Lagos residents apprehensive over motorcyclists policy
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, recently revealed that new policies, which would regulate the operations of commercial motorcyclists, also known as Okada, were underway.
Making this known at the ceremony to give account of his stewardship marking 100 days in office, the governor said it had become imperative for his administration to map out new policies that would guide how commercial motorcyclists would operate in the state, as this would further stem the tide of accidents and indiscriminate use of motorcycles on Lagos roads.
He added that when the policies are eventually put in place, strict compliance is expected in the state’s quest to achieving greater Lagos for all, in line with the government’s policy thrust.
For a couple of years now, the state has experienced a turn around in the manner and way commercial motorcyclists are used. From being used mainly in inner streets and over short distances or strictly for private use, they have grown to be used on the expressways and major roads, going far distances, from one end of the state to the other.
This means of transportation has become a necessary evil for millions of Lagos residents. For a city that once experienced an absence of motorcyclists on highways and busy roads, they now dot every road and street corner, causing accidents, traffic and becoming a menace to the environment.
Despite efforts by past administrations to restrict and somewhat regulate their activities to the inner streets, some of them have returned to major roads and key commercial hubs in the state. They have become more reckless, as accidents caused by their careless driving have increased.
Earlier this month, there were two fatal accidents on the BRT corridor on the Ikorodu Road caused by the reckless commercial motorcyclists, who usually ply the corridors to beat the heavy traffic on the main lane. Lives were lost and property worth millions of Naira were destroyed.
While the state government’s policy hasn’t been made known to the public yet, residents are becoming apprehensive and curious to know how the new policy would affect movement and their daily lives. While some have applauded it as a necessary move, arguing that it is long overdue, others are insisting that the government has not provided proper means of transportation or jobs for the operators before trying to get them off the road.
David Demilade, a banker, who always leaves his car at home and uses okada to his office on the Island said: “In a cosmopolitan city like Lagos, with almost zero transportation policy, poor city planning and terrible roads that cause never-ending gridlock daily, I am really eager to know what the new policy would look like, considering that previous ones have failed due to obvious reasons.
Okada is the saving grace for a lot of us, who live far away from our places of work and if not for them, I probably would have lost my job due to the terrible traffic on almost all the roads. I agree that some of the riders have no sense of responsibility and are very careless, but the truth is told, there wouldn’t be a need for them if the roads are in good condition and there are proper, safer alternative means of transport. The bad roads everywhere are why Lagos traffic has become an unending nightmare for its residents, who no longer think twice before jumping on this only alternative to quick movement, especially with the new innovative technology on-demand motorbike rides popping up daily. So, the only reasonable policy we should be talking about at this point should be road construction and re-construction, broadening available roads and massive road repairs. The state government should do the basic things first before they can talk about any kind of policy for motorcycles in the city,” he said.
Ifeoma Okafor, a victim of Okada accident, told The Guardian: “I am on my shop at Oshodi Market. The traffic is terrible and a number of customers have called that they are waiting for me. I had an accident seven years ago on my way to Victoria Island for a job interview. I was forced to alight from the bus because there was terrible traffic that day. I was running late for my interview. I spotted an Okada and decided to use it to help me beat the traffic. Shortly after, we hit the road, a commercial bus driver rammed into us from behind and I fell off the bike into a gutter. I was in the hospital for almost two years and the rest is history. Since that incidence, I have become very afraid of riding motorcycles. But once in a while, I am forced to use them when there is traffic, just like today,” she said.
Speaking further, she added: “I am a single mum with two kids to cater for. My business is all I depend on and I have to do what I have to do with the hope that I never experience another accident like that again. However, on a serious note, I think they should be banned. Before then, the state government needs to fix all the bad roads. Some roads in Ajao Estate and Isolo are not motorable. Drivers struggle to maneuver or meander through potholes, alongside trailers and other heavy-duty vehicles. Even pedestrians are not spared. All of these including the non-existent drainage system cause heavy traffic always” she noted.
Speaking on riders’ recklessness, a commuter, who identified himself as Gideon Adeleke, said motorcyclists’ recklessness makes transportation unsafe, even though they are part of the system.
He said: “I feel they are part of the transport system and as such, should be regulated. It is the rider’s recklessness that makes it unsafe. Instead of banning them completely, the government should put some strategies in place, like ensuring each rider and passenger use helmets. They must not carry more than one passenger, observe speed limits and riders must undergo training like privately-owned motorcycle owners.’’
A female commuter, who pleaded anonymity said, “Yes, I use Okadas within the street or to get to the bus stops but never on expressways. No matter how late I am to where I am heading, I cannot use them. I really worry when I go out and see people on motorcycles commuting from places like Ikeja to the Island and other far-flung distances. I feel they should be banned from the highways again because I remember when they weren’t allowed on these busy roads but now, all that has changed. However, the government should also fix the roads because people are forced to clime motorcycles due to traffic.”
Janet, who also spoke with The Guardian said as a means of transportation, they have come to stay in Lagos whether the government likes it or not.
“It is a part of Lagos. Lagos is a highly populated city and not everybody has the time to wait for buses and taxis. If I see a bike in front of my house, I’ll take it to my destination. It saves a lot of time and it is affordable,” she said. Decrying the recklessness of some of the riders, she said they misuse the opportunity sometimes. “They ride recklessly and maim or even kill themselves and the innocent passengers they carry.’’
Another commuter, Alaga Festus, said: “Although they are useful, they should be checked and the new policy should work for the people and not against us.”
Adeyemi Tolani, on her part, begged the state government to consider those that use it as their major means of transportation. “They should be considerate of the masses because not everyone is opportune to own a car or be in government.
The yellow buses sometimes are not enough, especially during rush hours. People like me make use of mainly Okada to work. Once I get to the bus stop, they are not scarce; you will surely see one to take you where you need to go. So I think the coming policy should consider us, they should not remove these people from the road.
Besides, these riders are self-employed, what does the state government want them to do when they collect the motorcycles from them? There are no jobs anywhere and I’m sure they would love to do something else but are trying to keep body and soul together. If their means of livelihood is taken away, some of them may turn to crime and become even more of a nuisance to society. They should be regulated and made to face the law if they are found wanting but until all these factors are put in place and alternative means of livelihood provided for the soon to be former riders, the government is deceiving itself if it thinks banning them from the roads would work.”
An operator at Apongbon Bus Stop, who identified himself as Rafiu Alao, said the idea of getting rid of them was not good.
Rafiu, speaking in Yoruba, boasted that he could go anywhere ‘so far, the person could pay.
“As long as Lagos roads continue to experience traffic, okadas would never depart from the roads. Which policy are you talking about? This is not the first time the government is introducing policy but that one doesn’t concern us. Is the government going to feed my children and me? What has the government done for us, if not to add more problems to existing ones? They should allow us to do our own in peace. If they want to use force, we’ll be waiting for them during elections,” he threatened.