Okada restriction: Court backs Lagos govt, says it is constitutional
By OLASUNKANMI AKONI, MONSOOR OLOWOOPEJO & ONOZURE DANIA
*Fashola commeds judgement as Aturu heads to Appeal court…
Justice Aishat Opesanwo of Ikeja High Court Thursday upheld the constitutionality of the Lagos traffic law, saying it did not violate anybody’s rights.
Some commercial motorcyclists, under the aegis of All Nigeria Auto Bike Commercial Owners and Workers Association, ANACOWA, had challenged the restriction of their operations to 475 routes by the traffic law, saying that it violated their right to freedom of movement.
However, Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola said: “The court has restated clearly what is the law, the responsibility for municipal management of traffic in any state can only reside in the elected authorities of that state.
“The legislative power, therefore, belongs to the parliament of that state; so if parliament sits down and passes a bill into law and it follows all of the processes, governor‘s assent and so on, what else?
“I think people, in the name of freedom and access to justice, should not just do whatever they like; I think the action challenging the constitutionality of the law in the first place was an extremely frivolous and ill-conceived action”.
The governor said the fact that the law was passed by the people’s representatives made it binding on everyone, and urged compliance by all residents.
In his coments, Mr Ade Ipaye, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, said the ordinary people of the state were the winners of the court’s decision.
“If there is any winner at all, it is the good people of Lagos who desire to commute in a safe and secure environment.
“It is also a relief to have legal confirmation of the sensible fact a state House of Assembly has powers to make laws, regulating conduct on every road within the state’s territory,” he said.
Mr Kayode Opeifa, Commissioner for Transportation, commended the decision of the motorcycle operators to challenge the law in the court.
Opeifa said it was their constitutional right, adding that the operators should partner with the state government in putting an efficient and sustainable transportation system in the state.
He encouraged the operators to take advantage of the various skill acquisition programmes put in place by the government for them to be productive.
The Lagos Traffic Law was promulgated on Aug. 2. Apart from restricting operations of commercial motorcyclists, it also prohibits making phone calls while driving.
Governor Babatunde Fashola has commended the court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Lagos Traffic Law, saying the verdict was in the best interest of the residents.
Speaking with newsmen after the judgment, Fashola said the decision of the court had justified the state government’s stance that municipal traffic management was the sole responsibility of the state.
He said the government explored the normal procedures in promulgating the law, adding that those who had challenged the constitutionality of the legislation had only embarked on a futile exercise.
The lead Counsel to All Nigerians Autobike Commercial Owners and Workers Association, ANACOWA, parent body of commercial motorcyclists, popularly called “Okada Riders”. Mr Bamidele Aturu, has vowed to appeal yesterday’s judgment in favour of Lagos State government, saying he would be seeking redress on behalf of is clients at the Court of Appeal.
A statement by Aturu read thus: “The High Court of Lagos State, yesterday, dismissed the suit filed by ANACOWA on behalf of commercial motorcyclists. While we respect the decision of the judge as a court of law, we disagree with the decision and we shall promptly seek redress on behalf of our clients at the Court of Appeal.
“As we have relentlessly made clear we do not think it is right to argue that there are no federal trunk roads in Lagos State as this may encourage the Federal Government to abandon maintenance of roads that we all know to be federal roads. This is what we meant when we argued that Lagos State government was pursuing a pyrrhic victory by the argument.
“We salute the doggedness of our clients and their respect for the rule of law. They have shown very remarkably that we will not build democracy if we fail to challenge or test policies and laws of governments at all levels.
“We know that this is not the end of the matter. Citizens have many options at their disposal for challenging policies that they consider destructive of the ends of democracy and their existence. We shall leave our clients with the decision, while we pursue their appeal speedily.”