The Keke Marwa menace : Lagosians lament recklessness of three-wheeler vehicles

In what has turned out to be a huge disappointment, tricycles, popularly known as Keke Marwa or Keke NAPEP, introduced as an alternative to the notorious commercial motorcycles years back, have suddenly metamorphosed into the very same nightmare they were introduced to banish, causing mayhem on the roads. Gboyega Alaka reports.

It was a scene predicted just minutes earlier. A desperate tricycle rider, popularly known as Keke Marwa in Lagos, was on full throttle, as if in a tussle to outrun a Camry 2015. The race was so ‘fierce’ that this reporter, driving right behind them, and his passenger, astounded, wondered aloud what the tricycle rider thought he was doing. In one swift moment, it almost collided with the car’s fender, as it ‘feigned’ the competition, because in actual fact, there was none – except that the Camry driver who was doing just about 60km/hour wouldn’t let it get in its front. In that split moment, this reporter again told his passenger, ‘That is how they incur debt and then turn around to plead for mercy; or argue their way out’.

“You’re not even talking of a possible collision, in which case the Keke Marwa stands absolutely no chance. They seem to forget that they are as fragile as biscuits and would crack at the slightest contact.”

This was just before the popular Iyana Ejigbo junction in Mainland Lagos.

Minutes later, this reporter approached the end of the Egbe Bridge and beheld a slow but moving traffic. What could be the cause of the traffic this late, both wondered. It was almost 11 o’clock in the night. But, alas, as they approached the end of the bridge, they found that it was caused by an accident between an LT commercial bus, and wait for it … a Keke Marwa. Actually, it was not the same Keke Marwa, but it could have been the very same, going by the recklessness of its rider. A crowd had gathered but the passengers had been evacuated, leaving trails of blood, shoes, even a scarf and a goggle. An injured passenger, still in shock, was weeping by the roadside, blood all over her. She definitely would later thank providence for not been seriously injured. The other two passengers – the two at the back and one by the side of the driver, were badly injured and had been rushed to a nearby hospital.

The vehicle was crushed, like biscuit.

In another instance, a young social media user once recounted how years back, he was on his way from Abraham Adesanya to Ajah Roundabout, when he came upon a Keke Marwa lying upside down by the road. On a closer look, he saw two men nursing their injuries, one of them bleeding seriously from the head. Confused and trying to figure what could have happened, he saw a Toyota Camry in front of the Keke Marwa; and further inquiries showed that the Camry hit the Keke from behind, causing it to tumble, smashing its windshield and causing serious injuries to the driver and passengers. He ended his little report by cautioning Keke riders to always apply caution.

In what may well be one of the most horrifying accidents involving tricycles, five occupants of a keke Marwa in April 2019, were mangled to death when an impatient rider threw caution to the wind and tried to outwit an oncoming train at Iju Ishaga Rail Crossing. The result was a gory accident that had human body parts crushed and flung in different directions, leaving many wondering if the train was too small for the rider to see. This was as eyewitnesses say they, and the passengers warned him to stop.

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A horrified eyewitness actually wrote in reaction to the avoidable accident: “The driver of the tricycle needs serious beating even in death. People told you to stop and you were proving ghost rider…”

There have also been several serious accidents involving tricycles and trailers and huge passenger buses, causing people to wonder if these huge vehicles are too small for the tricycle riders to see from afar and avoid. As usual, the casualties are always passengers of the tricycles, with the tricycles usually emerging total write-offs. Yet it seems the riders never seem to understand that they stand no chance in their concocted battle with these bigger vehicles. Like a respondent told this reporter, “The problem with them is that they always want to claim right on the road; however, what they forget is the local adage, which says: ‘No be who moto hit/kill dey take the number’. They need to understand that they stand no chance when it comes to bigger vehicles and play down their ego.”

Citizen Yinka

A close to home example of the tricycle riders’ recklessness would be the unfortunate incident of The Nation’s Transport Correspondent, Yinka Aderibigbe, who narrowly escaped death after the tricycle he boarded on the last lap of his trip back home after a whole day assignment of touring the newly completed Lagos Railway Terminal at Ebutte-Metta, Lagos with Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, collided with a trailer.

According to Aderibigbe, he had boarded the tricycle to his bus stop, hoping to get home and get a deserved rest after what he termed ‘National Assignment’. But it was not to be, as the rider, in one moment of utter recklessness failed to give way to a huge truck, leading to a collision. As it turned out, the rider, seeing that they were destined for inevitable collision, swerved to save himself, leaving Aderibigbe, who was sitting delicately beside him, exposed to the huge mass of iron. The result was an accident that left Aderibigbe with a broken left arm and serious internal bleeding that almost cost him his life.

In the throes of death, Aderibigbe recalled how he was rejected at several hospitals, including the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, which advised that he be taken to nearby Military Hospital, Yaba. Even at the military facility, he recalled that the personnel were going to turn him down on flimsy accounts of ‘no space’ among others, until his refrain that “I’m coming from a National Assignment with Transport Minister Amaechi’ caused what turned out to be a celestial voice to intervene that, ‘Save a life first; attend to him; you heard what he said that he was coming from a national assignment with the minister.’

Thankfully, Aderibigbe is recovering well; but what if he wasn’t a journalist with a top medium who could drop such a big name as the minister’s? What if he didn’t have the instinct to block his head with his hand?

