11th June, 2010
The recent threat by the Lawmakers at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Nigeria, to ban the use of motorcycle for commercial purposes has been received with resentment by riders of commercial motorcycle, popularly called okada, in the state. They have vowed to protest the ban if carried out
Other Lagosians including civil servants, business people and staff of corporate organisations joined them in the call for the lawmakers to rescind their decision.
The lawmakers, who deliberated in Yoruba, had as a matter of urgent public importance, yesterday, advocated for the outright ban on commercial motorcycles as a means of transportation within the state, while others advised that the riders should be moved away from the city centre to the remote areas around the state.
According to them, the action would help to curtail the way they operate without due regard for their lives and the lives of their passengers.
While Hon. Sanai Agunbiade lamented the reckless way the okada riders park and operate within the Ikorodu and Ketu axis of Lagos, he further said the riders have taken over major medians on various roads within the state.
Complaining too, Hon. Adekunle Ademoye said he almost knocked down an okada rider along Ojota area due to the riderâ€™s recklessness.
He further said that the riders do not obey traffic laws. â€œEven if you chase them from where they are, the moment you leave the place, they go back there and start their operation,â€ he complained, adding that â€œthey should be chased to areas like Epe, Isolo and Okota, and other suburbs of the state.
In the same vein, Hon. Funmilayo Tejuosho told the story of how a female passenger on a commercial motorcycle got herself injured when a part of the piece of trousers she wore entered into the wheel of the motorcycle. According to her, the rider could not even understand English or Yoruba, wondering how they could read and obey traffic signals without an ability to communicate in these two languages.
The lawmakers complained that the Okada Ward at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, has become filled with various victims of â€œokada accident.â€
They also complained that the use of motorcycles for commercial reasons within the state had made the residents of the state lazy.
The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who supported his colleagues, said the House must take a definite action to curb the excesses of the riders in the state.
According to him, highways and medians are not supposed to be used by the riders, but since they have continued unabated, the House is forced to think of an action against their activities.
The House therefore set up a committee of four members to seek ways to curtail their activities.
But operators in the state are threatening to make the state ungovernable if the only means of their livelihood is tampered with.
Most of those who spoke with P.M.NEWS on the issue lamented the harsh decisions sometimes taken by the government, describing this move as anti-people.
They said they would mobilise to paralyse activities in the State if the State House of Assembly went ahead with the decision.
Some said the state had become their last resort after they were chased from Abuja, the nationâ€™s capital and Calabar, the capital of Cross River State.
Apologun James, one of the riders, who expressed their disdain, advised that before the House would take what he called a hasty decision, the members should first take a statistics of the number of riders in the state.
The graduate of Business Administration said he just bought his own motorcycle after several years of working for other people.
He explained that after graduation in 2005, he could not secure a job, a reason he decided to go into the business.
â€œNow I am married and my wife just gave birth. Do they want me to start begging for alms while they are in the comfort of their various zones?â€ he asked almost crying.
Another rider, Ikechukwu John, 50, told P.M.NEWS that he would do anything to stop any action against the riders in the state.
Mr. John, who was a businessman at Tejuosho Market in Yaba area of Lagos before it was destroyed by fire, said he lost goods worth millions of naira.
With the Okada business, he said, his two children are in the higher institution, while the third is preparing for the Joint Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination. â€œHow would I survive if they do this (referring to the ban)?â€
Isibu John, who said he had been into commercial okada business for eight years added that majority of the riders operating in the state were not Nigerians.
â€œMost of the riders you see around are from Niger Republic and Cameroun. They do not understand English and do not even take their baths before embarking on the business daily.
â€œMost of them were chased from Abuja and other northern states because they used to foment troubles at every opportunity over there. That is why they are everywhere in the State.
He advised that rather than totally ban the ridersâ€™ activities, the lawmakers should rid the State of the riders who do not understand major road signals.
â€œNot all of us are bad riders. Not all of us fail to obey traffic rules and regulations. So why do they want to punish us unnecessarily?â€ he asked.
Others who spoke with P.M.NEWS advised the House to only ask the law enforcement agencies in the state to be up to their tasks rather than concentrate on the bribes they collect from the riders.
They said the decision would mar the cordial relationship between the state government and the people of the state.
Civil servants, who also reacted to the issue, said there were other pressing issues before the House instead of what they called â€œan attempt to cause chaos in the state.â€
â€œThere are so many routes in Lagos which buses and cars cannot use. So what happens to the people living in those areas?â€ a staff of the Lagos State Government asked.
He added that workers at the state secretariat in Ikeja, the state capital, are already bitter following the ban on okada riders within the area. The workers are now forced to trek long distances to the secretariat.
A staff of a commercial bank, while expressing surprise over the decision of the House, said he would join forces with the okada riders to fight the government if the decision is finally enforced.
Though he agreed that some riders ride recklessly, he said that there are bad eggs within the sub sector, who should be flushed out.
â€œThe fact that some of them ride recklessly does not create the opportunity to ban them totally. Their activities should be regulated,â€ he said.