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Okada, keke riders to brave ban enforcement

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Okada riders in Lagos.

As the Lagos State government’s prohibition of commercial motorcycles and tricycles takes effect in some local councils tomorrow, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over commuters and operators alike. BENJAMIN ALADE reports.

For many commuters in chaotic Lagos, commercial motorcycles or okada transport is inevitable. But the recent ban declared by the state government appeared to have introduced a new twist to the transport nightmare.

The government has on two occasions threatened to restrict both okada and keke from popular routes in accordance to the traffic laws. But on two occasions, it backtracked.

All that changed on Monday when the state government issued a directive, banning the motorcycles without exemption and tricycles on all roads in six local government areas and nine local council development areas. It also banned the usage on 10 major highways across the state.

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, who made the announcement at the State House in Alausa, said the measures were taken by the government in response to “scary figures” of fatal accidents recorded from operations of Okada and tricycles in the State between 2016 and 2019.

Some of the affected areas include: Apapa LGA, Apapa Iganmu LCDA, Lagos Mainland LGA, Yaba LCDA, Surulere LGA, Itire-Ikate LCDA, and Coker-Aguda LCDA.

Others are Ikeja LGA, Onigbongbo, LCDA, Ojodu LCDA, Eti-Osa LGA, Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA, and Iru-Victoria Island LCDA, Lagos Island LGA and Lagos Island East LCDA.

This as in turn caused reactions from riders, who are unsatisfied with the ban.
Pain, agonies of riders

A rider, who plies Obalende to Adeola Odeku on the Lagos Island, Rafiu, said the ban was regrettable and smirks of insensitivity.

He said, if the ban is effective, “it will cause trouble and it will affect workers trying to meet deadlines.”

He said even before the ban, men of the Lagos State Taskforce team had already swung into action impounding motorcycles across the State. Over 30 tricycles were whisked away at the Onikan-Force road.

“Those who were affected would have to pay N5000 to N25, 000, if the officials are being lenient with the riders. We are used to the settlement game.

“But as it is, the government will have to do their own, while we too do ours. Why government go say make I no chop? Wetin I won take feed my family?”

Already, officials of the taskforce team were sighted at Idimu area of Alimoso on Wednesday, on the heels of some operators.

Francis Ajunwa, who plies Ijora to Costain roundabout, said: “I don’t have power over government. The ban of okada and keke is good and bad.

“First, government did not consider the outcome of it before taking such decision. Many boys who are of youthful spirit around Ijora are into this tricycle business, they have left their old lives, many of those boys are thugs, because of this opportunity of keke business, they have left their old life and government wants to ban it. What do you think will happen? They might likely go back to their old life and terrorise the residents,” he said.

A rider with Gokada, Jacob Theo, said: “I don’t have an issue about the law but where am confused is what the government told transport hailing company that they need bikes that is above 200cc upwards, which the company has complied with. Why are they now saying they want to ban us?

“This morning (Wednesday), we were told to resume work but were arrested at Marina. I just bailed myself out; I have been quite since then. I have to call somebody to borrow me money.

“Am chatting with my management now, telling them I was billed N20, 000 for no offense. The government said the enforcement starts on Saturday, if you give people mandate, wait till that time.

“If the government says they don’t want bikes, why did they allow the companies to collect license from them? What is the plan of the state government for the masses, the common man on the street?

“When election comes, we are the ones to vote them. I have my voter’s card, I do vote but we don’t have any benefits from the government. Now we have voted them in, but when election draws nigh you will see them going out begging the masses to vote for them,” he said.

“It is not that we don’t have strength to do any other work, but it is because of the condition of the country now. Many people are being sacked from work. For instance, I was a marine worker but I was owed more than six months salary, I had to stop the job. I had to opt for the business of motorcycle riding,” he added.

A motorcycle rider at Liverpool in Apapa, John Adam from Adamawa state, said: “I don’t know what Lagos State government sees about the issue of Okada ban. I know some riders ride out of sense and recklessly but I ride with caution. I have been riding motorcycle in Lagos for over 15 years.

“I have achieved. I don’t fornicate nor drink alcohol, any penny I gain on the job I save it to plan for my future. I am married with children on this Okada business and feeding my family on it. Am pleading with Lagos State government on this issue to forgive us but if they don’t, they should keep us wherever they want. We are all Nigerians.”

Adam said he will sit down at home on Saturday and pray to God to make another way for him.

“If I can get a maid’s job or a bus conductor, I don’t mind, I will manage it. I can’t steal nor kill myself.”

Chairman, Tricycle Owners and Drivers Association of Lagos (TODAL) Shitta-Ojuelegba unit, Garuba Ismaila, said the ban of tricycles on highways and bridges is a welcome development.

“But the rumour we had that inner routes and short cuts that we ply will be affected; I don’t think it is proper. The inner routes help to save lives and assist workers to avoid traffic.”

He urged the state government to be empathetic and listen to the masses that daily depend on okada and keke to get by.

According to him, Lagos State government needs to calculate the pains and agony of people the ban will affect.

“If you want to introduce any law, you need to consider the masses. In any government if you want to rule well and you want people to recognise you, you have to consider the masses because the rich don’t use keke, they have their own cars and they don’t come out when there is traffic.

“How many of the rich people are voting for government? They sit in their houses but we are the ones that voted for them. We know the government is trying to reduce accidents but this can be done with caution by putting a limit to it.

“What about the trailers that park on the road, aren’t they causing havoc? But you aren’t finding any means or solution to that; you say it is keke you want to ban,” he said.

Another rider, Samuel Sunday, who plies Surulere to Coker-Aguda, said the ban would not work.

“From here in Costain to Aguda is not street. If they ban, have they created jobs for me and other colleagues to do? They can ban motorcycles but not tricycles. There are many who are feeding families on this business and collected the tricycles on hire purchase.

Daring the government’s order
Speaking on the reaction of riders to the commencement of the ban on tomorrow, he said the riders would operate because most of the riders earn a living from riding. Most the riders got their tricycles through hire purchase and make payment every week.

Speaking on when the ban commences, he said: “I can’t go against the rules of government, I will park my bike or if the company request for it, I will return it and go but what I believe is, if one way closes another opens.

“On Saturday, I will park my bike and look for something else to do. If I don’t get a job, I will travel home to Benue, I still have two hands to farm, and we are good at farming.”

For Sunday, he will stay at home on Saturday to observe the scenario but he is convinced that the ban might not take full effect at the weekend but till Monday. “I will work on Saturday but would be watchful”.


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