Its emergence is traced to the John Mahama regime where they were introduced in new modules under the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) programme to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth within the savannah ecological zones of the country.
The purpose might not to use have used it to commercially ferry people but the Indian imported tricycles known as ‘Mahama Camboo’ have gained currency as a means of public transport and for those who detest siting in vehicles for long hours in traffic jams, it is the transport means of choice.
It gained warm acceptance in the Wa Municipal District in the Upper West Region, also in the Tamale Metropolis where the tricycle went by nicknames such as ‘Mahama Camboo’, ‘Yellow Yellow’, ‘Nahi Nahi’, ‘John Mahama’ and ‘Akorikori’.
Those in the business say the ‘Mahama Camboo’ provides the cheapest means of transportation for commuters and their goods, also enabling access to inaccessible areas in the Tamale Metropolis.
Its use has become so popular that political capital was made from it when Page 140 of the NDC’s Green Book of achievements mentioned its introduction by former president, John Dramani Mahama as a government intervention to create jobs and reduce unemployment.
In the Tamale Metropolis areas the Mahama Camboo operators ply include Kasalgu, Lamashegu, Hospital, Vetting, Asawaba, Sagnarigu, Kukuo, Nyohini, Fuo, Dungu, Village Water, Estate, SSNIT, Gumani, Kanvile, T-Poly, Chuggu, Yapala, Gurugu and Sheshagu.
The ‘Mahama Camboo’ tricycle has a space for four passengers, including the rider, but most of the riders, have created additional 2 spaces for other passengers taking the number to 6.
Even some taxi drivers seeing the swift gains their tricycle counterparts are making have abandoned their taxis to join the ‘Camboo’ movement however there are police stops and then the money taking by the cops which to be fair is a fate suffered by nearly all drivers including the taxi drivers, ‘trotro’ drivers, private drivers and now the ‘Camboo’ folks.
What is its appeal?
While it takes four passengers like the taxis, the riders say it is faster and better.
Some passengers say, they get to enjoy wind blowing on every part of their body on the ride.
Some reckon it’s safer and faster than the taxis and ‘trotros’ as they make too many stopovers for passengers.
Some Mahama Camboo riders are accused of not having number plates, insurance, and are called out for overloading and also having minors and untrained riders riding them.
A good number of teenagers in Wa expected to be in school during contact hours are leaving classrooms to drive Mahama Camboos tricycles to make a living. The trend has led to increasingly number of school dropouts in the locality where children as young as 12 years prefer to follow relatives to learn the craft than be in school.
They can also drive past traffic jams because they are small. They don’t also pay Insurance and other levies, some taxi drivers allege.
According to the police, the use of tricycles for carrying passengers is unlawful and violates the road traffic regulation, LI 21/80, regulation 128, which prohibits the use of motorcycle or tricycle for commercial purposes.
The regulation states that a motorcycle or tricycle shall not be registered to carry a fare paying passenger. Such motorcycles and tricycles are not permitted to carry passengers for commercial purposes except for courier and delivery services.
The regulation also provides that no person shall ride as a fare-paying passenger and any person who contravenes the regulations above is liable to a summary conviction of a jail term.
National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) and the police occasionally embark on operations to arrest users of tricycles for commercial purposes.
While on one hand, the police say it is unlawful to use the tricycle for commercial purposes, they demand to see driving licenses from the riders in the commercial trade.
While the business in Wa might be declining due to activities of criminals who use the motorized commercial tricycles to rob passengers and rape women putting fear and insecurity among residents in addition to hikes in fuel prices.
The tricycles appear to have taken over the work of taxis and commercial intercity buses otherwise known as ‘trotro’ at Aboabo and other communities in the Asokore Mampong Municipality of the Ashanti Region.
Over there, the tricycles are called ‘Pragia’ after a character in popular India telenovela; ‘Kumkum Bhagya’ screened here.
One rider stated he bought his Mahama Camboo tricycle for GHc12,000 and after 12 months recovered the cost adding he makes at least GHc50 every day and can make on the average 10 trips a day.
At the Adedeta Station within the main Aboabo Transport Station they ply several directions including Asokore Mampong, Race Course, Doctor Mensah, Asawase, Sawaba, Sepe and Booban with over four hundred of the tricycles in use.
The taxi drivers are however unenthused with the invasion of the Mahama Camboos complaining with one one gallon of petrol, the tricycle rider can work for the day even move with only 2 passengers meaning passengers in ‘loading’ taxis simply hop from them and join the tricycles which also carry 4 passengers by the way.
From the Wa Municipality, Tamale Municipality to Asokore Mampong Municipality, the Mahama Camboos have found their way here in Accra and although they are largely being used to ferry goods, it wouldn’t take long before it sneaks up on residents and warms itself in their hearts and minds and starts ferrying them to destinations.
The Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) offers the license so riders carry passengers on private purposes, the difficulty is establishing if those onboard are on private purpose or have paid for the service.
By Michael Eli Dokosi/goldstreetbusiness.com with additional files from Zadok K. Gyesi