Sunday Magazine

June 1 deadline: Why Lagos must enforce Okada ban –Stakeholders

The Lagos State government has said that it would commence the enforcement of the ban on the operations of commercial motorcyclists, otherwise known as Okada riders, in some parts of the state. But mixed reactions have continued to trail the plan. In this report, LADESOPE LADELOKUN examines the security and economic implications of the ban

 

His job falls in the category of essential services providers. So, while many probably snored away or sang lullabies to babies or make babies as the night of Saturday, May 21,2022 gradually morphed into another day,

 

Andrew Obi froze in fear as he drove past WEMPCO road in the Agidingbi area of Ikeja, Lagos State. At almost 12:00 midnight, the sight of over 50 motorcyclists gathered at a spot along the road left him gobsmacked.

 

With the number of riders gathered right in front of the steel company on that road, according to Obi, questions crept to his lips: what are they doing here at this time of the night? Where are the security agents? Are they planning to attack a police station?  Who are they planning to attack? Are they foreigners? Or could they be northerners?

 

But, as Obi’s questions remained a riddle to him, findings by Sunday Telegraph revealed that a great number of Okada riders in Lagos are from neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger, Cameroon and other parts of the African continent; fuelling speculations, fear in some quarters about the possibility of the disruption of peace in Lagos State.

 

While the recent ban on the operations of Okada riders has drawn cheers and jeers, the debate on its propriety or otherwise would not just go away. With gory tales of ritual killings, robbery, kidnapping, assassination said to be oxygenated by the activities of Okada riders, the action of the state government, for some residents, was long overdue.

 

But concerns are rife about the economic and security implications of the ban as many argue that with the ban, thousands of young people would be rendered jobless; making their minds the playground of the devil.

 

The Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo- Olu, had last week declared a total ban on the operations of commercial motorcycles in six local governments. The six local governments listed by the governor are Ikeja, Surulere, Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island, and Apapa.

 

According to Sanwo-Olu, the government took the decision in line with the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 to expeditiously address the chaos and menace created by the operations of Okada in the aforementioned areas, noting that after a critical review of the state’s restriction on Okada activities in the first six Local Government Areas where it restricted them on February 1, 2020, the menace has not abated.

 

“We are now directing a total ban on Okada activities across the highways and bridges within these six Local Governments and their Local Council Development Areas, effective from June 1, 2022.

 

“This is a phased ban we are embarking on this period, and we expect that within the    short while when this ban will be enforced, Okada riders in other places where their activities are yet to be banned can find something else to do.

 

We have given the notice now and we expect all commercial motorcycles plying the routes in the listed councils and areas to vacate the highways before enforcement begins. The enforcement will be total,” the governor said.

 

Dossier of impunity

 

On May 12, 2022, a sound engineer,David Sunday Imo, was said to be lynched by irate motorcyclists, who alleged that he had used a charm on one of them, making the said victim lose and regain consciousness following a dispute over, according to sources familiar with the matter, a N100 balance.

 

But the management of Beer Barn, the leisure facility in the Lekki area of Lagos, near where the sound engineer was burnt to death by irate commercial motorcyclists, said it had requested to know what the issue was and members of the mob replied that somebody from its facility had used a charm to hit one of its members, who was presumed dead.

 

“While we were engaging the mob, David, who was alleged to have used the charm, came out of our facility and was forcibly taken away from our premises by the mob,  which insisted he was a yahoo boy (internet fraudster) trying to use the victim for a money ritual. “Our internal security men couldn’t stop them in spite of their best efforts,” the statement said.

 

Following the recent ban on the activities of Okada riders on some Lagos roads, the riders were said to have pelted policemen with stones and other dangerous items during an enforcement exercise in Ojo Local Goverment Area, LGA.

 

In September 2021, our sister publication, New Telegraph had reported how a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Kazeem Abonde, was killed by mob of motorcycle riders at Ajao Estate area of the state.

 

It was gathered that the senior officer was murdered shortly after he graduated from the Nigerian Law School and had also designed the logo of his law firm, which he planned to set up on retirement, which was said to be months away.

 

We are set for backlash

 

In an interview aired by Channels TV recently, Lagos State Commissioner of Information, Gbenga Omotosho, explained that the state government was ready for the possible backlash of the ban. His words: “Well, before Mr. Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, made the pronouncements he made, you could see from the footage that you showed that he had a meeting with all policemen; the DPOs, the Area Commanders, the Commissioner of Police.

 

So, it was very well planned and strategic because we expected that kind of backlash that you saw. “But let me just assure you that it is something the Law Enforcement Agents are used to.

 

So, they were not bothered in any way and we were not bothered because we knew there was going to be some resistance. People like a kind of laissez-faire situation where you can do whatever you like at any point in time. And if the Law Enforcement Agencies and the Government should come out to say – enough of this; we don’t want this in Lagos; this is not the kind of thing that we want in Lagos.

 

“Naturally, human beings would resist. Human beings resist change; they don’t want something that would make them go away from their old ways. And so, the kind of things that we saw yesterday was not unexpected; it is not new and it is not something that the Law Enforcement Agencies cannot cope with.” On whether Okada riders can still operate on highways before June 1, Omotosho said”: First, there is a history to this.

 

There is a law that states that so and so motorcycles cannot operate on highways, major roads, and on bridges. So, the Law is still there; it has not been removed. When we made the pronouncements, when the Governor made the pronouncements about two years ago, he has not reversed it.

