The Lagos State government is expected to launch a new transportation policy on Tuesday, with the governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, making a big announcement on okada operation in the state.
If he decides on a statewide ban, the direction in which everything is pointing is expected to follow in days ahead, with serious socio-economic and even political implications and consequences.
In an interview, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, gave hints to know that it is already morning for okada riders in the state who, over the time, had become notorious for deadly mob actions, jungle justice and societal nuisance.
According to findings, the state government will be rolling out the first 500 First and Last Mile buses the same day to ply the routes currently open to okada.
An official of the state Ministry of Transportation told Saturday Tribune that no okada must henceforth be sighted in the Lagos metropolis after the launch, adding that the scheme signifies a total eradication of commercial motorcycle operation in the state. More than 300 okada have been reportedly impounded by the state authorities in the last three weeks in preparation for the new scheme. According to the source, “as more buses are rolled out across routes in Lagos, that means okada is gone forever.”
Asked if the government is planning to engage some of the okada operators in the new initiative, the source said they were not part of the programme, adding that before now, they were asked to form themselves into cooperative under the National Union of the Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to see other initiatives of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) they could key into but they allegedly refused.
It is estimated no fewer than 400,000 okada ply Lagos’ roads on a daily basis.
The spokesperson of LAMATA, Mr Kolawole Ojelabi, said more information about the new busses replacing okada on Lagos routes would be communicated by the time Governor Sanwo-Olu launches the initiative on Tuesday. Although this is not the first time the state authorities would be pronouncing a ban on okada in the metropolis, it is the first time an immediate alternative is being provided.
Tolerated for too long?
In 2012, former Governor Babatunde Fashola signed into law, the Lagos Road Traffic Law 2012, which restricts okada operation in at least 492 of the 9,200 roads across the metropolis.Today, the okada operators have returned to all the roads they were banned from with ferocious impunity.
The law spells out the offences and punishments attached. For example, commercial motorcycle operators are not to ply major trunks such as Ikorodu Road, Funsho Williams Avenue, Apapa-Oshodi Express, Lagos-Badagry and Lekki-Epe expressways, including all routes in Ikeja.
Specifically, Section 3 (1) of the traffic law prohibits the riding, driving or propelling of a cart, wheelbarrow, motorcycle or tricycle on the major highways in Lagos.
Former Governor Fashola also lamented the rampant cases of accidents caused by okada. Records show in 2012 that Lagos alone had 2,555 accidents within five months, out of which okada accounted for 1,762 or 69 per cent. The National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, has a ward that his dedicated to okada accident victims.
One of the spokespersons of the Lagos Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences Enforcement Unit, who did not want his name in print, stated that between January and April, 3,503 okada were impounded by the agency, with more than 300 seized in the last three weeks.
He said: “Three days ago, 92 motorcycles were impounded around Jakande/Ejigbo axis. Eighty-two okada were impounded at the same location two weeks ago. Some of these okada riders don’t obey traffic rules; they go on one-way and insult motorists and officers on duty. Besides, there are lots of infiltrations among them; no regulation, anybody can wake up and ride okada to perpetrate crime.”
According to him, these impounded motorcycles, based on state government’s policy, would be taken to where they would be crushed.
Decrying the perceived untoward attitude of okada riders, an online publisher, Mr Gabriel Akinnadewo, on his Facebook page, wrote: “Governor Sanwo-Olu must come down h*****n these okada-riding characters. A parallel government is pitiably taking shape. What happened in Ogba today is despicable.”
A responder, Mr Emeka Alex Duru, said: “You need to witness what they did at LASU end the other day. I am beginning to suspect that there is a lot to those guys than we may know.”
Another person, Simon Osigwe, said: “At Mile 2, okada riders are a government of their own.”
Mr Sola Ojewusi warned: “We are sitting on a keg of gun powder. Okada is taking over the nooks and crannies of Lagos.”
320 operators arrested, 480 guns siezed
Appraising the security situation in Lagos, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Hakeem Odumosu, said between January and early May, 320 commercial motorcycles were arrested in connection with 218 cases of criminal incidents in which 78 suspects were detained and 480 guns of various calibres siezed from them.
During the same period, the commissioner said, okada accounted for 83 per cent of 385 cases of avoidable fatal vehicular accidents in Lagos.
He said: “The menace of okada operators does not end with avoidable accidents. Crime reports from the field have shown that a greater percentage of crimes ranging from armed robbery, cultism, kidnapping, m****r, burglary and stealing to traffic robbery, carjacking and cash snatching from bank customers are attributable to hoodlums who operate on okada.
“The nuisance constituted by the okada operators on Lagos roads has become a danger to law-abiding citizens.