BY OLASUNKANMI AKONI
There is an increase in the activities of commercial motorcycle operators (Okada riders) on major roads in Lagos.
Their presence could be felt on most restricted routes across the state.
The roads include Lagos Ibadan Expressway, Apapa Oshodi, Oworonshoki, Lagos Ikorodu, Lagos-Abeokuta, Agege motor road, Egbeda, Ikotun, Ikeja, Funsho Williams Avenue, Eti-Osa Lekki CFoastal Road among others.
Last Friday, a Lagos based businessman, Mr. Bimbo Oguns, regretted the return of Okada riders, describing it as worrisome.
Oguns, whose vehicle was damaged by an Okada rider, said: “I was shocked with the manner he broke the side mirror of the car. The speed was so much that in the twinkling of an eye, the rider disappeared into thin air. I think this menace is back. The Okada riders are back to business, probably because of the forthcoming election. They are always handy tools for politicians,” he lamented.
The Traffic Law
Vanguard recalls that the state government had on August, 2012 signed the Lagos State Traffic Law in to law. The objective of the legislation was to provide for road traffic administration.
It also seeks, among others, to restore sanity in the state tansportation system.
The restriction on the activities of commercial motorcyclists, remains controversial.
The Okada riders were restricted from operating on 406 out of 10, 000 roads in the state, including all bridges.
According to schedule (1) section (2) of Traffic Offences and Penalties, riding a motorcycle against traffic and riding on the kerb, median or road setbacks for a first time offender would attract N20,000.00,
Riding a motor-cycle without crash helmet for rider and passenger would attract N20,000 or three years jail term..
The law also prohibited under aged persons, under 18 years from riding a motorcycle, stipulating a fine of N20,000.00.
Following the signing of the law, many law enforcement agencies, in the state, took the opportunity to extort money from arrested offenders.
There was public outcry against the indiscriminate arrest, harassment and intimidation by the police.
The Okada riders complained that the police also arrest them even on roads not prohibited by the law.
“The security agencies often pursue the okada riders right into the inner streets without regards for human life on the Okada in the process of arrest. One wonders if the Okada was totally banned in Lagos”, Bello Sani, a Lagos resident said.
Okada mechanics protest police arrest
Scores of Okada mechanics at a point protested the arrest and impounding of over 1,000 motorcycles from their workshops by policemen.
They complained that the policemen hide under the pretence of enforcing the Road Traffic Law, by storming workshops where motorcycles are undergoing repairs.
The protesters under the aegis of Federal Motorcycle and Generator Mechanical Association of Nigeria, FEDMGMAN, recently, stormed the office of Governor Babatunde Fashola on the need to stop the police from harassing them.
The protesters in a letter to the state governor, signed by their National President, Mr Ganiyu Jimoh, stated, “Following the ban on Okada in Lagos, officers of the Nigerian Police, Lagos State Command have been arresting my members and impound any Okada found within their workshops.
“We understand that Okada riders are banned from plying some specific roads in Lagos but certain roads were exempted by the law.
“Okada plying these exempted roads go through wear and tear, hence they need repair. When the motorcycles are brought to our workshop for repairs, policemen come to the workshop and impound any Okada found within the premises.”
Secretary of FEDMGMAN, Mr. Jimoh Sulaymon, explained that they embarked on the protest to expose the illicit act of policemen, adding that, “Okada riders are tired of daily arrests and impoundment. Many of our members are today indebted because of this illicit act of the law enforcement officers.”
Worried by the incessant complaints and outcry, Fashola recently charged officials of the State Transport Management Authority, LASTMA, to always do their jobs with compassion to enable the state win the war against all forms of indiscipline.
Fashola, told the officials to always discharge their responsibilities in such a way that the state would not be portrayed in bad light.
“Your primary responsibility is to move trffic. If you have to make a choice between moving traffic and letting an offender go, let the offender go. I don’t need him; we need to keep traffic moving because moving traffic is the economy”.
“There are very few people within both organizations, who want to give you a bad name and we must move very quickly to find out those people and show them where they belong”.
“We have 10,000 roads in Lagos and we say that the okada should not ply about 496 of them, does that constitute a ban?” he asked adding that it is only a restriction on certain types of motorcycles which does not restrict other types of motorcycles from using even the same roads.
“Over 600 accidents that we used to record every month from motorcycle crashes hasdrastically reduced to about 100,” the governor said adding that the crime rate onmotorcycles have also dropp by about 80 percent.’’
Police should keep enforcement to restricted roads
Fashola however called on the police to desist from extorting money from Okada operators, saying that the state government would not tolerate a situation where some people would capitalize on the good intentioned policies to hurt residents.