Tricycle operators, particularly in Lagos State, are in agony over the soaring prices of the erstwhile ‘common’ vehicle, writes ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR
The tricycle, which was once despised, seems to have become a luxury vehicle.
It was introduced in Lagos State by the last military administrator before the Fourth Republic, Mohammed Marwa. Since it was new and its name unpopular, ‘Keke Marwa’ came handy. And the name stuck. Later, the National Directorate for Employment adopted it in its National Poverty Eradication Programme, and that there up a somewhat more appropriate name, ‘Keke NAPEP’.
Marwa introduced it to ease transportation problem on the state. Imported mainly from India, it was very affordable, that unemployed graduates used it for commuting to keep body and soul together. It was “common Keke” then.
Today, if you can afford a new tricycle, you would be counted among millionaires. Respondents told Financial Street that the high price was negatively impacting on prospective buyers of any of the brands, and purchasing power of those that had taken loans to buy.
Nn operator, Hillary Ifeduba, said, “In 2019, I bought this ‘Keke’ that I am riding at N373,000, including the assembling of its parts; but in this 2022, about three years after, ‘Keke’ is about N1m.”
Financial Street gathered that the Bajaj tricycle sells from N600,000 to N850,000; Daylong from N500,000 to N600,000; TVS N580,000 to N650,000 and Piaggio from N550,000 to N700,000.
Reason for hike
Respondents attributed the soaring price to the depreciation of the naira against the dollar. Most of the components of the tricycle are reportedly imported.
Subaru Mabogunje, an investor in the transport sector, said, “I have three Keke Marwa, and I have the plan of increasing the fleet to five before December 2024. But with the current price of a new one, the realisation of the plan, particularly as to recouping money invested, seems dicey.”
On why he was not thinking of going for used tricycles, he said that would be “penny wise, pound foolish”.
He explained, “Fairly-used tricycles depreciate much faster than new ones. A tricycle loses nearly 50 per cent of its value in less than 5 years of purchase”.
Enwere said, “I wanted to invest in tricycle business, but how can I pay back so soon. I am saying this because I don’t want the wahala of all these shark lenders. In fact, we spend a lot of money tipping police and traffic officers from various agencies, and even National Union of Road Transport ticket agents, popularly known as agbero. At the end of the day, we end up spending up to N3,500 on the road, before thinking of our own profit.”
According to him, the high price, as well as daily payment to agbero, policemen and other traffic officers when the Keke is put on the road, is scaring a lot of people away from investing in the business; whether new or used.
“In fact, many of us in this business are complaining about the rising prices of different brands of Keke. The rising price has become unpredictable.”
Those who spoke with our reporter were worried over the increase in the price of tricycle, which they say is a more essential product when compared to other automobile products, as it is an easier way of creating jobs for the people, particularly the youths.
They unanimously agree that everything is expensive, and that the people have been trying to survive, arguing that Keke should be an exception because making the price affordable will pave the way for massive employment.
Chairman of the Lagos State Keke Dealers Association/National Coordinator of National Tricycle Dealers Association, Femi Komolafe, said, “The Federal Government, in its wisdom, saw commercial tricycle operation as a medium for empowerment and poverty alleviation.
Recalling when tricycles were purchased under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to create jobs for the youths, he said, “The purchase and distribution of the tricycle were coordinated by NAPEP. The Federal Government subsidised the importing by 50 per cent, to make them affordable.
“Who were the beneficiaries of the tricycle programme, and how did it get to the targeted people? The youths were the major targets and it was aimed at providing livelihood to as many people as possible, thus taking them away from vices caused by boredom and unemployment. But it was stopped by successive governments.”
Ignatius Ekanem, a Lagos-based businessman, said, “Life is becoming tougher by the day in this country. Everything in the country has increased immensely. You cannot imagine how shocked I was when I went out to buy a common bag of sachet water, and was told it was N200. With the way things are increasing, I really don’t know where we are heading to as a country.”
The story in Lagos about the increasing prices of all brands of tricycle is not different from those of Ibadan, Benin City, Owerri, Calabar and other state capitals across the country where the product is, each passing day, becoming unaffordable.
Throwing light to factors that might have been responsible for the spiralling prices of all brands of tricycles in the country, Komolafe said, the prices of tricycles were reasonable during the tenure of Obasanjo, explaining that it is now almost out of the reach of most Nigerians.
Ironically, tricycle is now more expensive than some fairly-used buses imported into Lagos from Asia. Some of those commuter buses known as ‘Korepe’, which carries seven passengers, can still be bought at below N1m, whereas Keke, which takes three (or maximum of four) passengers, has entered seven figures.
Komolafe added, “A number of investors hijacked the importation of tricycles because of the backing of the law from the National Assembly supporting the importation of tricycle as a means of poverty alleviation. So, they took the advantage to flood the country with the products.
“As a means of alleviating poverty, it became a hot cake, leading to a sharp rise in demand, with the importers taking advantage of the market situation. When they discovered that Nigeria is a huge market for the vehicle, they started increasing the prices astronomically. In fact, there is no month, whether the dollar is stable or not, they would not increase the prices.
“Unfortunately, there is no regulation of the price. There is a particular brand that we used to buy for N700,000 about four months ago, the same brand is now sold at over a million naira, because there is no price control, and the product is in high demand.”
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