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Okada riders explain why they’ve back on Lagos roads

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Contrary to widely held claims, the Lagos state government has not relaxed the law restricting operations of commercial motorcyclists (okada riders) in the state. Officials of the Lagos state government dismissed the insinuation as false.

Some commercial motorcyclist ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to also corroborated government position, stating that they just decided to come out and to operate regardless of the law because they don’t have any other means of livelihood.

In recent weeks, there has been an increase in the activities of commercial motorcycle operators on major roads in the metropolis. They are back in most restricted routes in the state like Agege-Iju, Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Agege Motor Road, Egbeda, Lagos-Ibadan Express road, Ikorodu Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Road and others.

The development came as a surprise to most Lagosians who are getting used to trekking long distances fuelling speculations that the Governor Babatunde Fashola may have decided to relax the law on commercial motorcyclists operations because of the 2015 general elections. The Ekiti governorship elections where the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost in a landslide was said to have occasioned the move by the Lagos state government to relax the law to get them vote for the party in 2015.

We reached out to Lagos State Commissioner for Transport, Kayode Opeifa on his mobile phone. Our calls were ignored. We later sent him a text message but he didn’t reply till we went to press. However, a member of Lagos state House of Assembly, Hon. Olanrewaju Michael Ogunyemi said there has not been any adjustment to the law banning the operations of commercial motorcyclists in Lagos not to talk of trying to woo operators with relaxing of the law ahead the general elections in 2015.

“I don’t really think that the law is relaxed because of elections unless of course, you present your proof. But as a lawmaker, to be honest, let me tell you that the issue of relaxing the implementation of the okada ban doesn’t arise in the first place because the law, which people continued to tag as anti-poor, is not in any way anti-poor and okada is not completely banned on the entire Lagos roads. Out of about 2000 major highways, okada movement is restricted from plying only 800 roads. And the fundamental reason for this ban was because of the high crime rate at the time; high okada accident-related deaths and permanent disabling injuries; and of course for the safety of the entire road users. But the problem we have with the implementation of the law is that the law enforcement officials, the police, didn’t wait to study the law to knows, which are the roads where okada movements are restricted, before jumping to implementing it. And as lawmakers, we have really done some enlightenment to correct this anomaly. And maybe that is why the indiscriminate arrest of okada operators, especially on non-prohibited roads, is reduced, which the people have now mistaken for a strategy for political campaign.”

Lagos state government had on August, 2012, signed the Traffic Law. The objective of the legislation was to provide for road traffic administration, restore sanity in the state transportation system and because of this there was a restriction on the activities of commercial motorcyclists. The okada riders were restricted from operating on 406 out of 10, 000 roads in the state, including all bridges.

According to schedule (1) section (2) of Traffic Offences and Penalties, riding a motorcycle against traffic and riding on the kerb, median or road setbacks, for a first time offender, would attract N20,000.

Riding a motor-cycle without crash helmet for rider and passenger would attract N20,000 or three years jail term. The law also prohibited under aged persons, under 18 years from riding a motorcycle, stipulating a fine of N20,000. But now, they are back on Lagos roads and some of those whom ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to explained why.

TAOFIK ANIMASHAUN

“The Lagos state government has not relaxed the law restricting operations of okada riders. Some of us just decided to come out. Not many of us have a job, this is what some of us depend on to feed families. The banning of okada on roads did not favour us at all, we operate with vigilance because police are still harrassing us, collecting money from us whereas the government has told them to stop since there are still some roads we can operate and not flout the law”.

FAVOUR OKAFOR

“I have nothing against the law restricting okada operations because it is for the good of all. It would have been better if it is just on the expressway. At times when we are at a small corner, the police will arrest us. Since the law took effect, most of us can’t make a living and our children can’t go to school anymore. Governor Fashola should please, have pity on us to allow us operate.”

MOSHOOD YEKINI

“Some of us don’t have any other work, we are not happy because we have families that depend on us. To be honest, Fashola made a mistake by banning okada, we are the ones who voted for him to be governor. As I am talking to you I am scared, police may come from anywhere to arrest me and seize my motorcycle. Fashola should reverse the law totally and allow things go back to normal.”

SUNDAY TAJUDEEN

“I will say the ban on okada in Lagos is good and as well bad. It is good to reduce accidents on our roads, it is bad in the sense that we all don’t have jobs, this is what we depend on. Fashola has no right to ban commercial motorcyclists without providing jobs for us. I have two kids to cater for, how would I provide for them. Fashola should remove the law, we manage to go from one place to another, by God’s grace. Police are still harrassing us. I have been beaten several times. I have spent over N140,000 to bail my motorcycle.”

VICTOR IKECHUKWU

“Fashola has not relaxed the law. Police are still harrassing us, we are always on the lookout for them. We don’t have rest of mind. We are always scared police seize our motorcycles. Fashola should please, reverse this law.”

-FOLUSO SAMUEL and WALE OLASUPO

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