Restriction order is in our interest but many operators will be out of business — Rider
Government has placed the cart before the horse — Trader
Poverty in the police may hamper exercise — Civil servant
99 per cent of Traffic Law violators are uniformed men — Association
No going back on enforcement — Task Force

Lagos: Fireworks, as red card for Okada takes effect!

By Bose Adelaja

Lagos State government, yesterday, commenced full implementation of its 2012 Lagos Traffic Rule which restricts commercial motorcycles, popularly called Okada and commercial tricycles, popularly called Marwa, in some roads across the state.

The February 1, 2020 restriction order cuts across six local government areas, nine local council development areas, 10 major highways and 40 bridges and flyovers across Lagos.

The state government, through its Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, said the decision was in response to the ‘scary figures’ of fatal accidents recorded from Okada and tricycle operators in the state between 2016 and 2019.

Sunday Vanguard was in town to interview members of the public about the effects of the exercise so far. Among the recipients were workers, artisans, traders and businessmen and women. Excerpts:

1) Nathaniel Adedeji, battery charger:
Though I patronise ‘Okada’ regularly, I will not support their activities on the highways or prohibited routes in order to guard against eventualities.

However, the traffic situation on Lagos roads should be properly addressed as this has deprived some workers the opportunity of getting to work early. Also, if the state government could open the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute (LASDRI), anybody who wants to operate ‘Okada’ should be trained and certified before they can operate on our roads to avoid jeopardizing the lives of Lagosians.

Some of my clients board ‘Okada’ all the way from Mile 12 to Mile 2 and other parts of Lagos to beat traffic gridlock and what will be their fate if this means of transportation is restricted on those routes? In conclusion, there are various associations that control the riders’ activities in the state which all riders are advised to join while the government serves as the regulatory body.

2) Goodluck Michael, rider:
In as much as my source of livelihood depends solely on ‘Okada’, I do not operate on the expressways or highways but inner routes and will never support such activities. Do you know that some reckless riders have killed so many Lagosians?
The Lagos Traffic Law is not a new thing and it has been enforced on many occasions, so why should we panic or shiver this time around?

I formerly dealt in foodstuff but quit the business after being duped by one of my customers and ‘Okada’ business has been my last resort for about five months now through which I feed my family and pay my children’s school fees. In spite of the pains or joy in the business, I insist that no rider should risk his life by carrying out his activities on highways as we survive on the business.

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3) Modupe Festus, petty trader:
The step taken by the government is commendable because ‘Okada’ business comes with a lot of risks. Do you know how many riders have lost their lives in the course of the business? So, why should the government condone them on the highways?
I have read or heard about comments by people that the state of Lagos roads will make some people get late to work but how I wish they consider the risks associated with this.

It is good to get late to work than being sent to an early grave, so, if the restriction will minimize the rate of accidents on our road, why can’t we give it a chance rather than complaining or passing insults upon insults on one another.
If the riders have been restricted to some routes, they should make use of the routes where customers are awaiting them.

4) Mustapha Garba, rider:
Government has the power to do and undo and who are we to query its officials? If they have awoken from their slumber to say that we should not operate on the highways, there are thousands of inner roads in other local governments and local council development areas. I see no reason why some of our colleagues are over-flogging this issue, all that is required of us is compliance rather an argument. However, my take is that law enforcement agents be called to order whenever they go beyond the prohibited routes to carry out the enforcement to avoid accusations and counter-accusations of any sort.

5) Ibrahim Jamo, rider:
Our lives are in the hands of Lagos State government and it directs us as it pleases. How do I wish government is firm once and for all as regards this enforcement issue? We all witnessed the aftermath of the enforcement exercise of 2012 and 2013 when law enforcement officials made a brisk business from the enforcement and hell was not let loose!

The February 1 enforcement is not the first and won’t be the last and we all will be alive to witness the drama that ensues in the name of Lagos Traffic Law. My colleagues should be calm and I advise them to totally abhor the restricted routes but I am confident that even those of us in the inner routes should not relax because the Task Force officials may overstep their boundaries.

6) Ismaila Abubakar, rider:
There is nothing wrong with the restriction order provided it is done accordingly. Ideally, Okada riders are not expected on the highways, bridges and other prohibited areas. Apart from the fact that government does not want our activities in those areas, the order will reduce the number of avoidable deaths because, apart from passengers, many of my colleagues have died on the highways.

I can recollect when we relocated to Lagos, some of us were brought to the inner routes while others took to the highways to transact the business; unfortunately, four of them died within six months and when the news was broken in our village, our people blamed our host for allowing them to operate on the highways when there are thousands of inner routes across the state.

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7) Mustapha Garba, rider:

If one considers the margin between the income of the riders who transact their businesses on the highways and those who transact their businesses in the inner routes, the difference is glaring.

Some of those who extend our activities to the highways have reaped a fortune from it but the truth must be told, do you know how many of them have been crushed by articulated vehicles?

