SUCCESSIVE governments in Lagos have taken measures to curb the menace of commercial motorcycles, also known as Okada. But weak enforcement has led to serial failures. This has in turn emboldened the perpetrators from all over the country and beyond to see Lagos as the place to be.
These perpetrators include cartels of sponsors and riders of questionable intentions who operate as if the nation’s economic capital is a jungle. They have absolutely no regard for the Lagos Traffic Laws and even the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Many of them have no knowledge of road usage and they don’t care. They ride against the traffic (One-Way), and use the Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, lanes, on the highways and bridges in total contravention of the law. To make matters worse, they have constituted themselves into agents of terror, not just against the law-abiding members of the public but also law enforcement agents.
They are armed and dangerous, ever-ready to mob and kill anyone who offends one of them. The fear is that some of them could be parts of the sleeper cells of terrorists and bandits who could attack the city.
The mobbing, killing and setting ablaze of citizen David Umoh by a mob of Okada riders in Lekki last month brought an outraged Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, out in a rare fighting mood.
He pledged to commence the full implementation of the earlier Okada ban in six local government areas – Lagos Island, Ikeja, Lagos Mainland, Apapa, Surulere and Eti Osa – and the designated nine Local Government Development Authorities, LCDAs. Commercial motorcycles are to stay off the highways and strictly operate in the inner cities, at least for now.
The establishment of the Anti-Okada Squad in line with the Transport Sector Reform Law, TSRL, of 2018 is a reassuring indicator that the LASG means serious business this time around.
While we commend Governor Sanwo-Olu for this resolve, we want to see the implementation of this policy to the letter. Unfortunately, the law enforcement mechanism in Lagos State and nationwide generally goes to bed at dusk. If the Anti-Okada Squad also follows this queer behavioural pattern, it will lead to policy failure.
Also, members of the military, police, security and uniformed federal agencies who violate this policy with impunity must be checked. There are no separate laws for civilians and uniformed personnel. There should be no mercy for any passenger caught patronising illegal Okada operations. Without their patronage, there will be no Okada.
We are delighted that government has also provided phone numbers for the public to complain in case of corrupt dealings by the enforcers.
Meanwhile, Okada operations in the inner areas must be strictly regulated. All operators must be registered, licensed and their unions vicariously held accountable for their members’ crimes.