By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Barely 24 hours after Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State signed the new Road Traffic Law in the renewed effort to ensure sanity on the roads, Lagos residents, motorists, commercial motorcyclists, popularly called ‘Okada riders’ and other road users are viewing the new law in diverse perspectives.

Some believe the law is too stringent and anti masses, while other schools of thought gave kudos to the state government for the  bold step to restore sanity on the roads where many lives have been lost due to recklessness.

Fashola, on August 2,2012, signed the bill into law but enforcement will commence after the law has been gazetted.The public signing of the bill into law was witnessed by Speaker Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the new Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ayotunde Adeyoola Phillips, members of the State Executive Council,court judges and magistrates, the state commissioner of police, Umar Manko, area commanders, divisional police officers, senior ranking of the Lagos State Transport Management Authority, LASTMA, Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIO, among other stakeholders.

Speaking at the ceremony, Fashola, affirmed that the law was to ensure service delivery and restore sanity on the roads,adding that the following factors led to the formulation of the new road traffic law.

TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK

It would also be recalled that the state government last Friday, placed a ban on the activities of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, particularly, motor park touts otherwise known as, ‘Agberos’ from motor garages and car parks across the metropolis. Similarly, the State government vowed to commence an aggressive enforcement on motorists and other road users not authorized to use sirens .

Restriction on activities of commercial vehicles

The operation of commercial buses is now fully regulated under the new law. The law stipulates that no one can put any vehicle on the road for commercial purpose without proper registration.

Before anyone paints any commercial vehicle in yellow,there must be  an approval from state ministry of transportation,and with this, the state government will be able to determine the number of vehicles on the road and the owners of the vehicles will be identified easily. In a couple of days, re-certification of  452, 000 motorcycles enumerated in the state will commence.

The activities will be done within 30 days, and during the process, all their Biometric data would be recorded to show that they reside in the state. For commercial okada, they are only restricted from plying 470 roads out of the 9,100 roads in the state.

Ban on NURTW at motor-parks

Henceforth, union activity is no longer allowed in all the garages in the state. What they need to do now is to operate the way other unions in the state operate, like Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT. They are meant to be in their offices.

We recognise the  right for them to associate but we believe that the motor parks should be made easy for those who want to carry out their legitimate business of commuting in the state. Contained in the white paper adopted by the state government is that henceforth, no union member should be seen on the road collecting money from transport operators as it is illegal.

Also, drivers and conductors in the state will be required to wear uniform. This is meant to improve the safety of lives and property within the state.

Government is to commence soon, the re-registration of motor parks across the state aimed at eradicating the situation where people just park vehicles in a certain area and converting it into motor parks. The exercise will differentiate between motor parks, garages and bus stops.

Clarification on the Law

Shedding more lights on the new Road Traffic Law at an inter-ministerial press briefing at Alausa, Ikeja, state Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa said the union activities had been restricted to offices and no longer on the roads.

Opeifa, explained that the decision to have proper traffic management was to ensure safety of residents in the state, hence, the need for motorists and other road users to comply with the regulations voluntarily without any cause for enforcement in their own interest.

Lagos State Governor, Fashola

He affirmed that the aim of the state government was not to make it a money-making venture, but the need to protect lives and property of  innocent citizens, adding that government would soon commence the re-registration of motor parks across the state. “The situation where people just park vehicles in a certain area converting it as motor parks is now illegal.” The state Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Ipaye, in his remarks said, though the law has come into effect, enforcement would not commence until the law is in the gazette.

Sensitization campaign/ Enforcement

He explained that the state government does not have enough men for the enforcement of the law but it required the assistance of residents in the state to comply with the new road traffic law. He however, added that the fact that there were inadequate men on ground should not give residents the opportunity of taking the law into their hands.

Ipaye, also clarified that the law is not meant to generate revenue into the coffers of the state government, saying money ever generated from arrest of vehicles for committing offences are not enough to cover the expenses incurred by the government during the enforcement of the law.

He also affirmed that, “We will intensify our sensitization campaign to emphasise what residents of the state had already known. As more people comply with the law, the traffic officers in the state will have less work to do in terms of enforcement”.

Genesis of the Lagos Road Traffic Lagos

The new traffic bill which was signed into law last Thursday by the governor; is an executive bill sent to the state House of Assembly for consideration and necessary approval. Subsequently, two white papers were also approved for immediate implementation by the state government after serious deliberation by the State Executive Council, EXCO.

The first white paper is on government views on report of the reconstituted security committee on the activities of motorcycle operators in the state and the second is the government

views on the report of the tribunal of enquiry into the present structure of the operation and function of the NURTW AND RTEAN in all the motor parks in the state.

The tribunal chaired by Justice Dolapo Akinsanya was constituted and submitted its report in 2008 and since then, the report had been pending, and was recently approved for implementation by the state government.

