As unemployment rises and misery bites harder, Kaduna State, often known as the Crocodile City, has steadily transformed into a commercial hub for Okada riders.
This is demonstrated by the fact that more salaried workers in the state are being laid off as a result of indiscriminate layoffs at both private and public entities. Some employees were fired, had their contracts cancelled, or were forced to retire.
Business centres and shops owners are not left out as their shop and other business places have been demolished by the State government without providing them enabling environment to continue with their businesses or paying them any form of compensation.
Many now face untold hardship as prices of household items including foodstuff have gone up astronomically beyond their reach, just as they have no other source of income to pick up their pieces.
The elderly ones among the sacked or retrenched workers, or those whose markets and shops were demolished often engage in begging, and in most cases fall sick and die. Their grown-up children take to the riding of commercial motorcycle, popularly called, ” Okada” since there is no dream of getting new jobs to keep body and soul together.
Most families sustain their daily life riding Okada in order to keep life going since it’s the only immediate source of income.
Although, the Kaduna State Government in 2014 banned commercial motorcycles, (Okada) from operating in the State, many unemployed household have ignored the ban since they have no other source of income. They operate within the rural center, but have now shifted to the urban centre, mostly dressed corporately to convinced government agents from arresting them.
Some did not learn how to ride motorcycles perfectly before beginning to carry passengers, which has often resulted in the loss of lives as they are often involved in accident.
In some cases, they sustain injuries that render them incapacitated.
Mr. Yusuf Amos worked with the defunct Kaduna Textile Limited (KTL) for 18 years before it was closed down, but unfortunately, till date, the company has not paid him his benefits or any form of entitlement.
” I worked for 18 years with KTL before it was liquidated. None of us were paid anything. When the company closed, I had no option than to look for an immediate source of income to feed my newly wedded wife. I only learnt Okada for two hours and bargained with the owner who said I should deliver 500 Naira daily. But after five days of riding the Okada, I had an accident that injured my left leg. Several treatments were administered but to no avail. The only solution was to cut off my leg. Since then, I have remained a one-legged man.”
Also, Mr. Nathaniel Odoma said, “Since United Nigerian Textile Company (UNTL) was shut down in 2006, I have had no other job. The gratuity paid to me could not even buy a plot of land. So I invested the money in Okada business. I bought two motorcycles, which I gave out on a daily basis. From the income generated, I pay school fees of my children, feed them and pay my house rent.
” My male children have grown, they too ride the Okada, use the income to train themselves in school. We have no other business nor job. Government is not helping us. We have to help ourselves to sustain our lives. It’s better to operate Okada to feed than to steal,” he said.
Hajia Bilkisu Mohammed who operates two shops in Kakuri market said she developed High Blood Pressure (BP) since her shops were demolished a few months ago.
” I have no rest of mind. I lost my husband some years back. My only investment and the hope to train my children was the shops. My children sometimes, helped me to sell some goods. We have been operating in those shops for seven years. But, when Kaduna State government demolished the shops, no compensation was paid, no money was given to us, we were not given a new environment to operate. I don’t have money to rent a shop. Thinking alone gives me sleepless night,” She said tearfully.