Lagos mulls total ban on commercial motorcycles
Dele Ogbodo in Abuja and Anayo Okolie in Lagos
With a staff strength of 317,000 to a total area of 923,768 km2, and a population of 170 million, the Nigeria Police Force lack the numerical strength to effectively secure the country’s geographical space and people, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, has said.
In another development, it was gathered yesterday that in its bid to tackle headlong the security challenges confronting the state, the Lagos State Government was mulling a total ban on operation of commercial motorcycles (popularly called Okada) in the state.

Speaking at the weekend while hosting the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, in his office in Abuja, Arase said, “Our numeric strength is not enough to police the country’s security space. We are just 317,000 officers and there is no way we can be everywhere.”
Arase’s remarks were in response to the request for police protection for telecoms infrastructure.

The NCC boss had decried the willful destruction of telecommunications infrastructure, noting that, “Fibre optics cables are sometimes cut by miscreants, and in the process disrupt communications to huge population centres.”
Dambatta said vandalism of telecommunications infrastructure was a major contributor to poor quality of service in the country, adding that NCC has proposed a bill to the National Assembly on how to safeguard critical telecommunications infrastructure.

He said: “This law will require the Nigerian Police to monitor and protect such critical infrastructure, wherever they are located. While we seek your support for urgent actualisation of this law, we wish to implore you to see to the use of the current provisions of the law to ensure that individuals found to be engaging in such willful destruction of telecom infrastructure are timely obstructed.

Describing the “willful destruction of most of the fibre cables” as a very big challenge, the police chief said, “Just like I told you, we don’t have enough officers to man the security space as it were, the Nigeria Police and NCC can push for the deployment of CCTV cameras in all public places across the country.”
Arase however said the Police was leveraging on the deployment of modern technology to fight crimes.

“Since I came on board as IGP, I have tried to migrate from analogue to digital technology, that is the best way the modern police force can go,” he noted.
The IGP said: “In fighting crime you must be able to put the police on a technological platform that will be able to match the effectiveness and sophistication of criminals, wherever they are.”
He said the police had made some progress in using technological platforms to reduce crime and to check the excesses of its members.

“As you can see from the trends and patterns of crimes in the country, we have been able to set up an information database where we now say that every character clearance, tinted permit and fire alarm licence should be done online as this makes things easy for every Nigerian,” he said.
The Police and NCC have however concluded arrangement to constitute a team within the Force Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to brainstorm on the various telecommunication laws and how to apply them for the prosecution of offenders found contravening the provision of the Criminal Justice Miscellaneous Provisions Act, CAP C39 2004.

Meanwhile, smarting from last week’s clash in the Ketu-Mile 12 area of the state, reportedly caused by a dispute between a commercial motocycle operator and a passerby, which led to loss of lives and properties worth millions of naira, there are strong indications that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode may place a total ban on commercial motorcycles in the state.

THISDAY gathered that since the unfortunate incident which has heightened tension in the state, Governor Ambode has been under intense pressure by stakeholders to check the menace of okada riders and the security threat pose by their activities.

A Lagos Government House source disclosed that the governor may soon approach the State House of Assembly to amend the law that provides for the restriction of okada operations within some routes to a total ban of their operations in the state.

Ambode’s predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had signed the Lagos Road Traffic Law 2012, which restricts okada operations in at least 492 of the 9,200 roads across the metropolis in an effort to reduce the menace and security threats posed by their operations.

“Don’t forget that there is a law on ground that restricts them to certain routes in the state but they have not been adhering to these laws. They find a way to circumvent laws and government has a duty to save innocent lives from being wasted. Most of them drive against traffic both during the day and at night, so the government is weighing the option strongly that the best thing is to ban okada and it is in the interest of the state to do so,” the source said.

The source added: “They are gradually becoming a menace in the state and it is evident in the way they ply restricted routes at any time of the day.

“You are also aware of the recent bloody clash in Ketu-Mile 12 and the increasing threats on lives and properties by terrorists in the country, it has therefore become expedient and imperative for the government to mull this option.”

Noting that Ambode is aware of the flagrant abuse of the extant law by okada riders, coupled with reports of some robbery incidents in recent times perpetrated with the use of motocycles, the source said, “The Governor is seriously considering this move because he feels that a mega city like Lagos cannot harbour Okada. He feels that the Lagos economy and most especially the transport sector cannot be driven by okada”.

It was also gathered that the state government was also considering placing a ban on operators of wheel barrows for security reasons.

“Their actions are at variance with the laws of the state, anyone who wants to do anything should go to the market. Some of them have been seen wheeling their barrow from Ketu to the Island and even to Ikorodu, the government is not comfortable with that and may therefore wield the big stick against them,” the source said.

The governor is however not unaware of the initial social tension that such an outright ban may generate because of the increasing number of those who have taken the operation of commercial motorcycle as a source of living. The source said the governor hopes that the recent inauguration of the N25billion Employment Trust Fund (ETF) and the immediate release of N6.3billion will encourage entrepreneurs and artisans to take advantage of the fund and start up viable businesses rather than operating commercial motorcycles for a living.

“People are no longer interested in trading, they want cheap and fast money and artisans are dumping their trade for okada. Besides, most of these okada riders are not from Nigeria and so are becoming a security threat in the state and he (Ambode) has to move fast to prevent a major catastrophe in the state and the idea is to ban okada on our roads”.