Lekki lynching, okada ban and insecurity in Lagos
The recent incident in Lekki, in which an innocent citizen, David Sunday, described as a sound engineer was lynched by some operators of the commercial motorcycle transport popularly known as Okada, was a very barbaric, unfortunate and sad event. It was a highly lamentable act of callousness because it portrayed the abysmal level of impunity with which miscreants have taken over Lagos and the low premium placed on life.
For this reason, the government’s swift reaction by banning the operations of commercial motorcycle transport system in six local governments and nine local government development areas was an appropriate and commendable measure. Yet, a more appropriate action must go beyond just banning Okada operators.
Since that incident, supposedly ignited by quarrels over fares between an Okada transporter and his passengers, and following the ban on Okada operations, tension has been building up in some Lagos suburbs. In Iyana Oba, off the Badagry Expressway, Ojoo, Okada operators, reacting to the ban, went on rampage as they clashed with policemen trying to enforce the governor’s directives and arrest violators.
In recent years, the menace of Okada operators has attained an alarming proportion in Lagos. News analysis alleging to a security report stated that about three million motorcycle riders have trooped into Lagos since 2020. Most of the motorcycles are neither registered nor licensed. Emboldened by some godfathers in high places, the Okada operators have formed associations that pose as a government of their own. With reckless abandon, operators contravene traffic regulations, are discourteous to road users and flout the law in a most devil-may-care manner.
In the way they carry on, they tend to show that they owe no allegiance to the Lagos State government. In the situation of any infraction with their members, the Okada gang is ready to defend its members whether they are right or wrong. This was what happened at the Admiralty Way Lekki incident. Little or no attempt was made to inquire about the cause of the conflict, neither was there any judicious means to settle the dispute. In a single surge of irrational impulse, the Okada operator, with his professional kin, was at once a party in dispute, the judge, jury and executor of jungle justice.
In these highly religiously charged and ethnically touchy times, it is typical of mischief makers to politicise this lawlessness and criminal impunity as the self-styled Seriki of Obalende and his Ajah counterpart have done. In their response to the ban, they had appealed to the Lagos State government to rethink the decision based on partisan consideration at the elections. In their attempt to arm-twist the governor to release the confiscated motorcycles and rethink the ban, they appealed to the governor to consider the large votes of the Hausa-Fulani population and its effect on his re-election.
No doubt, the Serikis’ appeal is a cheap blackmail laced with dangerous political insinuations. It is not only insensitive that community leaders of their standing would gloss over a fatally criminal activity as the lynching of an innocent pedestrian, it is also very insulting to the person of the governor, the Lagos State government and peace-loving Lagosians that justice would be canvassed as trade in votes. This shameless advertisement of impunity must be checked.
Government’s prompt response to this incident is commendable. But ad hoc approaches like this cannot be the solution to the problem of insecurity and disorderliness in Lagos. Under the watch of this present administration, Lagos State has witnessed many security crises; and given the current security situation in the country, this criminal mob action should have been forestalled. Given its population, commercial cum business status and concentration of peoples and cultures, Lagos is a complex metropolis. Any city characterised by these features is indeed a very complex one to administer, because the administrator would have to grapple with persons whose conduct and management of resources often coalesce at cross purposes. Lagos requires a leadership with capacity for managing complex situations.
To this end, the Lagos State government must work in synergy with the Nigerian Police Force to effectively serve the state. Undoubtedly, with lean personnel, poor training and recruitment system, deplorable conditions of service, the police are overwhelmed. As a government security organ purportedly serving and taking orders from a unitary chain of command, the police have been liable to abuse and instrumentalised as a force pandering to some powerful self-serving interests.
Notwithstanding, there is need for committed action to enforce the law and prosecute offenders. The police should investigate and arrest the culprits. They should ensure that diligent prosecution takes place and make culprits face the full wrath of the law as deterrence to others. Although Section 41(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria grants all Nigerians the right “to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof,” this entitlement does not warrant the flagrant violation of the rights of peace-loving Lagosians; or to commit heinous crime such as lynching.
Furthermore, relevant organs of the state government should continuously educate Lagosians about the law, safety and security of lives and properties. Officials of the Lagos State government in whatever capacity as well as the enlightened citizens within should model values that promote the dignity of persons and respect for the laws of the state.
Residents’ associations and community development associations must be encouraged by the government or on their own should set up security committees to check the excesses of unscrupulous elements that use their okada operation to carry out criminal activities. Professed leaders of okada riders and other groups of people living and carrying out business in Lagos State, or any other state for that matter, should sensitise their subjects on the need to respect the laws, culture and customs of their host communities; and not to take liberty for licence.
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