By Evelyn Usman
News of the ban of commercial motorcycles otherwise called okada, in six local government areas of Lagos state, by Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu, this week , did not come as a surprise to many, who considered it as long overdue.
This is because security report has revealed that a good percentage of those parading themselves as commercial motorcyclists are indeed hoodlums and bandits who have invaded Lagos.
At a security meeting in Abuja recently, it was revealed that over three million okadas riders trooped into Lagos since 2020.
The bad ones among them are spread across almost all the communities in the state, waiting for the appropriate time to strike. With the foregoing, Lagos can be said to be sitting on a keg of gunpowder waiting to explode
Investigation by Saturday Vanguard further revealed that many riders in Lagos are from Chad, Niger and other parts of the African continent. This leaves one to question the efficiency of security agents.
Further findings showed that most of these okada riders sneaked into the state at night, hiding their motorbikes in-between goods coming in from other states.
While majority of those whose operations were banned in states like Enugu, Abia, Akwa-Ibom Kano, Borno, Cross River and Kaduna among other states, find Lagos as a conducive ground to eke out a living, others use the opportunity to continue with their criminal activities.
Also, the recklessness and brazen disregard for constituted authority by some commercial motorcyclists in the state has assumed an alarming situation.
Just last week, a Sound Engineer was killed and burnt to death by some commercial motorcyclists in the Lekki area of the state , during an argument over N100 additional payment.
Also, in September 2021, commercial motorcyclists went on rampage at Ajao estate, Airport Road, Lagos, killing a Chief Superintendent of Police, Kazeem Abonde , who was attached to the Operations Department of the Lagos State Police Command.
The deceased, who had barely eight months to retire , led a team of policemen to a criminal hideout in the area , only to have life snuffed out of him.
At other times, they confronted policemen attached to the Lagos State Task Force and Rapid Response Squad , at different locations in the state .
Early this year , a police patrol van was set ablaze by some commercial motorcyclists at 6th Avenue , Festac Town , in Amuwo Odofin area of the state, during an attempt to resist arrest.
Sadly, these policemen , even though armed , would be warned by their bosses never to use their arms on these riders, even in the face of death.
Motorists have also had unfair treatment from these commercial motorcyclists who vent their anger and frustration on them at any given opportunity. In fact , the fear of okada riders is the beginning of wisdom for any discerning motorist.
Most major roads in the metropolitan state have been deliberately taken over by these commercial motorcyclists, thereby depriving other road users access . And when confronted, they would constitute a mob action on their victim.
With the enforcement of the ban of okada in six local government areas to begin from June 1, 2022, Lagosians are, however, unsure if the state government will keep to its word by ensuring that the enforcement lasts.
This is because the latest announcement was not the first time the Lagos State Government would ban and restrict operations of okada in the state. But they fail to enforce the ban.
In 2006, former Governor of the state, Governor Ahmed Tinubu, announced the restriction of their operation between 7pm and 6am, owing to the spate of robbery operations with okada. However, with time , enforcement simmered.
Six years later (2012) former Governor Babatunde Fashola banned the operation of commercial motorbikes in Ikeja axis. Again, the operators returned to status –quo with time.
In 2017, during Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s tenure, he placed a ban on the operation of commercial motorcycles and tricycles on designated highways and bridges. But like other times, the directive was flouted .
Again in 2020, the Governor Sanwo-Olu led administration banned the operation of motorcyclists and tricycles in six local governments, 10 major highways and nine local development areas of the state . Again, the enforcement was short lived.
With the present announcement on the ‘indefinite and total ‘ban of okada riders in Apapa, Surulere ,Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland , Ikeja and Lagos Island Local Government Areas which takes effect from June 1, 2022, some Nigerians, especially the security agents , hope that government will give the necessary back up and will power to enforce the ban to the latter.
In terms of enforcement, some security agents who spoke with Saturday Vanguard said what was needed to confront the riders in the case of eventuality was enough teargas canisters and hot water cannon.