 

So, it still stands. So, if today, like what happened yesterday, the enforcement that you saw is not new and it is going to continue. The June 1st deadline stands but that will not stop the enforcement at all.”

 

Not the first ban

 

Before the commencement of the enforcement of the ban placed on the operations of Okada riders on June 1,the state government had pronounced a ban on a number of occasions.

 

Explaining why the last ban failed, Omotosho said: “We all knew what happened when that first pronouncement was made.

 

It was well enforced and many of these people riding bikes were already leaving Lagos out of their own volition. Unfortunately, nobody thought at that time that COVID-19 would come upon us and when COVID-19 came, the enforcement got weakened and we couldn’t enforce the restrictions the way we ought to have done.”

 

A history of bans on commercial motorcyclists 2006

 

In 2005, the Bola Tinubu administration had threatened to ban the activities of Okada riders, stating that their “destructive tendencies in the face of slightest provocation as well as the environmental nuisance they constitute can no longer be tolerated.” However, in 2006, the Tinubu administration placed a restriction on the operating hours of Okada riders, banning them from operating between 7 pm and 6 am.

2012

In 2012, the Babatunde Fashola administration placed a ban on Okada activities in some parts of Ikeja. Specifically, Fashola barred Okada riders from plying 475 routes, stating  reasons ranging from avoidable injuries to deaths caused by riders. Some of the areas included Bank Anthony Way, Isaac John Street, Opebi Link Bridge, Adekunle Fajuyi Way, Acme Road, Alausa, Oregun, Simbiat Abiola Way, among others.

2017

In 2017, the Akinwunmi Ambode administration, announced another ban on the activities of motocycle and tricycle riders, listing hundreds of affected routes. 2020 The Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration had directed the enforcement of the ban on operations of Okada riders and tricycle riders in February 2020 in six local government areas, nine local council development areas.

 

NIS must step up actions along borderlines -Arewa Community

Expressing support for all measures taken by the Lagos State Government in its efforts towards protecting the lives and property of all Lagosians, the Lagos Arewa Community had in a statement condemned the activities of all criminal elements who, according to it, are mostly foreigners from Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon and other neighbouring countries that have infiltrated the ranks of those genuine riders.

 

Speaking through the Secretary-General of Lagos State Arewa Community (LASACOMM), Alhaji Musa Saleh, the body called on the Nigeria Immigration Service(NIS) to step up its actions along the borderline in checking the influx of those foreign elements coming into the country without genuine intention. The statement read in part: “We support all measures taken by the Lagos State Government in its efforts towards protecting the lives and property of all Lagosians.

 

We condemn in totality the activities of all  criminal elements who are mostly foreigners from Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon and other neighbouring countries, who have infiltrated the ranks of those genuine riders and thereby perpetrating all forms of crime in Lagos State and are constituting serious threats to the lives and property of Lagosians.

 

“We are calling on the Security Agencies to identify and arrest all those criminal elements masquerading as Okada riders. We also task the Nigeria Immigration Service to step up its actions along the borderline in checking the influx of those foreign elements coming into the country without genuine intention.

 

“We are calling on all well-meaning Arewa Community members to comply with our common resolve and avoid the local governments of Apapa, Surulere, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Etiosa and Ikeja.

 

“We will work with the Lagos State Government and the Association of Arewa Okada Riders towards the implementation of extant rules and documentation of all riders in all local governments of Lagos State.

 

We must have adequate data on everyone. We call on the Lagos State Government to be vigilant and take proper punitive measures on bad eggs within the security agencies.”

 

We are ready for influx of Lagos Okada riders – Ogun

 

Police In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, the Spokesman of Ogun State Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, explained that plans had been perfected to check whatever excesses that may accompany the ban on Okada operations in Lagos, owing to its proximity to Ogun State.

 

“We are aware of it and we are not oblivious of the fact that a ban has been placed on the operations of Okada riders in Lagos. We are very much prepared for the possible security implications for Ogun State.

 

And we’ve been taking series of measures to check that. One of these measures is the on-going registration exercise. Every Okada man in Ogun State must have his name in our database. Each registered person also gets a code number.

 

So, if they commit any crime, we just check our database and get them arrested. “Once a new person comes, they have a particular place where they operate. The chairman of the Okada riders association must ensure they get registered. We have their names and we capture them biometrically. So, we don’t have any problem arresting and prosecuting anyone that commits a crime.”

 

Ban without human face may raise crime rate -Security

 

Expert For a security expert, Dickson Osagie, the ban on the operations of thousands Okada riders will only worsen the security situation in Lagos. “Well, for me, I think the security implications will be very high because most of these guys will start getting employment from the criminal industry. We are just good at responsive mechanisms.

 

Before you take them out of our roads, did you ask each of them to bring their bikes and pay them four times the value of their bikes? You have simply denied them their means of daily earnings by telling them to find another means of income without providing alternatives.

 

To be very honest, I think the crime rate will be very high. Lagos State is a state making a lot of billions and we don’t know where the money is going. We have bad roads everywhere. Most of these businessmen in Apapa, Oshodi mount bikes around. They just want to get to their destinations quickly.

 

Even though some of these bike men use their motorcycles to commit crimes, majority of them want to earn a living. They don’t want to commit crime. A jobless citizen is a potential threat to the state and the Federal Government. If the state government is taking out these Okada riders from our roads, they should be ready for more potential criminals to come on board and they should be ready to manage it with speed and momentum,” he told Sunday Telegraph.

 

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