Chairman of the National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) Manifesto Committee, Prof Kwaku Danso Boafo says the party’s decision to legalise the activities of commercial motorcycle riders popularly called ‘okada’ is the right way to go.

According to him, okada riders are also citizens who deserve the chance to earn an honest living and legalising and regulating the okada business will make that possible.

He said: “Those individuals who are engaged in the business called okada are also citizens of this country. They have to earn a living, and to the best of purposes and to the best of my knowledge, they’ve specialized in the business of riding okadas.

“Whether we like it or not, whether it’s illegal or legal they’re engaging in it.  We haven’t been able to regulate it as well as we ought to. And therefore the best way to address this problem is to one, legalise it, and regulate it, ensure that there are proper rules and regulations within the law to ensure that their work is done professionally, safely, securely and cleanly.”

Speaking on JoyNews’ PM Express, the NDC Manifesto Committee Chairman stated that despite the many negative perceptions held against the okada business especially in the cities, in rural areas and other parts of Ghana, they are most often the only reliable mode of transport.

He added that the continuous ban on the okada business will impede their contribution to these rural communities that depend on them for transportation.

“In Accra, we see a number of them, we take them for granted because we have a lot of vehicles, we have other means of transport. But move out of Accra, go to the rural areas in some places okada business is the only means of transport.

“They are assisting hospitals, they’re taking injured citizens to the hospital they’re transporting pregnant women to the hospital, they do all kinds of stuff. But the biggest challenge we have is because it is illegal; they cannot function the way they ought to be functioning,” Prof Boafo said.

According to him, although he is aware of the menace caused by the okada business including the many gory deaths and injuries it has caused on our roads, he says the best way to prevent even more deaths and injuries is through legalization and regulation to ensure the okada riders do as is expected of them.

“And to the best of our knowledge, all the studies we did, looking across the country receiving memoranda, talking to Civil Society Organisations and including the okada drivers themselves the best way to handle this issue is to legalise it because if we don’t they continue to be illegal, they’ll continue to cause accidents, they’ll continue to be in confrontation with the police, they’ll continue to be in confrontation with other drivers,” he added.

The ban on the okada business was enacted under the erstwhile Mahama regime to curb the rampant occurrence of fatal and disabling motorcycle accidents on our roads.

In 2012, Section 128 (1) of Ghana’s Road Traffic Regulations was passed which states: “The licensing authority shall not register a motorcycle to carry a fare-paying passenger”.

Concerning why the NDC was now proposing a U-turn from a law they had enacted themselves, Dr Boafo explained that the NDC has realised that the ban on okadas had failed to solve the problem.

This, therefore, required a revisit in order to find a more agreeable solution – which is legalization.

“Before that law was passed, okada was a business. So in looking at the problems that okada has created and the fact that being illegal has not addressed the problems, we have to think otherwise and the otherwise thinking is the legalization. Because how else are we going to deal with this problem?”