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Sanwo-Olu And Politics Of Okada Ban

Temidayo Akinsuyi, Lagos
"To also solve the traffic issue in Lagos is also to talk about the okada issue. Okada is anywhere, everywhere you see.

“So, part of the things we are going to be doing is not to leave anybody behind. People are currently using a system that is working for them. Meaning that you see some okada riders that are branded. That are using smart pays to pay when you finish the journey. We are trying to harmonize all of them and be able to come up with a regulation system where we can account for every okada rider" – Babajide Sanwo-Olu, October 2019

The restrictions on the movement of commercial motorcycles, popularly called ‘okada’ and tricycles (keke) by the Lagos state government is a major topic that will continue to dominate the discussions of Lagosians in days to come. Aside the daily hardship being experienced by many who are affected by the restrictions, the situation has also led to increase in traffic gridlock in the state as many people who usually leave their cars at home now makes use of them.

While many agreed with the government’s position on the restriction as most of the okada riders have constituted themselves a menace with scant or no regard for traffic laws, what has infuriated many Lagosians especially the technologically-savvy youths in the state is the extension of the restriction on bike hailing motorcycle operators in the state such as Opay, Gokada and Max. The these ones, the action of the Lagos state government runs contrary to the promise made by Governor Sanwo-Olu to regulate their activities and not an outright ban.

To others, coming few days after the launch of the Amotekun, the South-West security outfit established to combat insecurity challenges in the region such as kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities, the okada restriction was largely borne out of the need to make the state secure as many of the riders have been discovered to be foreigners who are from Niger, Chad, Mali and other African countries who easily find their ways to Nigeria owing to the porosity of the borders.

Speaking with our correspondent, Mrs Funke Ajasa, a retired civil servant said the action by the Lagos state government is the best thing to happen to the state as the okada riders who are mostly foreigners have virtually taken over the state from the indigenes.

She however said the state government should have put measures in place to alleviate the sufferings of Lagosians before arriving at the decision.

“I am totally in support of the ban. I usually get afraid every day when I see the huge numbers of these okada riders. Once they come to Lagos it’s like the only job available to them is okada riding. I have a mallam that does mai-ruwa (water seller) for me here in Surulere. Later, I didn’t see him again. The next time I saw him, he was already riding okada as business”.

“When I asked him, he said many of them after making enough gains from water selling; they buy okada and quit the water business. They will now invite some of their friends to come to Lagos and transfer the water business to him. After that one too has made enough money, he buys okada and it goes on and on”.

“Don’t also forget the security risks these guys pose, they move about with knives, daggers and other dangerous weapons. Once one of them is involved in any trouble, they mobilise to the scene and start fighting. God forbid there is a crisis in Lagos, these guys are enough to overrun us. So, the ban is in our best interest”.

“My grouse with Governor Sanwo-Olu is not making adequate plans before initiating the process. Also, we need explanation on why he banned keke and the modern okada riders such as Opay and Gokada . Daily, when I see young children trekking to and fro school in the hot sun, I feel pity for them. The governor should remove keke from the restriction and reconsider Opay and others” she said.

Also speaking, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) advised Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state not to reverse the ban on commercial motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (keke) which is in operation in the state.

He however faulted the state government for not putting measures in place to alleviate the pains of the masses that depend on these as their mode of transportation before the enforcement of the ban.

While faulting the timing, Sagay said the state government should have first cleared the buses which are still lying at the ports, put them on the roads before the announcement on the restrictions was made.

Sagay who lives and has his office in Lagos said though painful, the state government must have taken the decision in the interest of Lagosians as the okada riders have constituted themselves to menace to other road users.

He said the state government must have considered the security of the state before embarking on the decision based on the nefarious activities of the okada riders.

“The ban is right on principle. Lagos state government is not telling us everything. I always say that government knows more than we do. It is not every information available to them they will reveal to members of the public. Lagos state government must have seen some danger signals which makes them act before it is too late. That is my impression on the ban”.

“But I blame them that they did not take little more time to prepare for the consequences. Now they are saying that they have about 600 buses at the ports, they should have cleared those buses first before initiating the ban”.

“They are a government body, they can accelerate the clearance of the buses within a week, put them on the roads and then go ahead with what they want to do”.

“I support the ban on principle. Apart from what I do not know and I am sure it has to do with security of Lagos state people. Apart from that, those okada people are a threat to our existence. They don’t obey any law, they cross red lights”.

“On many occasions, I have had cause to complain to the Commissioner for Transport that okada riders confront me every time on Eko bridge when I am going home. They are so indiscipline, dangerous and reckless in terms of the injuries and pain they cause”.

“They are riding against the traffic, threatening those of us who have the right of way. We have to move aside for them to rush through. As they are doing it, that encourages yellow buses (Danfo) and they too will join them in going against traffic”.

“Right now on Eko bridge, there is no division between the road that takes you into Lagos and the one that takes you out. They are using it as they like and it is so dangerous to other road users”.

“So, I think the ban is a good idea. Let us clear it and remove that danger from our existence. Maybe the timing was a bit abrupt, maybe they should have brought in alternative vehicles to cushion the effect but as far as I am concerned, there should be no going back. They should now rush to provide the alternative buses to cushion the pains of the people” Sagay said.

In his remark, Lagos-based constitutional lawyer, Jiti Ogunye said “I support restriction of commercial motorcycles and tricycles on Lagos roads. They aren’t a viable substitute for an efficient urban mass transit system. I look forward to a total ban in the future, as govt. reorganizes the transportation sector, encompassing rails, roads and water”.

“Although politicians cynically give out motorcycles and tricycles to our people as part of their “poverty alleviation programme”, and millions ride them to eke out a living, we must realise that they are not a sustainable means of tackling the scourge of mass unemployment and pervasive poverty”! he said.

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