Rivers’ Poverty Enhancement Programme (RIVAPEP)
If the members of Keke Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (KORAN), Rivers State branch, knew that they would be losing their job today, they would not have pleaded with Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State to call his aides to order over the unremitting harassment of them in November, 2009. In that year, Samuel Vidoh, secretary of KORAN and Dickson Nyemaichechukwu, Public Relations Officer (PRO), expressed this discontentment.
The special task force on motorcycles’ operation, set up in that year by the Special Adviser to Amaechi on Traffic, Mr. Roland Odoyi, made sure that tricycles were seized by the task force’s operatives. There was the claim that the ban on commercial motorcycles, also affected the tricycles. As the battle raged on between KORAN and the task force, the former expressed its dignity, of being different from the banned commercial motorcycle operators.
What was meted out to KORAN in 2009 could be termed as a tap on the back compared to the total ban of this initiative of the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) in streets of Port Harcourt today.
And it seems that there would be no amount of plea from the group with Amaechi that he would come to their aid in order to end this shamefaced harassment that would keep them in the court of poverty in the state pending when most of them would find job.
The government forgot that the Keke operators had been in no less way helping to easing transportation problems in the Amaechi’s (indigenous) state. Would the Rivers State Traffic Management Authority (TIMA-RIV) do its job now as its once “sworn enemies” are out of the road? Would the controller of TIMA – Riv, General Nelson Jaja, now have a rest? Would Rivers State come to limelight with the ban? Even though these organizations and the government could be resting saying that they have won the battle, the essence of this ban could be further described as “Rivers’ Poverty Enhancement Programme (RIVAPEP).”
Many people are going to be jobless in a Rivers State due to the ban of Keke, a state where building of industries is seen as sacrosanct.
As the ban was said to help the streets of Port Harcourt, is there any Planning Commission in Rivers State that would look into the abysmal plight these Keke men are going to face? Do we know that joblessness also breads militancy and other societal vices? Though nobody solicits for this, but it is true.
One wonders the efforts of the Rivers State government towards alleviating poverty with the ban of the Keke NAPEP that gave over five thousand people jobs in the state. Is the government telling us today that the Keke NAPEP initiative is no longer useful because NAPEP removed its hand from managing it in 2009?
Just like on February 18, 2009, when the Senate consented its committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, headed by Zaynab Kure, to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the activities of the agency, did the Rivers State Assembly mandate any fact-finding committee to look into the accusations against Keke riders of road improprieties before Keke NAPEP was banned in Port Harcourt?
As things are done, the committee the Senate set embarked on a fact-finding visitation to 36 states of the federation and Abuja, examining all the programmes entered upon by the agency between 2001 and 2009, but the government of Rivers State might have thought that this idea was useless even though that it was in court with KORAN. Did the court give its final verdict on who should ride and who should run before this ban?
It was an oversight to ban Keke in the streets of Port Harcourt on mere assumption of road abuse of the operatives since there was no committee set up by the government that found the operators wanting.
This ban would further cause irregularities in the management of people in Rivers State whose lives and livelihood depended on the operation of the tricycles coupled with the numerical number of jobless people we already had.
It is dangerous and bad that tricycles were banned in Port Harcourt thus preventing the less privileged from benefiting and living in Port Harcourt. However, it didn’t come as a surprise because somebody once said, when Okada was banned in 2009, that Rivers State is not for the poor. Perhaps, the person who said this derives joy in seeing people suffer more beyond their rich. And this has made a lot of non-indigenes go back to their villages of origin instead of die unsung in Port Harcourt City (The Treasure of the Nation?).
This was happening because there was no contract agreement between the government and the masses; if there is, no one thinks that any government could wake-up in the morning, decide, implement and impose any heinous or harmonious decision on the masses even when such decision is evil.
The ban of tricycles in Port Harcourt is characterised by manipulations of the rights of the people. This choice is irregularity manifesting against the people by the government for puerile distribution of governance even at the expense of the people.
The government should always reach an understanding and operational guidelines with the people in all its endeavours instead of operating largely without recourse to set rules. The government should not always use its influence to approve for itself directly laws that could favour it alone. The people should always be considered before certain laws are taken. Let decisions that government makes be for poverty alleviation, not for poverty alienation. Government should stop spending issues of the masses on political matters. It is not always good that Keke NAPEP initiative was introduced to lessen poverty in the land, yet failure of leadership of the agency and high level manipulations of the operators by the government is now cultivating the obverse.