v dir="ltr">President Olusegun Obasanjo, through the National Poverty Eradication Programme, NAPEP, in 2002, introduced tricycles as means of public transportation in Nigeria. Under the headship of Dr. Magnus Kpakol, NAPEP imported a large number of tricycles and gave them out at subsidized prices to Nigerians as part of the poverty alleviation scheme of the then government.
Since then commercial tricycle or Keke Napep, as many have come to know them, have become popular among Nigerians. With the alarming cases of okada accidents, Keke Napep gained more popularity in many states, as their governments saw the need to restrict the use of Okada (commercial motorcycle) so Keke Napep became a safer alternative, conveying people on short distance journey to their destinations.
Expectedly, in the federal capital territory, the ban on a commercial motorcycle also welcomed the influx of tricycles in designated areas of the city center. Prior to this time, the common means of public transportation was the use of a taxi, cabs with commercial buses joining, but the ban saw the growth of Keke Napep in areas like Gwarimpa, Apo, Area 1, 10, UTC, among other routes assigned to them.
As the population of Nigeria keeps increasing day by day, the need to move people from one place to the other is also on the rise. The transportation measures taken by governments does not seem to contain the lapses and is evident with the insufficient transporting means which abound in the FCT, with the increasing number of passengers at the bus stops and rail stations.
For instance, it is very common to spot people hanging on Train, commercial buses and a lot of private individuals have turned their vehicles into commercial means of transportation to ease the need for movement. However, Keke NAPEP business seems to be lucrative in populated cities like Kano, Lagos, and Abuja.
In the FCT, if you're familiar with Apo traffic, then you will be familiar with Keke (tricycles) or just kekes. They move in out of traffic faster than cars, but slower and a little less dangerous than bikes. After the ban was placed on motorcycles from operating within the city, they were almost immediately replaced by Keke as an alternative means for the person who is in a hurry to beat traffic.
Ever since, tricycles have continued to gain acceptance in most parts of the FCT, as a means of affordable and fast transportation although not without its myriad of challenges. They are in that sweet spot for traffic which gives them the avenue to make their way through serious traffic gridlock, better than cars and better than bikes because you have a higher chance of surviving in them, as they are much safer.
Areas around the Apo legislative quarters and gudu district seem to be the hub of these tricycle riders, with many of them daring the operatives and moving the speed lane from the area one roundabout to Apo bridge. Despite the permission to move on the service lane along this route, METRO observe that a lot of them now move to the speed lane not minding the dangers they expose themselves and passengers too.
For motorists driving through the Apo, Area 1 exist, and its environs, it is almost a nightmare as they have to exercise extra caution because of the way the tricycles meander in between vehicles with reckless abandon, oblivious of the danger their actions pose on them, their passengers, pedestrians as well as other motorists.
It is now a common sight to see tricycles crisscrossing in major roads in front of all manner of vehicles whether heavy duty trucks or light fleet cars, because to them, every space no matter how tiny it is, must be utilized.
METRO paid a visit to the popular area 1 under bridge bus top and it was quite interesting to observe that most commuters preferred to use the Keke to Apo than the convention taxi.
We spoke to Mary, who lives very close to the Apo mechanic village and this is what she said, “I prefer to patronize the keke drivers when going home because they are faster and you have the luxury of fresh air. You do not have to squeeze with another passenger, like the taxi users, whereby the drivers have defiled all pleas to stop carrying 4 passengers at the back seat.
“I understand that during the raining season one is exposed to rain, but these Keke drivers have devices a means of covering us and I must say that since the beginning of this year, I have not used taxi to or from Apo.
Mary’s comment actually draws our attention to the fact that keke do not have side doors and most passengers are at the mercy of rain, wind and even pickpocket. We recollect an attack on our online editor, she was dispossessed of her handbag containing a lot of her valuables during a ride in a Keke on her way home.
Metro also spoke with Mr. Adamu, a commercial taxi operator who plies the Apo/Gudu axis. According to him, the Keke drivers have taken over business and passengers from them despite the fact that Keke is supposed to be in the inner ways and not the major street roads.
“We have come to accept the fact that keke has come to stay and we just look for a way to create an avenue for ourselves, the keke drivers have their own passengers and we also have our passengers. I know of some elderly persons who would never use the keke because they are as reckless as the motorbike riders. I think it is actually the younger generation that likes the keke” he said.
Ironically, the keke has carved a niche for themselves as an alternative route for quick transportation as the Apo- Area 1 route seems to be the worst hit.