Disorderliness as commercial motorcyclists invade restricted routes
Just when many thought that the Lagos State government has succeeded in ending the operations of commercial motorcyclists in designated areas of the state, the commercial transporters appear to be staging a comeback.
Their operations were banned in 10 local councils and 15 local council development areas (LCDAs). The resurgence became prominent in the build-up to the 2023 general elections. But rather than the state government and law enforcement agencies swiftly ensuring that the riders conform with the extant law, they looked the other way.
That trend has continued unchecked till date. Routes like Mile 2 to CMS; Mile 2 to Oshodi, Airport Road; Oshodi to Ipaja, Toll Gate; Agbara to Mile 2, which the enforcement was total, are now witnessing a return to the past, and the numbers are increasing daily as a result of the rising need of their services by commuters.
However, with the election over, it seems the state government has woken up from its slumber following a statement from the state about a fortnight ago. The state government issued a statement reiterating that the ban on commercial motorcycles in the affected areas remains in force.
The Special Adviser (SA) to the Governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa, in re-notifying residents of the ban via a statement, implored the general public to comply with the law, as both the riders and their passengers were liable to three years in prison when apprehended, and prosecuted Impounded motorcycles are also to be crushed in public view in line with the provision of Section 46, sub-section 1, 2 & 3 of the Transport Sector Reform Law (TSRL), 2018.
In soliciting support for government policies from all and sundry, the SA regretted that the operators were flouting the ban despite existing interventions and viable alternatives provided by the government to cushion the effect of the ban on their livelihoods.
Lagos has a long history of attempts to ban the activities of motorcyclist operators better known as Okada, but the government has not been able to enforce its order effectively. Previous administrations on three occasions banned Okada operations across the state, but all failed woefully.
The Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration has so far banned their activities in select council areas on three occasions, even though many say that the state government is eyeing a total ban.
The first ban on the activities of commercial motorcyclists took place in January 2007, when the then-governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu stopped their operations within the state.
His successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, on 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. Sanwo-Olu did the same on January 27, 2020, with the effective date for the exercise being February 1, 2020.
The 2020 ban was ineffective. This explains why commercial motorcyclists were only off the roads for days before returning to action.
In May 2022, the state government again announced another ban, which was to affect six local councils and LCDAs that were earlier announced in 2020. However, the May 2022 ban achieved an appreciable level of success, especially as a result of the prosecution of both defaulting riders and their passengers. But many commercial motorcyclists continued to operate even in the areas where their activities were banned.
So, it was not surprising that last August, the state government extended the ban to four additional local councils, therefore taking the number of affected councils to 10 and 15 LCDAs.
Justifying the ban on commercial motorcyclists in the additional local councils during a briefing, the Commissioner for Transport, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, said that the state government took the step after receiving empirical reports from the Ministry of Health, Lagos State Health Service Commission, and the Lagos State Police Command on accidents and crime rates from which it analysed the impact of the ban on safety and security before, and during the ban within the affected areas of the state.
He said: “A report from Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) confirms that accident rate as it relates to commercial motorcycles has reduced by four per cent (i.e 68 accident cases were recorded in June 2022 as against 74 recorded in May); report from the Ministry of Health confirms that accident rate as it relates to commercial motorcycles has reduced 63.5 per cent in all general hospital across the state (i.e. 176 accident cases were reported in June as against 277 recorded cases in May).
“It is also important to mention that the restricted corridors (i.e Apapa, Lagos Island, Yaba, Surulere, Ikeja) recorded significantly low accident reports, which indicates that the restriction is achieving its objectives (i.e accident record in June is 18 as against 91 recorded in May 2022.
“Report from the Commissioner of Police confirms as follows: Crime Rate: 14 crime cases were recorded in June as against 20 in May while crime cases as of 15th July as against 14 in June. Accident Rate: 23 accident cases were recorded in June as against 37 while two cases of the accident as of 15th July as against 23 in June,” he explained.
Oladeinde said that data showed significant gains and improved compliance rate in the concerned areas, stressing that available records indicated that crime and accident rate have reduced by 86 per cent and 63.7 per cent respectively within the period under review, while and a total of 7, 500 motorcycles have been impounded and crushed hence the need to sustain this achievement.
All these gains may have been lost with the resurgence of Okada operations
Meanwhile, at the peak of the ban, some residents applauded the state government for taking the steps, while those who kicked against the policy said the state government was insensitive to the plight of the dreg of the society.
They complained bitterly about the increased cost of intra-state commuting, just as they spend longer hours shuttling, especially those on the Mile 2-Surulere-Lagos Island routes.
A resident, Ademola Oluwadara, maintained that commercial riders staged the comeback because the government failed woefully in alleviating the plight of commuters and ensuring free-flow of traffic.
“So, on those routes, the commercial motorcyclists still saw booming businesses and sprung up to make quick money as a result of government failure.”
Oluwadara added that even though the commercial riders never actually left the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, they have since re-enforced their operations. This has worsened the chaotic traffic situation on the road.
“As a result of this, there is usually hectic traffic on that corridor with commuters and motorists spending about an hour on trips that should not take a quarter of that time. Because of this, those that are pressed for time see commuting on commercial motorcycles as their best option.”
For Ijeoma Okoro, the return of commercial motorcyclists is very comforting for her because it helps her to easily connect to Lagos Island from the mainland.
“If I take a bus from Mile 2 to CMS, I cannot say when I will get there, but if I ply a bike, I am sure of making it to my destination in 30 minutes, for slightly above the normal fare. The government closed two sections of the Eko Bridge with articulated vehicles sometimes misbehaving within the Ijora axis. Therefore, a journey that should not take more than 30 minutes is taking longer. So, I hope the government continues to look away.”
Many think that with the elections over, and with the reminder by the SA to the governor on transportation, Giwa, the days of joy for the likes of Oluwadara and Okoro may soon come to an end.
Giwa added that the security formations and agencies including the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), and the Anti-Okada Squad that have been partnering with the state government, including the Nigeria Police Force, the Army, Navy, and Air Force are still on the ground to sustain the ban in affected areas.