I can categorically state that the community of Okada riders has the highest number of widows in Nigeria because many of their members have died untimely leaving wives and children behind.

In essence, the restriction order is in our interest but many riders will be out of business.

8) Abubakar Aliyu, rider:
The population grew to that extent because of insecurity in the northern part of the country. I know many riders who ran away from Internal Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps to eke a living in Lagos. The law is okay but the enforcement shouldn’t have kicked off in February as this will throw many riders into debt.

This is not the first time the government will embark on such and it won’t be the last. Why execute a good programme in a wrong manner, approach and timing? Whosoever has advised the governor on this has succeeded in misleading him because stakeholders were not carried along in the decision making.

9) Ajayi Oluwafemi, computer engineer:
Government has done well provided the restriction exercise is limited to the highways and bridges.
We should all note the fact that many of these riders are untrained and end up endangering the lives of their passengers through recklessness and unprofessionalism way of transacting this business.

The 2012 Traffic Law has been in existence but how many riders observe this in their day-to-day dealings? Though the enforcement will affect many people, trust Lagosians, they will adjust to the system with time, after all, the law is made by the people and for the people.

10) Alhaji Shuaib Alli, trader:
I will never support Okada to be on the highways because the pains are far better than the gains.
However, the government will do well by imposing penalties on both the riders and passengers, after all, if there are no passengers to patronize the riders, their activities on the highways would have been minimized.

So many enforcement exercises have been carried out but how many of these have inflicted necessary punishment on passengers? It won’t be bad if the government can look into this so that sanity will be restored once and for all.

11) Olayemi Tola, commercial motorcyclist:
I am an O.N.D holder in business administration from Kwara State Polytechnic but when I could not get a job for three years, I resorted to Okada business to make ends meet but to be frank, it is risky to transact the business on highways and expressways. However, the government should provide employment for the teeming youths.

12) Lawal Jamiu, community leader:
The issue should be viewed from two perspectives: government and riders’ points of view.
Reason being that our transportation network needs to be improved upon and so many people will suffer the aftermath of the restriction exercise most especially salary earners. Moreso, it will be an avenue for commercial drivers to extort commuters at the slightest opportunity.

Basirat Balogun, trader:
Government has placed the cart before the horse by not delivering dividends of democracy. I expected it to have given us motorable roads, equip traffic officials and provide security on our roads. If these are done, the 2012 Traffic Law would have been good to go but where this is missing,

I don’t think the Traffic Law will be effective. I am not against the restriction order but the roads should be fixed and free from gridlock before we think of the restriction, after all, we all have relatives among the riders and tricyclists.

14) Risikat Ibrahim, trader:
The outright ban should be placed on Okada, especially on the highways, in order to minimize the rate of accidents on our roads. Some of my neighbours are victims of Okada accident and this has negatively affected their health. Let us look at the number of atrocities committed by the riders in terms of insecurity and other nefarious activities.

Do you know how many people have been robbed, pilfered or raped because Okada is mostly used by the perpetrators? To avoid loss of lives and property, the restriction order should take effect without questioning so that our people can heave a sigh a relief on expressways.

15) Mrs Modinat Solanke, trader:
There is always a Judas among twelve disciples. While riders are into a legitimate business, others are cashing on it for negative purposes. Okada is supposed to provide relief to residents to cushion the effects of traffic gridlock but many riders are using it for ulterior motives and the best government can do is to restrict their activities.

However, we should consider places like Apapa and environs where articulated vehicles have taken over the roads and the only option is to patronize Okada to move from one place to another.

What will be the fate of these residents if Okada is restricted in the area?

16) Kudirat Kalejaye, civil servant:
Even if the exercise wants to be effective, the rate of poverty in the Nigeria Police may hamper the exercise. I learnt that the government does not provide good accommodation and insurance package to them and we want them to work effectively. No way!

No wonder the previous enforcement exercises did not work as expected because the restriction order has simply given them the opportunity to enrich themselves by disposing the seizures at giveaway prices. It happened in Ikorodu in 2013, though both the DPO and IPO were dismissed after a public outcry but do you know there are thousands of unscrupulous policemen that are yet to be exposed and such are feeding fat on members of the public for no reason?

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17) Kewulere Aishat Omolara, accountant:
Some riders are the breadwinners of the families and the business gives them daily income without which members of their families will go hungry.

There should be regular training and re-training for them to guard against road accidents after which rules and regulations guiding their businesses are spelt out and followed by penalties.

In Lagos State, the business has been taken over by non-Nigerians who don’t understand Nigerian languages. I think the law is the best approach to restrict their movement before the nation is plunged into another manmade disaster.

Early this year, I witnessed a fatal accident involving a rider and a female passenger on Lagos/Abeokuta Expressway. I doubt if the lady will recover from this. This is one of such cases recorded across the state and urgent measures should be taken to curb this.

