Thursday, 1st June 2023

Battle against commercial cyclists already losing steam

By Gbenga Salau, Gbenga Akinfenwa and Ogochukwu Uzokwe
19 June 2022   |   4:11 am
Eighteen days after the Lagos State government commenced the enforcement of its ban on the activities of commercial motorcycle operators in six local councils, the compliance level is, like in the past, gradually waning.

Commercial motorcyclists waiting in the middle of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway around Orile

• Motorcyclists Gradually Returning To Ikeja, Iyana-Ipaja Axis
• Commuters Groan As Ban Remains Effective In Some Areas

Eighteen days after the Lagos State government commenced the enforcement of its ban on the activities of commercial motorcycle operators in six local councils, the compliance level is, like in the past, gradually waning.

On the first day of the ban, over 95 per cent compliance rate was recorded across the affected councils, but as the days went by, the highways and major bridges, which were hitherto deserted by cyclists began to witness cyclists’ presence.

The ban, which was announced on May 18, 2022, was the second in 27 months, by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led government.

Administrations before the incumbent, at one time or the other, equally restricted or banned commercial motorcyclists from plying some roads and local councils in the state, but they all failed in the implementation.
In January 2007, Bola Ahmed Tinubu banned commercial motorcycles from operating within the state. His successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola in March 2012, also prohibited the use of motorcycles for public transportation in the state, the same way that the immediate past governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode did in November 2017, when he banned the use of motorcycles for commercial transportation in the state.

Sanwo-Olu also toed the same line on January 27, 2020, with the effective date being February 1, 2020. That announcement and the consequent enforcement efforts did not make any impact hence the fresh ban.

On the third day of the latest ban, the state government claimed that over 2,000 bikes were seized in the first days of enforcement, which it claimed were crushed on the third day. It also said that it had earlier in the year crushed about 5,000 commercial motorcyclists.

But the government’s claims notwithstanding, from Okoko, Iyana-Iba, Barracks, Alakija, Festac, First gate, Mile 2, Suru-Alaba, Orile, Costain, Ijora-7up, Ijora Olopa, Apongbon, Second Rainbow, Cele, Oshodi, Oyingbo, Akoka just to mention a few areas affected by the ban, commercial motorcyclists are gradually returning to duty, even as the tempo of their activities heightens at night, while that of enforcement agents wanes.

However, since the latest ban commenced, it has been a mixed grill for residents of the state, especially those who reside in affected local councils, as alternative means of transportation for them couldn’t be accessed.

For instance, transport fare for commercial buses plying Mile 2 to CMS has increased by nearly 200 per cent (depending on the time of the day). Some residents along this route lamented the government’s failure to ensure that BRT buses commence operations along that route, which it promised. The ferry service from Mile 2 to CMS has been down for many months now.
Surprisingly, the state government, through the Lagos State Ferry Services (LAGFERRY) claimed that it had deployed more boats for ferry services from Mile 2 to CMS ahead of the June 1 ban date.

The statement by the Head, Public Affairs, LAGFERRY, Mr. Akeem Odusina, listed locations and jetties that would get more boats to include Badore Terminal, Ajah, Ipakodo Terminal, Ikorodu, Five Cowries Terminal, Ikoyi, CMS/Victoria Island Terminal, Liverpool Terminal, Apapa and Ilaje Bariga Terminal in Bariga.

Ironically, the Mile 2-CMS corridor was not considered given its capacity to foster easy movement into Lagos Island, considering the hectic traffic on the route occasioned by the partial closure of Eko Bridge.

A resident, Adebola Ogundimu, said that the state government must go beyond mere pronouncements, take the ban enforcement very seriously, and ensure that law enforcement officers deployed to the field do not compromise.

He also said that the state government must improve traffic management across the city to eliminate gridlocks that often force residents and commuters to hop on bikes to connect to their destinations.