This white paper deals with all the residence of the state had been agitating for over the activities of the NURTW in the state. Some of their activities were fighting at the garages, collecting money on the roads indiscriminately, disturbing passengers, drinking alcohol in garages have been taken care of by the law.

It would be recalled that at the commencement of the administration in 2007, a security committee was constituted and the recommendation of the committee led to the establishment of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, LSSTF.

And part of the recommendations, was restriction of Okada from the roads because of the security risk.
In 2011, another committee was reconstituted to look into the activities of the Okada operators in the state. However, the previous report led to the stakeholders meeting in 2010 organised by the state government. This was the aftermath of the 8-month meeting and negotiation between the state government and stakeholders in the transport sector.

At that time, the state listed the roads that could be used by motorcycle operators in the state. At the end of the year, the motorcycle operators were back on the entire roads where their services were restricted. And that led to the reconstitution of another security committee.

The number of motorcycle operators in the state increased exponentially in the last few months in Lagos. And this was as a result of the ban placed on their activities in other states in the country. Lagos is not the only state where there is a ban on Okada, Enugu and Bayelsa states have done the same in order to bring sanity to road transportation in their state.

The spill over effect of the ban on the movement of commercial motorcycle operators saw their migration en-bloc to Lagos State. All effort to re-orientate and sensitize operators on traffic regulation and policies in the state failed, apparently, due to the absent of clear cut legal framework backing the activities.

Okada Vs Lagos in Court

May 4,2012, Justice Stephen Adah of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos in his judgment, held that commercial motorcyclists have inalienable rights as citizens of Nigeria to freely move or ply their trade in any part of the country without restriction, intimidation or any form of harassment.

Okada riders under the aegis of Motorcycle Transport Union of Nigeria (MTUN), National Association of Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association (NATOMORA) and All Nigerian Auto bikes Commercial Owners and Workers Association (ANACOWA), had sued the state government, for restricting their operation in certain areas and certain period of time. The restriction bordered mainly on flagrant disobedience of traffic rules by some of the operators, recklessness and the rampant criminal offences committed through the use of motorbikes.

Consequently, Okada association employed the service of  Bamidele Aturu, a legal practitioner and a Lagos based rights activist who later filed seven grounds on which motorcycles riders must be allowed to ply their trade unhindered. But the state government represented by Commissioner for Justice, Adeola Ipaye, with some other lawyers were also in court to present the argument of the state government.

“Nigeria is a democratic country. If a state government believed there is a justifiable reason to ban anybody or the operation of the commercial motorcycle riders, it should approach the state house of assembly. The state government cannot arbitrarily stop the operation of the motorcycle riders in any part of the state.

If it does, such order will be deemed dictatorial, unconstitutional, null and void. If the state feels any need to regulate commercial motorcycle activities, it should approach the state assembly for an enactment that will justify that. But as thing stands, there is no law to that effect,” Justice Adah ruled.

With the ruling, the executive arm quickly ran back to the State House of Assembly to fine-tune the state traffic law.

After an earlier public hearing, the State House of Assembly passed a bill for a law to repeal and re-enact the road traffic law and to make provisions for road traffic and vehicle inspection in Lagos into law for Fashola’s assent.

Chairmen NURTW, MOALS, react

The chairman of the NURTW Lagos State Council, Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede, noted that most of their members are daily paid drivers, “and such we passionately appeal to Governor Fashola to grant us the privilege right to collect membership due from our ember-drivers in the motor parks as done throughout the country. It may sound counterproductive to suppress this privilege right.”

“In complying with the state government orders in sensitizing the transport sector of the economy our union has equally directed all her affiliates, such as tricycles, motorcycles operators to immediately set-up taskforces, applicable to the state council of the union to see to the control, orderliness, sanity and good management of the transport industry in the state, with immediate effect.”

Agbede, however, appealed to the governor on the need to revisit the issue of  over 5,000 okada/ tricycle operators that are restricted, “so that government will not expose or commit our numerous operators with their families into an unemployment market and hunger strike.

Chairman MOALS

Chairman of Motorcycles Association of Lagos State, MOALS, comrade Tijani Pekis, similarly, urged the governor to tender justice with mercy on the new traffic law.

According to him: “We appeal to Governor Fashola  to have a second look into the traffic law scheduled II, where Okada were restricted from plying over 496 roads in all local government to please relax enforcement on these porous routes because it would amount to 80 percent ban of okada operation in the council areas.”

He recalled that his members were instrumental in 2007, 2011, electioneering periods which saw the governor elected and re-elected into the office.

“We will like to remind the governor on his promise made in March 2011 in a Town hall meeting before gubernatorial election, held at the blue Roof LTV 8 that he will have quarterly meeting with okada unions where all these laws would be reviewed but unfortunately he has never kept to the promise.

“We are appealing to Fashola to stay enforcement and give us more time to educate our numerous members about this road traffic law.”

Disclaimer

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