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Posers around Sanwo-Olu’s indefinite, total ban of commercial motorcyclists’ operations

By Gbenga Salau
22 May 2022   |   2:58 am
For the second time in 27 months, the Lagos State government, last Wednesday, announced an “indefinite and total” ban on the operations of commercial motorcyclists, better known as “Okada”

Commercial motorcyclists on duty on Lagos roads

Residents Demand More Action, Less Talk 

For the second time in 27 months, the Lagos State government, last Wednesday, announced an “indefinite and total” ban on the operations of commercial motorcyclists, better known as “Okada” in six local councils of the state.
 

 
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who gave the directive during a meeting with security chiefs in the state, listed the affected council areas as Ikeja, Surulere, Eti Osa, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island, and Apapa.
   
Even though Sanwo-Olu’s predecessors also tinkered with the ban severally, without success, the governor tasked security operatives that there must be absolute compliance with the latest directive effective June 1, 2022. 
   
Since the return to democracy in 1999, previous administrations in the state have continued to condemn the use of motorcycles as a means of public transportation.   
   
For instance, in January 2007, Bola Ahmed Tinubu banned commercial motorcycles from operating within the state. 
  
His successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola 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. 
  
So, when Sanwo-Olu also toed the same line on January 27, 2020, with the effective date for the exercise being February 1, 2020, many concluded that he might not go far, as he appeared not to have learnt enough from the pitfalls of past administrations in this regards, especially their failure to make plans for alternative means of transportation during the ban.
  
As a matter of fact, the 2020 ban was apparently ineffective, the reason the commercial motorcyclists were only off the road for the first few days, after which they returned in full force, grew exponentially, and became quite unruly. 
    
Sanwo-Olu while justifying his administration’s action in 2020, said that the government decided in line with the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018, to immediately address the chaos and menace created by operators of commercial motorcyclists in the listed areas.
  
However, speaking at last week’s meeting with the Commissioner of Police, Area Commanders, and Divisional Police Officers (DPOs), the governor told the police to enforce the order without compromise, sternly warning that the state government would not condone any security formation that relaxes the new ban in its jurisdiction.
   
He said: “After a critical review of our restriction on commercial motorcyclists activities in the first six local councils where we restricted them on February 1, 2020, we have seen that the menace has not abated. We are now directing a total ban on their activities across the highways and bridges within these six local councils and their local council development areas, effective from June 1, 2022.
   
“This is a phased ban that we are embarking on this period, and we expect that within the short while when this ban will be enforced, motorcycles riders in other places where their activities are yet to be banned can find something else to do. We have given the notice now and we expect all commercial motorcycles plying the routes in the listed councils and areas to vacate the highways before the enforcement begins. The enforcement will be total.”
  
Sanwo-Olu advised residents that are patronising commercial motorcycle riders on highways to embrace alternative transport schemes already provided by the government to plan their journeys. 
  
He said that the government has put in place initiatives, including the ‘Last Mile’ Buses, medium-capacity and high-capacity buses in the affected areas for the convenience of commuters.
   
The governor insisted that riding motorcycles on the highways remained unsafe and would no longer be tolerated, adding that the state government has been ramping up construction work on its two-rail line project to further increase the choices of commuting for residents.
  
He said: “We have provided ‘Last Mile’ buses in the affected areas; they are working and effective. We also have medium-capacity buses and high-capacity buses working in these areas. Before the end of the year, we are also bringing the rail along these corridors with their terminals. We have provided jetties as well to provide alternatives.
  
“With all these in place, we will not sit back and watch criminally-minded people use that mode of transportation (motorcycles) to perpetrate crime and criminality in Lagos. Lives are being lost daily; preventable accidents are happening every day and the riders are not respecting any of our traffic laws. The situation has led to a complete breakdown of law and order. This ban has come to stay and we will not tolerate any weakness in enforcement.”
   
Commenting on the plan by the state government to attempt another enforcement of the state traffic law, a Lagos resident, Ayo Longe described motorbikes as a fast means of transportation within the state, especially to routes that are not straight, or covered by major state-owned transport outfits.
  
“In such situations, commercial motorcyclists become the best choice for commuters. However, there has been a glut in the number of commercial motorcycles in Lagos, and the riders have become so careless that they now constitute a menace. 
   
“Their conduct and actions have led to many people being maimed or killed. Not only are some of the riders ill-trained, but they are also ill-tempered. At the slightest provocation, they join forces to molest passengers that question their conduct, while their criminally-minded colleagues are accessories to criminality. In other words, some commercial motorcyclists now constitute greater risks to Lagosians than the problems that they were meant to serve.”
   
He added that previous efforts failed to yield fruits because those saddled with the responsibility of enforcing the ban “saw it as an opportunity to enrich themselves. Because of their mission, they made a mess of the government’s actions.
   
“For the ban to work, monitoring, and sanctioning of those that are responsible for enforcing the ban should be taken seriously,” Longe stated.
  
Another resident, Motun Adejobi stated: “Our streets are not secured enough with the crop of commercial motorcyclists operating across Lagos. The way that they overtake commercial buses and lorries often gets many scared. Commercial cyclists are responsible for a whole lot of accidents, and atrocities that are committed on our roads.”  
   
He called on the state government to muster enough courage to ensure that the ban works this time around. “Unfortunately, over the years, the government has shown that it is incapable of enforcing its directives to the fullest. So, this time, there should be active and not just mere pronouncement.”
    
For Mr. Kabiru Adamu, a security expert, the ban has been announced as a means of curbing security and safety concerns associated with the activities of commercial motorcycle riders. 
   
“It is indeed a fact that commercial motorcycle riders have been associated with compromising safety standards, a development that has led to accidents and death. They have also been responsible for traffic congestion, and violent crimes, including armed robbery. However, commercial transportation via motorbikes has employed a huge number of youths, who otherwise would have been into criminality. Therefore, banning their operations and not providing commuters with an alternative means of transportation will simply cause chaos in society.” 
   
As a risk management specialist, Adamu recommended proper documentation of riders to keep track of them. He also said that instead of banning the riders, a radical improvement in their service provision is important. 
“The best way to document them is by regulating the sector, and ensuring that they are registered. Banning commercial cyclists outright, without providing an alternative means of employment for them will open them to several options, including criminal ones. 
   
“Additionally, documenting them will avail the state government of data, and allow a more systematic approach to solving the challenge, including identifying if they are all Nigerians, their states of origin, their reasons for embracing commercial motorcycling as a profession, as well as their level of education.”