Would the tricycle rider, who most probably didn’t sustain as much injury as Aderibigbe claim he was too blind to see the huge truck?

Confused bunch

According to Babatunde Fashina, a Lagos resident, the problem with tricycle riders is that they seem to be confused about what their vehicles really are. “The problem is you find them behaving like Okada (motorcycles) when it is convenient, squeezing themselves through the smallest of spaces and endangering other vehicles, however exotic; while at other times, they sit comfortably in the middle of the road, refusing to give way to bigger vehicles, even when they are hooting at them to give way. On such occasions, they lay claim to ownership of the road, claiming to be ‘moto’.

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“Usually, my question to them is, ‘This one na moto?’ to which they are quick to respond, ‘Before nko’? Sometimes, they even go as far as telling you that their tricycle is more expensive than your car – especially if they see that you’re driving a tokunbo car.”

A respondent, David Abiodun, who lives in Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa, Lagos, narrated an annoying but funny scenario where, one day, earlier this year, a tricycle rider, in a careless bid to squeeze past a brand new Hyundai Santa Fe SUV in a traffic situation around Oke Afa Bus Stop, scratched its fender, pulled down its front bumper and cracked its right headlamp. “When the owner, an obviously well-to-do man, came down and insisted he paid for the damages, the rider burst into tears, pleading profusely for mercy. But the Santa Fe owner insisted, citing his total disrespect to the obviously expensive car and insisting that he deliberately damaged his car in his stubborn bid to squeeze through a space that clearly wasn’t big enough for his vehicle.

“In no time, the tricycle rider had ripped his clothing and was rolling on the hot tarred road, pleading that he could not afford to repair or replace the damaged car parts. But the car owner insisted. The question on the lips of observers who had gathered, was, ‘Why struggle with a car you knew you cannot afford even its wiper?”

Such examples abound.

Several other respondents spoken to insisted that the recklessness of the tricycle riders has reached a limit. One of them, who drives a Honda Civic but declined giving his name, complained about the way they put car owners’ vehicles at risk, sometimes, even voicing their threats. “You won’t believe it; one of them, while struggling to overtake me in traffic, threatened to scratch my car, and actually did. When the deed was done and I accosted him, he told me, ‘Why you self no wan give me road?’ To say the least, I was dumbfounded.”

Another, who gave his name as Banjo and drives a Hyundai Elantra said, “Ninety per cent of the marks and scratches you see on my car were inflicted by those nuisance Keke Marwa. The annoying part is that they drive with so much recklessness, darting in and out of narrow spaces, without giving a though to the damage they can cause to other vehicles. The bad part is that these people even find their way under trailers. How does that happen? It only tells you the extent of their recklessness. They also seem to believe it is their right to break traffic laws and drive one-way. To top it up, it seems the police and LASTMA have given up on them. You see them driving against traffic, beating the red light and going scot-free. How does that happen in an organised society?”

Graduated Okada riders

Banjo, who drives a bus distributing bread along Egbeda-Dopemu-Ikeja axis, stated categorically that the reason the Keke Marwa riders conduct themselves so recklessly, is because they are former Okada riders who, by some dint of good fortune, lay their hands on Keke Marwa and hence began to feel on top.

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“If you dig up the background of most of this Keke Marwa riders, you will discover that they were former Okada riders. That is why you see them darting in and out of vehicles in traffic as if they are riding Okada. In plain language, they seem to have forgotten that what they’re riding is a three-wheeler, and not a two-wheeler.

Replacement gone awry

When the three-wheeler vehicles were first introduced to Lagos by the then Military Governor of Lagos State, Colonel Muhammed Buba Marwa in 1996, it was as an alternative to the commercial motorcycles popularly called Okada in Southern Nigeria, which had become a menace on account of their riders at the time, breaking limbs, skulls and generally maiming and killing Lagosians. To him, no government should fold its hands and not do anything while its people are going through such horrors.

In response, Lagosians warmed up to the initiative and even christened the new means of transport after the governor, hence the name Keke Marwa. Many, who feared for their health and life, also migrated to the tricycle, although the motorcycle, like a cat with nine lives, remained.

Unfortunately, what is playing out is that what was thought of as a safer alternative to the notorious motorcycles has turned out to be even worse culprits in the same matter. Many actually admit that Okada riders, compared to Keke Marwa riders, are better off in today’s Lagos.

600 deaths in 10,000 accidents; riders ignore govt bans

In an attempt to curb the rising accident spate involving the tricycles and its partner in crime, motorcycles, the Lagos State Government, last year January, again resolved to begin strict enforcement of its laws which restricts motorcycles and tricycles on some roads and bridges but which had been flagrantly ignored.

The government hinged the renewed determination on a worrisome data that showed that 600 deaths resulting from 10,000 accidents involving these vehicles occurred in four years. That of course, is aside minor and major injuries to victims, and unreported cases.

As far back as 2016, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) had indicted the tricycle riders for the frequent occurrence of accidents on Lagos roads. The agency, which regulates traffic in Lagos, said the recklessness with which the operators ride their tricycles, had been identified as one of the major causes of road crashes in the country.

Speaking during the ’ember months awareness campaign that year, the LASTMA Zonal Head for Isolo at the time, Lateef Olokodana, said “A good number of road accidents that we have recorded so far were caused by all these Marwa riders because they drive recklessly, thereby causing commotion.”

Source: THE NATION

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