16th June, 2010
The decision by the Lagos State government to impose certain restrictions on the activities of commercial motorcycle operators in Lagos has been received with resentment by some Lagosians.
Civil servants, business people and staff of corporate organisations have also joined them in the call for the lawmakers to rescind their decision to enct a law to ban okada.
Members of the state of the House of Assembly were the first to advocate for the outright ban on commercial motorcycles as a means of transportation in Lagos. However, there were others who advised that the riders should be moved away from the city centre to the remote areas in 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.
The executive arm of the government took a similar step by banning okada riders from operating on dual carriage ways and bridges in the state. It also said that the they would not be allowed to convey pregnant women, women with babies strapped on their backs and school children. This will take effect from 1 July.
But Lagosians that spoke with P.M. NEWSÂ expressed disenchantment with the new development. Operators of okada also threatened to make the State ungovernable if the only means of their livelihood is tampered with.
Dorcas Onu, a resident of Abule-Egba said that the new law is not favourable. â€œLagos State is very populated and for that reason there is always traffic jam. Even those that have their vehicles are not spared. Hence, one is forced to take a motorcycle in an emergency situation.
â€œIf this law was made when Lagos was not as populated as this it would have been better. But now everybody wants to get to their destination on time with the help of motorcycles. If the law is implemented, it will render people jobless.â€
An okada rider who operates at Pen Cinema said it would amount to the punishment of citizens if the state government went ahead to enforce the plan. He said it could make some okada riders take to crime.
Other okada riders said that 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 Rivers 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 had 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 PM NEWS that he would do anything to stop any action against the riders in the state.
Mr. John, who was formerly a businessman at the popular Tejuosho Market in Yaba area of Lagos before it got destroyed by fire, said he lost goods worth millions of naira.
With the okada business, he said two of his children were in the higher institution, while the third was 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 in commercial okada business for eight years, added that most 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 bath before embarking on the business daily.
â€œMost of them were chased from Abuja and other northern states because they are 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 PM 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 would get from the riders.
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 stateâ€.
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 within 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, which 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.
â€”Paul Dada & Eromosele Ebhomele