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The Lagos okada ban and public transportation

On Wednesday 1st of June 2022, Lagos State Government began the “total enforcement” of the ban on commercial motorcycles popularly called Okada in specified parts of Lagos, particularly, the six Local Governments and nine Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs, of Eti Osa, Ikeja, Surulere, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland and Apapa.

The ban also extends to the entire trunk roads and flyover bridges in Lagos. Reason given for the ban is the menace of reckless driving, crime rates, and general insecurity which through Okada riders, have led to loss of lives and property. Okada as a means of commercial transportation is popular across the country.

Indeed, this unique form of commercial transportation has filled a gap in the chain of vehicles needed to move the mass of the Nigerian population.

But sadly, it has also become a source of high rate of accidents, security risk, and a social hazard. This has made different state governments impose different types of restrictions in their operations.

The Lagos State government declared that the menace of Okada riders became aggravated with the infiltration of persons from neighbouring Niger Republic, Chad, and Northern Cameroon.

It also revealed that most of the Okada operators in Apapa, Lagos Island, Lekki and Ikeja axis were illegally armed; ready to kill anyone that crossed their path. Examples cited are the incidents of the killing and setting ablaze of one Superintendent of Police, CSP, Kazeem Abonde, in Ajao Estate on September 24, 2021 during an enforcement activity; and more recently in May 2022, one David Imoh in Lekki Phase 1. An association of commercial motorcycle riders has taken LASG to court.

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In suit No. FHC/L/ CS/1016/2022, they are seeking a declaration that the ban on commercial motorcyclists in Lagos by the government “is a violation of the rights of the applicants guaranteed by Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution as amended who cannot be alive without food and other means of sustenance and whose income is the business of commercial motorcycle transportation.

The association is also praying the court for a declaration that the “purported proposed ban of the commercial motorcycle transportation in Lagos State by the governor, without hearing from the operators whose rights are affected or likely to be affected is a violation of the constitutional rights of the applicants to fear to hear provided for and encapsulated in Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.”

The government needs to utilize decisive executive action to institute social order while acknowledging its own shortcomings, need for policy pro-activeness, respect for the Constitution and the rule of law. There are 36 states in Nigeria, with Abuja as capital.

Lagos is home to approximately 9 million persons out of the total number of 195.9 million people that live in Nigeria. Lagos also tops the list of the highly metropolitan and populated cities.

There is no effective transportation in most cities across Nigeria. The lacuna is what has over the years been filled by commercial motorcycling that has now become a national embarrassment.

In Lagos and such cities as Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Uyo, Enugu, Aba, majority of Okada riders are often reckless. They have no regard for the law, especially traffic laws. They drive against traffic and freely use the restricted lanes. Many of them are not lettered; so, it is impossible for them to read road signs or communicate with other road users.

Many times, some wear military, or police uniforms, giving them the temerity to take the law into their hands. Some police and military officers also own and hire out motorcycles to augment their income.

They are clearly a security threat to lives and property in Lagos and across Nigeria. To prevent breakdown of law and order and set deterring precedents, Lagos State should be fully supported in exhibiting controls over Okada riders. In doing this however, the government needs be reminded that her long-time inadequate town planning and transportation network necessitated the use of motorcycles for commercial transportation.

This must be addressed without delay; otherwise, the security agents that are detailed to enforce the ban will soon be overwhelmed and subsequently compromised as it happened in the past. The ban was first imposed by the Raji Fashola administration but suffered compromises from the Police and other state agents. Government needs to pay living wages to security agents and all in the Nigerian working force.

This is a fundamental way of preventing compromise. The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) must secure our borders to prevent illegal entries from neighbouring countries. The federal government has the responsibility of controlling importation of motorcycles used as Okada.

The Constitution of Nigeria must be respected to allow any Nigerian of any tribe or tongue live and work in any part of the thirty-six states. While the court entertains their case, Okada riders should restrict themselves to areas where they are allowed to operate. Lagos State government needs to use the gap to register and train all Okada riders and restructure Okada use. The entire parts of Nigeria, not only Lagos, must take a clue form this.

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