Commercial motorcyclists waiting in the middle of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway around Orile

“What I observe is that rather than control traffic, Lagos State Traffic Management (LASTMA) officials are often pre-occupied with other things, and in the process, pay less attention to traffic management. Expectedly, this has negative consequences on travel time. For instance, because of the ongoing construction works at Mile 2, the fast lane inward Oshodi has been blocked. As a result, there is slow traffic, which is sometimes chaotic at Mile 2, on top of the flyover bridge. This flows down with the traffic snarl extending to as far as Church Bus Stop, which is five bus stops away.

“The annoying thing about the whole scenario is that LASTMA officials that are on duty are most times unperturbed when commercial buses pick and offload passengers in the middle of the road, and in the process obstruct other road users and disturb smooth traffic flow.

“This is even better when compared to articulated vehicles and commercial buses that sometimes drive against traffic while descending from the bridge. Sadly LASTMA officials and their counterparts from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), who are occasionally stationed at the foot of the bridge do nothing, as these drivers breach traffic laws,” Ogundimu said.

Also speaking, another resident, Babatunde Balogun, said that commercial motorcyclists established themselves and gained acceptance in society as a result of a lack of economic opportunities and poor transportation infrastructure.

“Hopefully, the Lagos State government can get its modern rail system working, and also improve on its water transport. A total ban on commercial motorcyclists is what is most desirable for peace and safety of Lagos residents and its environs,” he said.

Balogun, who noted that the ban has been effective, particularly on the Island, CMS, Victoria Island, Lekki, Ajah axis,” however added that, “around Apapa, commercial motorcyclists defied the order barely four days after the ban commenced. Let us continue to encourage our law enforcement agents to do more.”

Even though Mr. Adebayo Agbeniga is, somehow ambivalent about the enforcement of the ban, he thinks that the compliance level is “wonderfully commendable in all the designated areas. However, it is surprising to see some of these riders relocating to other areas where their presence constitutes a bigger menace.

“So, I have mixed feelings based on the fact that right now the momentum has gone down in some areas while in other places, there have been reprisal attacks, whereby our law enforcement officers are overpowered or overwhelmed.

“Again, we are also confronted with the overzealousness of our security agencies, who by their sheer greed and self-serving attitude, left the banned areas and move to locations that are not affected by the ban. This is mostly done at nights,” Agbeniga stated.

Just as a section of the society is pleased with all the steps taken by the government to restore sanity, those negatively affected by the government’s failure to provide an alternative means of transportation to avert the challenge of trekking long distances to their nearest bus stops are livid with annoyance.

One of those affected, Yemisi Chinyere, a bread distributor, who lives in the Ogunsanmi area of Lagos, expressed dismay over the government’s decision to ban cyclists without adequate alternative arrangements for residents of affected areas.

According to her: “I am finding it difficult to adjust to the new system because I only take commercial motorcycles to the bakery, as well as to drop my children in school. I am pleading with the government to provide tricycles in areas affected by the ban.”

Another trader who preferred not to be named, commended the efforts of the government towards finding a lasting solution to the menace of motorcycle riders, noting that the ban was a good development considering the havoc committed by the riders over the years.

“However, the government should have provided either tricycles or minibuses to shuttle routes forbidden for cyclists because commuters on those routes are thoroughly distressed.”

Mashinu Ibrahim, a provision seller at Bethel Street, in Ijesha of the state, is of the view that commercial motorcyclists should be brought back, while their activities should be highly regulated.

“This is because their existence makes it easy for me to convey my goods from Johnson Bus Stop to my shop. I am physically challenged, but I now have to carry my goods to where I would get a tricycle that would charge me N700 to my destination, a distance that I hitherto paid N100 on a motorcycle,” he said.

As was the case during previous bans, some heady cyclists are daily pushing their luck, and gradually staging a comeback in some of the areas where their activities were restricted.

As of last Friday, a good number of commercial motorcyclists operating along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway had resumed operation at the Ikeja along the axis, in Ikeja Local Council, despite the heavy presence of members of the task force team, comprising the police and other security agencies.

Interestingly, among the returning commercial bikers are serving personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), etc, and they have been operating from Oshodi flank through Ikeja to Agege, Abule-Egba, and Sango tollgate in Ogun State.

