Interview Politics

Omotosho: Lagos’ll be free from illegal motorcyclists

Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, in this interview on Channels TV, sheds light on the reinvigorated enforcement of the ban on commercial motocycles riders in six local governments areas in the state and plans for the mega city status of the state

 

 

Can you give us inkling into how the government will handle possible backlash of the ban in the first place?

 

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.

 

But if you inform us about the strategy that is being employed, that is your office; Information and Strategy. So, this announcement was made four days ago by the Governor that it would take effect from June 1st. How does that work?

 

Does it mean that as of today, about eleven days from June 1st, the motorcycles can still operate within the areas? 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.

Help us understand why there is a June 1st date when there is a Law that already forbids whatever it is that the government is saying, that the enforcement takes effect from June 1st?

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.

 

So, now that COVID-19 has given us some space, our doctors are complaining that more and more people are coming with (Okadarelated) emergencies. About 1,712 accidents have been recorded in Lagos in the first quarter of this year. Out of this figure, about fortyfive percent, to be precise, 767 of the accidents were caused by Okada.

 

And it is shocking to know that the victims, most of them, at least 54 percent of them, between the ages of 30 to 39, our able-bodied young people, are getting cut down like that, all because they mounted Okada. So, the government felt we should stop it. So, the deadline is for them, like the Governor said, to go and look for something else to do.

 

There are so many things to do in Lagos if you want to stay in Lagos and you want to be law-abiding. You should go and collect your LASRRA card and be an official resident of Lagos and find something to do. Artisans  who left their jobs to mount Okada and ride all over the place should find a reason now to go back to their jobs.

 

Unless we missed it, Ojo Local Government was not named in the list of local governments the Governor mentioned yesterday that would be affected. So, if the timeline is to give the riders an opportunity to find an alternative to their trade, why did the enforcement begin on that axis of Lagos State? That is what I said. The Law has been there. Ojo has highways. All highways and major roads in Lagos and bridges, these guys are not supposed to be found there. So, if the deadline is first like you said, the Law is still there, it has not been repealed.

 

So, the old order is there, it has not been repealed. What Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor, has simply done is to reinforce this order and to give these people an allowance for them to be able to move out and find some other things to do or take their bikes away to some other places. There are about 9,500 roads in Lagos. Now, what we are talking about are less than 500 roads. So, they should have other places to go to.

 

If they go to other places, they will still be breaking the Law in that process, in other places. You have said that regardless, the law covers the whole of Lagos. If you are saying they should leave those five or six LGAs and move to others, are they still breaking the Law?

 

The Law covers all highways, major roads, and bridges

 

Regardless of the local government?

 

Regardless.

 

So, they actually shouldn’t be operating anywhere?

They can operate on inner roads in all the Local Governments that were not mentioned. But the LGs that were mentioned should not be seen at all. They should not be seen, they should not be heard, they should not be felt.

 

What about the highways in other LGs that were not mentioned?

 

The highways in all these LGs, they must not be seen there. The bridges in all those LGs, they must not be seen there.

 

So, what if another situation arises where there is tension? How can the police then deal with it, if they were unable to rein in the Okada riders in Ojo Local Government?

It is very nice that Lagosians saw what happened yesterday. Some perceptive Lagosians have told the government that these guys are violent, that these guys are not the kind of people you can handle with kids’ gloves and it is not just a matter of advocacy. It is a matter of enforcement and not just enforcement, thorough enforcement.

 

And that was what you saw yesterday that the police went there to do. At the end of the day, they were subdued. Once you have the law backing you, you do not have any weakness to go and do your enforcement. Whatever they may have done yesterday, the police tried to use minimal force but if their lives are endangered, they could go beyond that.

 

It is their trade; it is their job. They know it. So, I will not want to speak for the police on how to enforce this. All I know is that they have the backing of Mr. Governor to enforce this law and they are going to do it.

 

What happened to tear gas, what happened to arms? What happened to, being able to shoot in the air to disperse Okada riders?

 

What I am saying is that these enforcement officers are professionals. They know when to use teargas, when to use the baton, when to use all of the equipment they have. I will not want to talk about the way they do their operations. They are in the best position to talk about that.

 

All of the things they need to strengthen their enforcement, the government will give them. The Governor gave the assurance during a meeting with them. This is the first time in a long time you will find a governor meeting DPOs, Area Commanders, and Commissioner of Police.

 

The officers are ready to do their job. Do you have an idea of how many motorcycles will be affected by this? The problem is that they are not registered and if you look at motorcycle operators in Lagos, most of them don’t have number plates.

 

They have people that collect taxes from them? The Unions say they cannot account for many of these people. These are people whose bikes don’t have number plates. Imagine 50,000 motorcyclists are taken off the street, what do you think will happen to crime rate and security in these areas? All of these reasons were put on the table before Mr. Governor made the pronouncement. What will they be doing? What are they going to be eating? Will the crime rate not go up?

 

But the situation in which we have found ourselves is, ‘if you cannot bend it, end it’ and see a way everybody can have a win-win situation, we have to end it, and the government decided that we have to end it. So, if we are going into inner areas, Lagosians are prepared, and Law enforcement agencies are prepared.

 

You find that workers and commuters find it hard to meet their targets because of the heavy presence of articulated vehicles; they resort to the use of Okada. How soon will this place receive the attention of the Lagos State Government?

 

 

As I speak with you about old Ojo road, if the contractors are not there, they are preparing to go there. Government is going to work on Old Ojo road and that corridor has gotten the attention of the Lagos State Government, with the provision of more BRT buses. And don’t forget that it is where we have the Lagos- Badagry Expressway, which we are working on seriously, and part of the places that the rail that is coming will be going to.

 

The Marina, Okokomaiko, Mile 2 Blue Line will pass through that place. Everything that will make commuting a very sweet experience on that corridor is being done. The road is part of the priority roads by the State government.

 

As the Last Mile mode of transportation for many people, did the government factor in that concern? With the ban of Okada in Lagos, is the government ready for the backlash? I do not know the kind of things that you are taking as the backlash.

 

You talk about people having Okada as the last mile means of commuting, that drops them at their bus stops. The simple question is – Lagos State is the smallest State in Nigeria with the highest concentration of people, the highest concentration of black people in the world. I came into Lagos when I was really young, I never experienced Okada as a means of transportation

 

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