Starting the Okada(Commercial Motorcycle) Business

Is the Okada business worth your consideration? Of course, but you are free to make a choice after reading this very educative article.

Before the current global economic recession, several thousands of Nigerian men have lost their bread-winner status to the ever downturn in the economy.

While many have never been gainfully employed at all, many lost their jobs to compulsory job reduction embarked upon by companies to remain in business; some became jobless when their erstwhile employers closed shops, while some others that are artisans were rendered jobless by the crisis in the power sector.

Several few of these unlucky Nigerians found succour in various criminal activities, while others devised decent alternative means of survival, prominent among which is ‘ferrying’ of passengers from one location to another on motorcycles for commercial purposes.

Popularly referred to as Okada in Lagos and most Yoruba speaking states, Akauke in Calabar, Going in Kogi, Inaaga in Iboland and Bike among others, commercial motorcycle riding has become the economic mainstay of many homes, and these riders are found in almost every major cities, towns and villages of Nigeria.

Saturday Tribune’s investigation revealed that a very few of these commercial motorcycle operators are deliberately in the business while majority of them strayed into it due to factors earlier enumerated.

Wale Ibiwumi, popularly called Uncle Wale by colleagues at his Gbaremu operational unit, said as an NCE graduate, he was teaching in a private nursery/primary school (name withheld) at Gbaremu Oloba area on a very poor salary until he met a parent of one of his class pupils that introduced him to the business.

According to Wale, “this man employed me to teach his two children privately at home and he took personal interest in my plight which made him give out a Jincheng motorcycle to me on loan to operate which I started in my local area.”

Having been in operation for two years, Wale, after repaying the loan, bought a new one on his own and told Saturday Tribune that “by the special grace of God, I will be a proprietor at the resumption of a new academic session because I was able to secure a rented place to start a school in my own little way.

Unlike Wale, Kabiru Akande of Yemetu area, also an OND graduate of Business Administration, got fascinated to the business through his father who is a motorcycle repairer.

Narrating his story, Kabiru, who normally passed his unproductive day in his father’s workshop one day, met one of his father’s clients that came for repairs. A discussion on an English Premiership football match between Chelsea and Hull City made him realise that the other young man is a university graduate.

Listening to the story of how Saheed, an educated fellow, took to motorcycle riding, Kabiru instantly decided he too could relieve the burden of his parents; and his father, through one of his clients, secured a second-hand motorcycle for him to start the business. Today, Kabiru owns a football viewing centre and another motorcycle from which he makes additional income.

“Rather than ending my educational career on an Ordinary Diploma Level, I am fully responsible for the furtherance of my studies, HND part time, at The Polytechnic, Ibadan,” he enthused.

An artisan, Biodun Ogundare, who repairs airconditioners, refrigerators and freezers, lamented that in spite of the collapse of the nation’s power sector, some other artisans like barbers, tailors, cobblers etc can manage to remain in business with the assistance of smaller generators but his own business required a higher voltage generator and other equipment which he could not afford.

Graduating barely two years ago, Ogundare told Saturday Tribune that he had not saved enough money to acquire the needed equipment that can help checkmate the epileptic power supply, hence his venturing into commercial motorcycle riding.

“Though it is not easy since it is not something I learnt from the onset, and, at times, I find it painful seeing myself as a mere Okada rider, but I thank God I am making ends meet and with the cooperation of my wife, our children are not living a hopeless life,” he said.

Saturday Tribune gathered further that 60 per cent of the operators are artisans who either cannot cope with the cost of running their business or those that were forced to close shops by the yet-to-be-resolved energy crisis in the country.

It was revealed that those that ventured into the business early this millennium got a motorcycle, mostly Jincheng products from China as high as N90,000 on higher purchase basis; some through secured loans from cooperative societies while some took loans guaranteed by operating unions like the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Okada Branch and the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN) from microfinance institutions.

“Now, most of those people operating Okada got their machines cheaply as low as N60,000 compared to some of us that started the business,” said Alhaji Saka Asimiyu who has a fleet of 10 motorcycles on which he collect money deliveries on a daily basis, having retired from active riding.

Like any other profession, commercial motorcycle riding also has its own occupational hazards. Biodun Ogundare said the first threat is the exposure to cold which nearly sent him off the business until he got used to it.

Corroborating Biodun’s assertion, another operator, Kasali Lawal, an indigene of Ikire in Osun State said he had been treated of chronic cold (pneumonia) because of exposure to cold he got from coming and going to Ibadan daily to ply his trade.

Both Kabiru and Saheed considered union dues they pay on a daily basis as excessive. According to them, after paying the normal due at the different units of the NURTW where they operate, they were usually forced to pay dues at other units they passed through.

“This apart, you know the Nigerian system, we still have to give law enforcement agents, especially Traffic Wardens, their ‘undue’ payment to escape unnecessary delay,” said Kabiru.

But Wale was so concerned with the rate at which Okada riders get involved in accidents, which, according to him, has sent some of his colleagues to their early graves and leaving others with permanent disability.

One of the pioneers of the business, Alhaji Asimiyu, blamed this on behavioural attitude of the riders, some of whom, he said, are taunted by youthful exuberance which has led them to taking drugs, alcohol and other dangerous substances while at work.

He said, “it is no gainsaying that some of these young boys, erstwhile bus conductors, garage boys etc will consume paraga (local alcoholic herbal concoction), smoke Indian hemp early in the morning before starting business,” adding that this immoral attitude is now worsened by the cold atmospheric condition.

To start the business:
- Acquire any brand of motorcycle through outright purchase or hire purchase. A brand new Okada can be bought from as low as N50,000.

- Alternatively, once you can ride a motorcycle, you can be operating for an owner to whom you pay daily delivery as well as saving some money to help acquire your own.

- After having the necessary documents that will make the motorcycle roadworthy, register with a unit of the road transport regulating union.

- Abide by all traffic laws.

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