Highways operators, not our members- Okada riders
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Vanguard, the Zonal Secretary of Motorcycle Operators Association of NURTW, Lagos State, Alhaji Oyewole Famoyegun, explained that motorcycle operators who ply highways are not registered members of the association.

He said one of the reasons for creating the association is to strengthen membership and ensure the association does not contravene the traffic rule. He said, “The law restricting our operations from plying the expressway is for our own good and safety. Therefore, members are advised to adhere”.

The Zonal Secretary recalled that during former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola’s regime, a stakeholders’ meeting was held with the State Assembly inclusive, saying top on the agenda was a restriction of the riders’ activities on highways and bridges which the riders wholeheartedly accepted.  “At the meeting, we suggested to them that we could go out there to carry out the exercise and they agreed”, he said.

“To start with, the riders’ association printed enlightenment materials for re-orientation and we set up a task force to enforce this.

“We mounted messages on Ikorodu Road, Agege and Lagos/Abeokuta Expressway that riders should resist plying restricted routes and this recorded a huge success.

“In the course of the enforcement, we issued identification cards, reflective jackets and helmets and conducted a comprehensive audit of our members”.

However, the step taken by the association later suffered a setback.

Famoyegun stated, “Before we knew what was happening, the government came up with another schedule without inviting us for a meeting and this restricted our activities in certain areas.

“The schedule stated that the roads in Lagos are 900 and we were restricted on 400 roads.

“Of the 500 that they said we could ply, we observed that roads like Bolade, Iyana-Ipaja to Ikotun, Agbotikuyo, Alimosho and Agege/Oke-Koto were removed.

“The enforcement was carried out by then-Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, Babatunde Sobulo.

“Statistically, in 2012, we had over 50, 000 riders in Lagos and, during the enforcement, we met all the requirements of the Traffic Law, but, at the end of the day, our efforts were jeopardized by then-Deputy CP.

“I remember that we took the enforcement to Ilo (near Ajegunle) on Lagos/Abeokuta Expressway and the CP queried the exercise on the grounds that we were not permitted to do so.”

‘99 per cent of riders are uniformed men’

He explained that 99 per cent of Okada riders on the expressways are uniformed men, saying, “In the course of the exercise, it was discovered that 99  per cent of Okada riders on the prohibited routes are uniformed men in mufti and should we attempt to stop them, they will mobilise their colleagues to unleash terror on us.

“When we cried out to the DCP, his response was that we had no right to embark on the exercise.

“Since then, these defiant riders have grown in numbers until their activities could not be controlled by the government.

“This happened for three years without check until the 2015 elections and a new governor emerged who did not even attend to the issue.

“The current administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu did not invite us for any meeting before revisiting the 2012 Traffic Law, and, suddenly, we heard about the February 1, 2020 deadline via the media”.

The motorcyclists’ leader lamented the activities of Lagos State Task Force, saying, “Before then, Lagos State Task Force will clamp down on stationary motorcycles or break into places where riders park their Okadas to cart them away and, between 2019 and January 2020, about 15,000 motorcycles have been snatched and seized by the Lagos State Task Force.

“If you dare to appear to claim your Okada, you will be arrested on the spot and sent to jail.

‘’The present administration has increased the prohibited routes without recourse to our plight and we approached the Task Force officials but all we were told was that the order was from above.

“Some of our members are working in fear and are relocating from Lagos. The overall Chairman of NURTW, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly called ‘MC Oluomo’, has told us to comport ourselves by not taking the law into our hands.

“We appeal to members to remain calm pending the outcome of his discussion with the government.

“Members of the public have been pointing accusing fingers on our members but we seize this occasion to inform members of the public that Okada riders who ply highways are not our members and government should deal decisively with such. Erring Okada riders should be penalized”.

Lagos State Task Force reacts

Reacting to the enforcement exercise, the Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Environment and Special Offences Enforcement (Task Force), Adebayo Taofik, said the restriction order has come to stay.

According to him, the 2012 Traffic Law has not been stopped by the agency which continues to impound commercial motorcycles on prohibited routes. He said, ‘’Enforcement exercise is daily and we will continue to impound erring motorcycles in hundreds until they adhere to the rule.

“The only difference is that the February 1, 2020 order restricting them in six local governments, 15 local council development areas and nine bridges has commenced.

“Lagos State Task Force is prepared to clamp down on riders who flout the directives of government.

“As for courier services, the motorcycles should be a minimum of 200 installed capacities and the rider should mount a box on the passenger’s seat to indicate its function.

“Also, the rider should be well kitted and possess necessary documents to depict the failure of the required service of which will amount to disciplinary action by the state government”.

OKADA BAN IN FIGURES:

•900 roads in Lagos
•Motorcyclists banned on 400 roads
•Estimated 50, 000 riders in the state
•‘15, 000 Okadas seized’ by Task Force in 12 months
•‘99 per cent’ of 2012 Traffic Law are uniformed men

Vanguard

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.