12th May, 2012
The Lagos State Government on Friday cautioned the counsel to the commercial motorcycle operators in a case instituted against the State Government at the Federal High Court Lagos to stop misleading the public with his misrepresentations of the rulings of the court.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Ade Ipaiye who spoke on the issue and the quit notices purported to have been given to dismissed doctors in defiance of the State Tenancy Law at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa during a press conference explained that the Federal High Court did not rule that there was no law controlling the operation of Vehicles under which category motorcycles (okadas) also fall, in the State and as such the okada operators have a right to operate unhindered.
“One of the things that the Okada riders may be ignorant of is that vehicles are defined to include motorcycles and as such they are subject to all the regulations governing the operation of vehicles in the Road Traffic Law of the State.
“It is therefore illegal for anyone to get an Okada, jump on it and start carrying passengers without proper licensing like plate numbers, riders card and other guiding principles”.
Mr Ade Ipaiye added that contrary to the position of the Okada riders’ counsel that there is no law regulating the business of Okadas in Lagos, there are several laws like the extant Road Traffic Law of Lagos State, the Federal Road Safety Commission Act which created offences and the Lagos State Traffic Management Law which empowers the agency to enforce traffic laws.
He also said contrary to what the counsel to the commercial motorcyclists has been saying, the riders do not obey traffic laws, adding that the law that restricts car drivers, trailer drivers in terms of which directions to drive and obedience to traffic rules and traffic lights also bind okadas.
Ipaiye said the State Government is in the process of enacting a law that will restrict Okadas from moving or operating in certain parts of the State as noted by the Court that such a law must be in place to effect such restrictions.
“Lagos State has laws already that we are fine-tuning to cater for the kind of new behaviours we are seeing. We are coming in with comprehensive set of rules and regulations that will be legislating for things to move on.”
He explained that the Okada riders need to be cautioned and not encouraged to break the law because the provisions in the Road Traffic law prescribes that a vehicle should have headlamps, side mirrors just as there are laws that says a rider should not be on the road without riders card, helmets and other requirements for safe commuting like the maximum number of passengers.
He explained that at no time did the judge order the release of over 8000 Okadas purported to have been seized contrary to what is being bandied about.
He reiterated that the judge did not order the blanket release of the seized okadas because for a court to have made such pronouncement it must say that a particular okada that was seized by agency Q for example which maybe the Police, Federal Road Safety Commission, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) or any law enforcement agency, some of which are not even agencies of the Lagos State Government.
The Attorney General added that the same court also ruled that there are no absolute rights under the law and that all rights must be exercised in accordance with the relevant laws of the land.
“The pronouncement by the lawyer to the Okada riders that all Okadas should be released is irresponsible and can lead to disorder because the very ignorant ones among the riders are being made to believe that they can do whatever they like by riding anywhere, anyhow without commercial plate numbers and rider cards.
“The Court has not ordered the mass and indiscriminate release of any Okada. If any Okada rider is claiming his Okada was seized for no justifiable reason he has to make a case about who seized the Okada, when it was seized and for what reason it was seized.”
The Attorney General said the ruling of the court that it would be wrong of any government agency to contravene any Okada rider who has not flouted any law cannot be regarded as a victory for the Okada riders because there is absolutely no reason for any government agency to go after an Okada rider and arrest him for no justifiable reason.
Ipaiye stated that the Okada riders in approaching the Federal High Court sought several reliefs including an enforcement of their human rights, freedom of movement, property rights and also seeking an injunction prohibiting the State from apprehending or arresting the motorcycle or Okada riders but the court did not grant the majority of the reliefs being sought by them.
He said Lagos State responded by stating that there is no activity that is not subject to regulation just as it happens with lawyers, judges and journalists, adding that at that point Lagos State has not banned the movement of Okadas.
The Attorney General who also spoke on the issue of quit notices from the Staff quarters purported to have been issued to the dismissed doctors explained that the official quarters were given to the doctors so that they can take care of their patients.
“You have left that work for which you earned that official accommodation. Yet, you are insisting on the right of a tenant. What kind of tenant are you?” he asked.
While also responding to a question from journalists on why the doctors were sacked when the case was still in court, the Attorney General asked several rhetorical questions which include the fact that when the doctors were aggrieved they did not go to court.
“They went on an illegal strike. The laws on trade disputes are very clear. They gave a 24- hours notice and refused to take care of their patients. Nobody talked about going to court for that. They were given queries, they refused to respond. By the time I receive the court processes, the disciplinary procedure had been completed, the decision had been taken to dismiss them. To now say we got court papers and now dismiss them is to misrepresent the facts.
“For people to now say because they have filed court papers all the processes and procedures should be freezed, meanwhile they are still not at work. It is mischief. As a responsible government, Lagos State had no option but take the step it took. To do otherwise would be negotiating for months and weeks while the hospitals remain closed and people dying,” the Attorney General added.
Also present at the press briefing were the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Raji and Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Mr Hakeem Bello.