Even though they no longer operate in clusters like before, they are still very much in business, as they ride against traffic (facing vehicles coming inward Oshodi) to avoid being cornered by the task force team.

While only a handful of them are in operation in the morning and afternoon, the number surges in the evening (between 4 pm and 6 pm).

In Oshodi where normalcy had returned after the enforcement of the ban, some riders are gradually coming back to business, and the same scenario is playing out at the popular Toyota and Five Star bus stops, along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.

However, allegations of extortion and other sharp practices have begun to trail the enforcement order. While some of the operators are allegedly extorted by the task force team, some riders around that flank are apprehended daily and their motorcycles seized. Strangely, others especially the uniformed men operating in the same axis are left untouched.

A middle-aged woman, Jane Ibikunle, who narrated her ordeal, said when the motorcycle that she boarded was apprehended by the police at the Ikeja Bus Stop, the rider was let off the hook, while she bought her freedom with money.

“Why should I be the only one to bear the brunt in such a situation? I want to believe that the policemen obtained a bribe from the commercial motorcyclist, or he was one of them because they did not spend much time talking to him before letting him go.”

The Guardian also noticed that the task force has been terrorising motorcycle operators who operate outside the restricted areas.

On one such occasion, they entered a street at the U-turn Bus Stop, in Abule-Egba in Agbado-Oke-Odo Local Council and seized over 15 motorcycles.

It was learnt that each of the motorcycles was granted “bail” in the sum of N30, 000 each.

Similar onslaughts have been carried out in other areas just to extort the riders, and not to enforce the ban.
Guardian Fileserver 1A:7Sunday:Text:Climate change.docx

‘Residents, Businesses Spend N5.3trn On Fossil Fuel Annually’
By Gbenga Salau
LAGOS State government has said residents and businesses in the state spent about N5.3 trillion annually on fossil fuel as a result of low supply of electricity from the national grid.

The Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, said the average daily cost of generating alternative electricity by residents and businesses through diesel or petrol-powered generators is estimated at N14.4 billion daily.

Bello, while speaking at the First Lagos State Climate Change Business Meeting with members of the Organised Private Sector, said the statistics was from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory conducted by the ministry to ascertain the impact of emissions on the environment in the state.

He lamented that reliance on fossil fuel alternative power sources was exacerbating the vulnerability of the state to the effects of climate change.

The commissioner, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Office of Environmental Services, Mr. Gaji Omobolaji Tajudeen, further stated that the study also showed that the energy sector was the highest contributor to greenhouse emissions.

Bello said the amount of electricity supplied to the state from the national grid was still low as the state received less than 12,000MWh daily from the national grid, representing about 6.25 per cent.

“When we compare generator cost of N130/KWh with a grid cost of N50/KWh, the cost associated with burning fossil fuel by residents and businesses in the state for energy generation daily is estimated at a staggering sum of N14.4 b daily and N5.3trn annually.  This value currently spent on non-renewable energy sources can be channelled into renewable sources with potential savings made,” he stated.

Bello enjoined the private sector to collaborate with the state government by mobilising support and resources for the actualisation of the Climate Action Plan, launched by the state in 2021 with the aim of achieving a sustainable low-carbon and climate-resilient socio-economic development.

The Director, Environmental Planning, Mr. Bankole Michael, said the business meeting, a prelude to the Annual Environment Summit coming up in July, was aimed at galvanising private sector collaboration to tackle the challenges of climate change for the common good of all.

He noted that a collective action on environmental sustainability was of utmost importance in order to safeguard healthy living, preserve the ecosystem for economic prosperity and engender socio-economic development.

In her contribution, the Head of Sustainability, Dangote Cement,  Dr. Igazeuma Okoroba, applauded Lagos State government for organizing the business meeting with the private sector, describing it as a novel action that would foster wider collective action in addressing the challenges of climate change.

She expressed optimism that the fresh approach adopted by the state government would bring more effectiveness because it has the flavour of local content to the subject matter, while stating that Dangote Group operations would continue to apply itself to environmental responsibility as well as lead the advocacy for environmental sustainability. Representatives of several other corporate bodies also pledged their continued commitment to environmental sustainability.