Regulations states that, “the Licensing Authority shall not register a motorcycle or tricycle to carry a fare-paying passenger”.
However, Government through the Micro Finance and Small Loans Center (MASLOC) in 2015 supplied some young people in the region with the tricycles as a means of providing them jobs.
Some critics say the case of Tamale is different, the roads were designed to serve vehicles, motorcycles and pedestrians. There is no doubt about this, but the crux of the matter is, the population is rapidly increasing with residents having the urge for cars and motorbikes. The roads which were constructed many years ago continue to serve this fast-growing city.
Tamale at this point is challenged with the nuisance of motorcycle activities.
Since our laws do not permit them to operate as commercial vehicles, will acquiring insurance cover be possible? Or will the law be amended?
It obviously doesn’t seem as though their activities can be banned, as it appears to have the potential to be a hot topic which may have political consequences with 2020 just around the corner.
Columnist: Diana Ngon
The author is a Citi FM/Citi TV journalist based in Tamale, Northern Region