Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the recent order by the Lagos State government to commercial motorcycle and tricycle operators to vacate six local governments, nine LCDAs, 10 highways, 40 bridges and flyovers, is part of efforts to return sanity to the state
Eko o ni baje is a popularly sobriquet that often graces the lips of both Yoruba speaking indigenes and non-indigenes, which was made popular by one of its former governors, Babatunde Fashola. Meaning ‘Lagos will not spoil’, the sobriquet has come to mean so much to its residents.
Unsurprisingly, the mega city status of Lagos, though celebrates the greatness of the city, sure comes with its own burden, ranging from cost of living to the chaos on the roads which is often caused by reckless commercial motorcycle riders popularly known as Okada.
Gotten from the defunct Okada Airways, these breed of okada riders have in no small measure contributed to the chaos in the mega city, also touted to be the commercial nerve centre of the nation.
Given the chaos and its resultant negative effects like accidents and deaths, the state government resorted to reinforce the ban by the former administration, which prohibits okada riders from six local governments, nine LCDAs, 10 highways, 40 bridges and flyovers. Also affected by the ban were commercial tricycle riders popularly known as Keke.
The Old Order
It was in 2010 during the administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola, that the government came all out guns blazing in a bid to ban commercial motorcycles.
Given the fight they had at their hands in a bid to enforce the ban, the government went to the drawing board and thus the 2012 Lagos Traffic Law was borne.
This law saw to the prohibition of driving motorcycles on 475 out of 9100 roads in that state. The government of the day had said the need for the ban was because from the statistics compiled in government hospitals, an average of 16 Okada-related deaths were recorded per month and 646 Okada-accident related injuries per month.
A further check on the ban in 2014, it was discovered that the ban prohibiting the riders on expressways and highways had caused a reduction in deaths as less two were recorded per month and less than 100 Okada accident-related injuries too.
This the government deemed as a significant decrease because in two years, not less than 619 people had either been killed or injured in okada-related accidents within the period before the ban.
Defending his stance then, Fashola had said the order became necessary to reduce the rate of death caused by okada in the state, adding that many innocent commuters, including okada riders had lost their limbs due to the recklessness of the operators.
Then came Ambode’s administration. Barely three months after his elections, he had asked commercial motorcyclists to desist from operating on the 475 restricted routes across the state in compliance with Lagos Road Traffic Law, 2012. The then permanent secretary, Ministry of Transportation, had made this disclosure at a news conference in Alausa.
Stressing that the state government would no longer fold its hands and allow the impunity to continue, he said the okada orders are still banned in 475 roads out of the 9,100 roads in the metropolis in accordance with the law.
He said due to the enforcement of the provisions of the 2012 Road Traffic Law, the state witnessed over 81 percent reduction in the number of motorcycles related accidents reported in the state’s public health institutions and over 80 percent reduction in motorcycle related death reported at our public hospitals.
He added that okada-related deaths “have been drastically reduced from 192 per year to a maximum of six per year. We have saved about 465 lives since October 2012 to date.”
“We have also prevented an average of 476 motorcycle related injuries monthly and 5,712 yearly. By implication, we have prevented a total of 14,220 motorcycle accident related injuries since 2012.”
The operators had tagged the move by Ambode’s administration as hypocritical, alleging that the government rode on its back to power, only to turn back and break the very backs that carried it. Following the hullabaloo the ban raised and the attendant crude way it was enforced by the police, the state government relaxed its rules.
Then came Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who seemingly turned a blind eye to the chaos caused by these commercial motorcycles. They had even come out to debunk news that a ban of commercial motorcycles were in the offing.
Asides accusing them of causing accidents in Lagos, the state government also fingered them in the increased crime rate in a city where gridlock slows vehicular movement. Henceforth, they have been banned from Apapa, Lagos Mainland, Surulere, Eti Osa, Lagos Island and Ikeja.
According to the Information Commissioner, Gbenga Omotoso, the flagrant disregard for the Lagos Traffic Laws by Okada and Keke riders has resulted in preventable loss of lives and gridlock.
Reeling out figures which he said are scary he said: “From 2016 to 2019, there were over 10,000 accidents recorded at the general hospitals alone. This number excludes unreported cases and those recorded by other hospitals. The total number of deaths from reported cases is over 600 as at date.
“Also, the rate of crimes aided by Okada and Keke keeps rising. They are also used as getaway means by criminals. Therefore, after consultations with stakeholders, the State Security Council, in compliance with the extant Transport Sector Reform Law 2018, has decided to commence enforcement of the law which bans the operation of Okada and Keke in six Local Government Areas and nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).
What the Law Stipulates
The various laws regulating their operations as contained in Section 3 of the Road Traffic Law stipulates that they desist from plying any of the 475 roads, including highways and bridges restricted for their operations out of the 9, 200 roads in the state. The Law on motorcycle operation in the state is sacrosanct.
Thus, anyone found to have violated the Law will be dealt with in accordance with the Road Traffic Law, RTL 2012 Section 3 Subsection 5 which stipulates that “Any person who fails to comply with any of the provisions of this Section commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to: imprisonment for a term of three (3) years or render community service in accordance with the provisions of Section 347 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State and have his vehicle forfeited to the state.
Contained in Section 3 and Regulation 16 Sub-Section 4, 5 and 6 of the 2012 Road Traffic Law, the guidelines also stipulates the wearing of standard crash helmet with full protection for both rider and passenger.
It also prohibits the carrying of more than one passenger, carrying of children and pregnant women and also operation of okada beyond 8pm in Victoria Island, IKoyi and Ikeja and 10pm in other areas of the state.
It also strongly warns against riding of motorcyles on the kerb, median or road setbacks or in a direction prohibited by law and expects respect for all traffic laws and regulations.
But in response, the operators protested, saying the number of routes prohibited were too many, alleging that the decision was a strategy by the government to totally stop them from operating in the metropolis.
Already, the toll of the ban has begun to tell on Lagosians as they were stranded in different parts of the state. But the state government said palliative measures are in the offing.
According to New Media Aide to the governor, Jubril Gawat, buses will be rolled out for these areas but first thing is that, transportation has to be safe, adding that those affected areas will be adequately covered.
Potential Cash Cow for Police
Meanwhile, Lagosians and operators alike have bemoaned the fact that the ban will become the proverbial cash cow for the police. This was witnessed in the past when such bans enriched the pockets of the police, who arrest and release after being paid.
Police Geared for Enforcement
However, the Lagos State Police Command has begun enforcement already. Expressing readiness to enforce, the command said those who seek to oppose the ban should do so and channel their grievances to the government, as the job of the police is to enforce and not to create policies.