The Okada Menace

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Godbless Eduviere writes that commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as ‘okada’, especially in Lagos, are taking the law into their hands with their reckless driving and fragrant disregard for traffic rules

It was on a Monday, April 11, 2016 at about 11:34am. The weather was hot, very hot. Yet streams of people bustled around at Waterside Junction, at the Olodi Apapa area of Lagos State as they strived to eke a living. Thus, with the crowd, it was a cacophony of noises from traders calling for prospective customers, to commercial motorcycles known as okada in local parlance, blazing past recklessly.
Obviously, okada accident on regular basis is one prevalence case that civilians and even the Nigeria Government have tackled over the years and there hasn’t been any success in taming the nuisance they constitute to the society.
Okada, as some people may say, is a stubborn and aggressive machine. It succeeds where other vehicle fails and rides through narrow roads where other vehicles cannot. This probably, is the reason why lots of people patronise it to convey them to their destinations.
Many usually say that the characteristic of okada as a machine has faded into its riders that they even now act like it. In order to meet up with life, riders tend to be very stubborn as their motorcycles, aggressive as its sounds, and brave as to risk their lives over nothing.
It was this recklessness that informed the decision by the then Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, to place a ban on them. This was also because of the series of crime and accidents that had occurred in the past.
In the past, countless number of crimes of various kinds and accidents have resulted from certain Okada drivers in Nigeria. Several armed robbery cases are carried out with Okada riders.
There’s no limit to the havoc tastes that this so called “bitter sweet” call okada have caused Nigerians. Thus, it was on this note, that the interest of its riders and passengers were properly checked.
Sometimes during the Fashola Government, a ban was placed on it but the interests of the masses seems to be otherwise as it’s a faster means to convey passengers to their various destinations.
Earlier on, a lady was knocked down by a motorcyclist in front of the a new generation bank located at Waterside junction, Apapa. The victim who identified herself as Mrs. Titilayo Lawal said “Bikers are too stubborn”.
“I was on my way from the house where I went to pick up my daughter’s shoe to give to her when all of a sudden I heard voices of people. I turned to look what was going on, it was the police chasing okada from parking at the Waterside junction as its too crowded. Seeing the race of the riders, I tried to run for my dear life, but unfortunately for me, an okada man knocked me down,” Mrs. Titilayo said.
Citizens, whose lives have somehow been affected by this “bitter sweet” means of transport commends the efforts of Government toward these reckless and aggressive riders of okada.
A victim of okada accident, who preferred to remain anonymous, told THISDAY how he almost lost his life sometime last year. According to him, he said the accident occurred between the Barracks and National Stadium In Surulere. “They are very reckless riders and if you must patronise them, then you must have to caution them to drive slowly and carefully. Else you might end up sustaining injuries or even losing your life,” he added.
The aggressiveness and reckless attitude created several dramatic scenes during the ban, last year. There was protest by riders who opposed the ex-Governor’s decision which even led to some violence display on several occasions in Lagos State.
In line with the protests on the interest of the citizens towards the banning of okada in Lagos State, the Ex-Governor, Fashola came up with the idea of kits against accidents.
The kits which include crash helmet meant for okada riders and passengers and also urged bikers to obey the traffic laws in order to ensure the safety of their lives but like the saying goes, “as a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly”.
Since the administration of the current of Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, motorcyclists have soon returned to their old habits of not wearing their crash helmet and undermine the traffic laws.
All over the nation, motorcyclists seem to be flouting the traffic laws placed by the state governments. In Lagos State, the ninth law of Road Safety states, “Riding motorcycle without crash helmet for rider and passenger will attract N20, 000 or three years imprisonment” but approximately, more than 96 per cent of Okada riders in Nigeria don’t use helmet during field work; During field work, most of riders appear to be under-age and this is against the tenth law of Road Safety which states, “Prohibits under-aged from riding a motorcycle and the fine for such offence is N20, 000”.
The casualty rate of Okada accidents has remained high over the years. Motorcyclists are usually seen on high speed and this exposes them and their passengers to great risk, should there be an accident.
Okada riders in Lagos have become a law unto themselves. They ride against traffic and show absolute disrespect for traffic lights, they ride on highways and on streets and attempts to query their excesses which mostly result in a suicide mission, thus earning them the sobriquet ‘lord of the roads’.
The role of unfaithful policemen also encourage the recklessness of okada riders as they collect money from them rather than properly caution them. Most motorcycles do not have numbers plate and possibly no vehicle registration for easy identification in view of the high level of security concerns occasioned by rampant kidnapping and armed robbery.
Recently, interviews with some of Okada riders as to why they do not wear crash helmet posed an interesting comedy scene as some of them were stubborn and aggressive to THISDAY. Some of them threw words of insult and rode away, while others ignored and warned against taking their photographs.
An okada rider, who reluctantly complied, said, they feel very uncomfortable using crash helmet, and another said his is old and requires replacement but their daily income as transporters doesn’t amount to buying new ones.
A problem solved is problem-free. Countless number of lives had been lost for decades. Rather than destinations, reckless okada riders drove many innocent souls to the land of no return. Thus, the journey to “Had I know” land will continue if no drastic action is being taken to reduce the excesses of these riders that posed themselves as “Lord of the Roads.”
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