Tricycle operators in some parts of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on Monday, downed tools for some hours and took to the streets in protest against the state government’s policy that prohibits taking a passenger in the front seat.

The protest saw the tricycle operators, especially those plying the New Garage-Agodi gate route, bear placards with inscriptions like “No More Fine For four passengers, please governor consider us”, “Akin Fagbemi, we don’t have anything to do again, please have mercy on us”, “Please Seyi Makinde, save us from OYRTMA who are arresting fellow driver, N50,000 is too much”.

Some of the operators took their protest to the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji.

Recall that the state government, through the Oyo State Road Traffic Management Authority (OYRTMA), last week began enforcement of its policy mandating bike riders to convey only one passenger, restricting tricycle operators to conveying passengers only on the back seat, while commercial cab operators are to have only one passenger beside the driver.

Speaking with Tribune Online during the protest, the tricycle operators said they got the tricycles on hire purchase at over N1million hence the policy made it difficult for them to meet the returns expected of them daily.

This is as they warned that should the state government insist on the policy, the passengers will bear the consequences of increased transport fares.

Holding a placard, one of the protesters, Mr. Bello Sulaimon said the money from the passenger conveyed in front was usually used to augment having to “settle” at various bus stops.

"There is no way we can make adequate returns by not having passengers sit beside us in front. When we are arrested, we are also asked to pay N50,000. Yet, we have to give N50 to security agents at Idi-Arere, Molete, Idi-Odo, Orita, New Garage, Gate, Beere, Oja-Oba and it is the money paid by the passenger in front that we give to them,” Sulaimon said.

Another tricycle operator, Mr. Saheed Mukaila discarded the argument of the state government that the front passenger amounted to overloading, noting that the front passenger provided the needed balance for the tricycle rider.

"It’s not profitable to continue with three passengers only at the back. Also, it’s not true that the front passengers affect our driving or causes accidents. In fact, some passengers prefer to sit in front. We get this tricycle on the hire purchase price at N1.2million. It takes us two years to complete the payment. The passenger in front gives the tricycle the needed balance. Moreover, in Ijebu-ode, Ogun State, two other passengers are allowed in front,” Mukaila said.

On his part, Taiwo Adeniji lamented that he is yet to reclaim his tricycle which was impounded last Tuesday because he is unable to raise an N25,000 fine slammed on him.

“I got this tricycle by obtaining a loan. My tricycle was impounded last Tuesday and I was asked to pay N25,000. I went out that Tuesday to get money to purchase baby food, I was only able to take bottled water home for my kid. My tricycle remains at Sanyo and has not been returned to date as I have no means to raise such money,” Adeniji said.

On the consequences of the sustenance of the policy, Bamidele Okon said: “If this policy is to be sustained, the passengers will bear the brunt through an increase in fares.”

One of the operators who spoke to the Tribune Online at the Olubadan’s palace, Segun Babajide, also berated the government for the new enforcing the new policy.

He said: “Some operators were arrested at Idi-Odo and Challenge last week. They were beaten and asked to pay a fine of N50,000. How much do we make every day? If these operators don’t pay the money by Tuesday, they would be taken to court. We get this tricycle for over 1 million Naira, are we supposed to pay back by carrying just three passengers? In other states, the tricycle takes six passengers and they don’t get involved in accidents.”

Another operator, Funmilayo Anpitan, explained how they face extortion from men of Nigeria Police and Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO).

“We pay N50 to policemen at every junction we meet them. We get arrested by the police, VIO and now OYRTMA, we are tired.

“Most of us have to make a deposit of N15,000 weekly as payment for the tricycle but now we don’t even meet up because we don’t even make up to that amount weekly. We appeal to the Olubadan to speak with the state government on our behalf, we need to be saved.”

The Olubadan who was represented by his Personal Assistant, Mr. Adeola Oloko, advised the operators to respect the law and go about their job lawfully.

“The purpose of the government is to provide a conducive environment for law and order. If they must protest, they must obtain a permit from police and they must not allow street urchins to implicate them. We promise to talk to the government agency concerned,” he said.

Speaking with Tribune Online on the protest, State Commander, OYRTMA, Mr. Adeoye Ayoade, explained that the state government came up with the policy to address the rate of accidents involving motorcycles, tricycles, and cabs.

Since the commencement of enforcement, Adeoye said the body had impounded over 50 tricycles and their operators will face a mobile court on Tuesday.

Stating that the enforcement had been preceded with months of sensitizing the vehicle operators, Adeoye said there was no going back on the policy.

“The policy is to reduce the rate of accidents. For motorcycle, it is one passenger; for a tricycle, you must not carry any passenger in front; for Micra, you must not carry more than one passenger in front.

“In December 2019 alone, we recorded about 50 accident cases in Ibadan alone and deaths were recorded in at least 30 cases. Most of the accidents are due to overloading and over speeding. With one passenger, they are able to elongate the lifespan of their vehicles.

“We started enforcement last week that any bike, Marwa, Micra caught flouting this policy of overloading will be impounded. Those already arrested will face the mobile court tomorrow.

“We have a lot arrested at our operational headquarters, Sanyo. We have close to 50 tricycles at our Sanyo headquarters, and many others here at our headquarters too.

“Even if they make a million a day, it does not worth the loss of any life. It is only the person that returns home safe that can say he or she has achieved,” Adeoye said.