Lagos still grappling with Okada menace

Okada riders defiling orders of the state government, plying restricted routes.

Five years after the Lagos State Road Traffic Law came into being, the state government is still grappling with the implementation of some of its sections, including Section 3 of the law, which bans commercial motorcycles, popularly called Okada from plying major highways in the state.

Already, the state government seems to have lost the battle to ban union activities in motor parks and bus stops, as road transport union officials still harass transporters and sometimes commuters and hawkers.

Its constant reminders to commercial motorcyclists and tricycle (Keke Marwa) operators, that they are prohibited from plying some routes in the state, are further indicative of the fact that sections of the law are not complied with.

Since the law came into being, the state government has issued several warnings to defaulters, which have not been heeded just as enforcement level has remained very low.

In December 2016, the state government addressed a press conference, where it said it would no longer tolerate the activities of commercial motorcyclists and tricycle operators on restricted routes.

During the session, the state promised to deal decisively with violators as it was set to enforce a total ban. Leaders of the commercial motorcycle and tricycle operators were in attendance at the briefing, where the government explained that the enforcement would be jointly executed.

In his submission at the press conference, acting Commissioner for Transportation, Prince Anofiu Elegushi, warned that government would no longer “condone motorcycles riding against traffic, especially those who ply their trade along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and Ojota-Ikorodu Town, and those who use BRT restricted/reserved lanes. All these are not in sync with the law. There is a need for us to, at this time, restate the provisions of the law so as to understand the premise of our planned actions in this regard,” he said.

According to him, engaging unions/associations of motorcycle and tricycle operators was in line with the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration’s plan to build a Lagos State that works for all, and to ensure that their members comply to ensure public safety.

On his part, representative of the state Police Commissioner, Imohim Edgal, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), said policemen in all area commands in the state have been directed to enforce aggressively, the restriction placed on Okada riders on affected routes.

Curiously, three months after the media briefing, and five years after the law came into being, nothing has changed in this direction. For instance, on major highways like the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway; Orile to Okoko and Oshodi to Sango, commercial motorcyclists still operate brazenly on the restricted routes, despite being banned from plying only 475 of the 9, 000 roads in the state.

On why government has not mustered enough courage to enforce the traffic laws to the letter, Elegushi, told The Guardian that enforcing any traffic law in the state has to be well planned.

Be that as it may, “We are working on our enforcement plan. We need to plan it very well to reduce damages. By next week, we would come up with a way of carrying out the enforcement. We are just giving the defaulters time to comply, so that it would not need any form of enforcement. But as it is now, they are not complying; definitely we have to enforce the law.

“We have discussed at length with them, but with their attitude, I believe that we can only achieve result by carrying out enforcement. This is because enlightenment without enforcement is entertainment, so we have to enforce the law.”

He promised that this week, the state government would roll out its enforcement plans, pleading with Lagosians to support the government because the damages facilitated by Okada riders still operating on restricted routes, are more than their benefits.

“That you could jump on motorcycles, which ride on one-way to get to your destination quickly does not warrant declaring your support for them. We urge Lagosians to support us because it is for their safety.

“If you know the number of armed robbery cases executed using Okada and the number of accidents from commercial motorcycles riding along one-way, and as a responsive and responsible government, we cannot continue to look without acting. It is a fight for the people and for their good,” the commissioner stated.

On what the state government is doing to ensure that gridlocks are off Lagos roads so that commuters do not see hitching a ride on commercial motorcycles as an alternative means of commuting,” Elegushi said having traffic gridlock should not be a reason for Lagosians to jump on an Okada, noting that traffic gridlocks are synonymous with megacities.

“We have traffic snarl in major cities of the world like Chicago and London, and in these places, people don’t jump on motorcycles. And if you compare the rate of traffic accidents in the last two years and now, you will agree with me that we have recorded some improvements.

“We know we are constructing, but it is for the people. So, why not take the pain of one or two months to stay alive. If construction is going on in a place, you re-plan your journey, making space for the time that would be loss in traffic. If you use to leave home by 7am, when a section of the road has not been blocked, you should leave home earlier, may be 6 am.”

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