Despite the judgment delivered by the Lagos High Court affirming the right of the Lagos State Government to legislate on roads in the state, commercial motorcyclists, a.k.a. okada riders have fixed today to hold another protest against the new traffic law which restricted their operations on 475 roads in the state.
The riders who took the state government to court over the law which they said infringed on their freedom of movement did not expect the outcome will be unfavourable to them. But that is the law for you. The judge has correctly interpreted the provisions of the law as regards whether the state government has a right to restrict okada riders from roads described as federal roads and whether the law infringed on their freedom of movement enshrined in the country’s constituion.
In fact, Justice Aishat Opesanwo of the Lagos High Court was very clear in her judgment. There was no ambiguity.
Contrary to the argument of the okada riders, Justice Opesanwo held that the Lagos State House of Assembly has the right to make laws governing roads within the state. She also held that from the evidence before her, the Lagos State Traffic Law did not in any way prohibit freedom of movement as alleged by okada riders. She also made it clear that okada riders in the state do not constitute a community and had not in any way been discriminated against.
Immediately after the judgment, the okada riders, through their counsel, Bamidele Aturu, expressed dissatisfaction with the judgment and vowed to appeal it.
This, we believe, is a better approach for okada riders to show their dissatisfaction with the judgment. It is better than the protest which they have fixed for today because demonstrations and violence cannot resolve the impasse between them and the government.
It is our opinion that the okada riders are not the only people affected by the Lagos traffic law. Indeed, commuters are the ones bearing the full brunt of the new law because they now have to endure long hours in the daily traffic gridlock that has become a feature of the Lagos landscape.
Rather than engage in any untoward activity, commuters have come to realise that the law was made in their interest.
What they are doing now is to plead with the government to make more buses available to take them to their destinations and ease the traffic gridlocks on the roads through better traffic management.
We want to plead with okada riders to sheathe their swords and cooperate with the state government in its efforts to ameliorate the suffering of commuters as well as manage traffic efficiently in the state.
This is a preferred alternative to the street demonstrations and vandalisation of government property.
Okada riders should realise that the courts are there to mediate in disputes between individuals and government. This is why we feel that they should pursue their appeal at the Court of Appeal instead of engaging in violence which will not solve their problem in the short and long runs.
Engaging in demonstrations can result in a clash with the law enforcement officers and death may occur.
We think dialogue and due process are better alternatives for the aggrieved okada riders to take instead of embarking on protests.