From BAMIGBOLA GBOLAGUNTE, Akure
For an average driver in Akure, Ondo State, taking “ogogoro” has become a daily phenomenon. Drivers in many motor parks in the city are known for this habit and efforts to stop the situation has not yielded any positive result. Most drivers even drink alcohol while on wheel, while some drink it before embarking on trip.
The love of many of the drivers for alcohol has virtually turned the motor parks to drinking joints. Most of the drivers move from one joint to another patronising hawkers of alcoholic drinks. Not even their umbrella body, the National Union of Road
Transport Workers (NURTW), or the state government could deter them.
In April 2015, there was an incident at Ode-Irele, where over 20 people allegedly died after drinking ogogoro. Ininitaially, the illness leading to their deaths was thought to be the Ebola virus or similar virulent infectious diseases. However, officials of the World Health Organization (WHO), confirmed that the victims died of ogogoro.
It appears government and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), are doing little or nothing to bring sanity into the motor parks, as there was no measure to prevent the high level of alcoholic consumption in the motor parks across the state. The effort of the government was limited to maintaining cleanliness at the parks.
The FRSC had on several occasions organized sensitization programmes on the evils of drinking of alcohol while driving, yet the situation persists. The NURTW has not come up with a clear term sanction on drivers involved in the drinking of alcohol before or while driving.
The state government once banned the sales of alcoholic drinks at motor parks. But inability to monitor the motor parks caused total failure of the policy, turning the parks to “ogogoro joints.”
The advent of various portable and refined alcoholic herbal drinks does not help matters. Many claim to be drinking for the sake of healing piles, dysentery and other ailments. They believe the drinks would hasten their healing.
An official of the NURTW at Road Block Motor Park in Akure, who identified himself as Kazeem admitted: “We have made frantic efforts to stop the sales of alcohol in the motor parks, but our efforts could not yield any result because of the love of our people for it. But we will not relent at ensuring that we sanitize the motor parks.”
He disclosed that the leadership of the union had at a time set up a task force to sanitize motor parks, but the joints returned after few weeks, saying that drivers were responsible for the situation and not the sellers of alcohol.
He said many of the owners of the “ogogoro joints’ pay to the coffers of the local government authorities like the drivers who use the motor parks do, adding that some who were shop owners rented the shops from the LG.
The NURTW official said only government can sanitize the motor parks by ensuring strict compliance to the ban on the sales of alcoholic drinks at the various motor parks: “We had experienced it at a time when the government officials moved from one park to another to enforce the ban, but the situation is different today.”
A taxi driver at Oja oba motor park, Mr Gbenga Olagunju, said many drivers are addicted to alcohol: “Not many drivers can drive well without drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol does not mean losing one’s sense. It depends on individuals. Many of us perform very well when we drink a bit of alcohol. Driving is not an easy work, so one needs to empower himself with something like alcohol to drive well and enjoy his work”.
However, he admitted that selling alcohol at the motor parks encourage drivers to drink beyond their ability: “Many of our colleagues encourage drinking alcohol because of proximity issue. If they can be located at a distance from the motor parks, the level of addiction may not be as it is in most drivers now.”
A woman who owns one of the ogogoro joints at Ilesa Motor Park, Mrs. Sarah Obasola, said she inherited the business from her mother and could not do any other work as she makes reasonable income from the business on daily basis:
“Business is well organized where there is high demand for it. You can’t expect me to sell my drinks at the mosques or around the church. Drinks like this sell better around motor parks and that is why you see us in our large number here. It is because the drivers patronize us more than any other category of people, that we are concentrated here at the motor park. If you go to any other motor park in Nigeria, you will see our people there.”
She said she would appreciate it if government can support their business by giving them soft loans, adding that they pay their tax like others who are into other businesses.”
An official of the FRSC who did not want his name in print said the FRSC often organizes sensitization programmes for drivers on the evils of drinking alcohol while driving or before embarking on journeys, stressing that alcoholic consumption was responsible for many accidents in the country.
He said drivers behave irrationally when they are drunk and this causes over speeding which in turn results to accident.