Â By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Gbenga Akanmu
Controversy has continued to trail the announcement by the Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) late last month, on its plans to embark on an aggressive enforcement of all traffic laws regarding the operations of commercial motorcyclists popularly called Okoda in the metropolis as the association of Okada riders has taken the state government to court on the matter seeking proper interpretation of the law.
Similarly, stakeholders at the last weekâ€™s public hearing organised by the Lagos state House of Assembly could not reach a consensus on the activities of Okada as various speakers expressed mixed feelings on the matter.
While some advocated that they be banned completely, others wanted their activities restricted to feeder roads and rural areas, while yet others called for caution because a lot of families derive their livelihood from there and stopping them would increase crime rate.
Apart from claims that Okada is used for criminal activities, stakeholders also expressed dismay on the high rate of accidents associated with this means of transportation.
On the enforcement of the law, the state Commissioner for Transportation, Professor Bamidele Badejo, at an earlier media briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, maintained that there is no going back on the enforcement of the law on Okada operations which he stressed the government will implement to the latter.
Â The Ministry had declared in a press statement by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Mr KayodeÂ Opeifa that from July 1, 2010 a special task force of the Ministry would embark on massive clampdown on Okada operators whoÂ flouts traffic rules and regulations guiding their operations.
Badejo, however, revealed that since the commencement of the enforcement from June 1, 2010, over 500 errant Okada operators have been impounded and would be tried according to the rules and regulations.
The Commissioner stressed that the intention of the state government was not to make money out of it but to ensure strict adherence to rules and regulations with the aim of instilling discipline and sanity in the metropolis in the interest of all.
Badejo explained that what the Ministry has embarked on is simply the enforcement of the laid down law under the aegis of Motor Vehicle Administration Agency (MVAA), Road Traffic Law and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) Law.
The Commissioner said in line with the advice of the House, the Ministry is currently extracting some relevant sections from the operating laws concerning road traffic laws, MVAA laws and LASTMA laws towards coming up with a law and order regime which will be made public about the operation of the commercial motorcyclists.
The commissioner hinted that the House of Assembly is also very concerned in ensuring a curbing of the excesses of the commercial motorcyclists just like the State Government.
Badejo said this has even led the House of Assembly to set up a committee of the House which visited strategic locations like the orthopaedics hospitals and invited submission from stakeholders to see things for itself concerning the operation of Okada riders.
Â He explained that the committee set up by the House gave a report that corroborated what the Ministry had earlier reported, adding that the legislators did not join issues with the government but have only assisted in clarifying issues so that the Ministry does not run foul of the law.
Badejo therefore, enjoined all Okada riders to obey all traffic laws guiding their operations in order not to run afoul of the law.Â
On his own part, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo, who was represented by one Vincent Brown, said recklessness on the part of riders is responsible for the high rate of accident. â€œThey have become untamable and over 70 per cent of crimes are attributable to armed bandits operating with motorcycles,â€ he charged.
Akpoyibo, however, said: â€œIt has become imperative for government to intervene if Lagos State is to realise the vision of becoming a mega city that is the first choice for investments and touristsâ€.
He disclosed that 1,763 motorcycle accident were registered between January and May 2010, as against 2,555 registered on vehicles within the state.
Â The commissioner gave the figures as January: 357; February: 256; March: 369; April: 391; May: 390, while the figure for June was yet to be collated as at press time.
Â Akpoyibo said: â€œWhile driving on the highways, they switch lanes carelessly; they breach traffic laws often and often, amongst many other(offences).
â€œThe accidents range from motorcycle to motorcycle accident, motorcycle to motor vehicle accident, motorcycle to pedestrian, motorcycle to tricycle and the motorcycle having accident itself while on the wayâ€.
He, therefore, called for outright ban of Okada in Ikoyi , Victoria Island , Lekki corridor, Ikeja, Apapa, Magodo, Ogudu, Ikorodu, other GRAs, dual carriageways and expressways and â€œother stringent measures government may deem necessary to abate the commercial motorcycle menace before it turns into an epidemicâ€.