Segun James dialogues with Chief Lanre Razak, a member of the Lagos State Governor’s Advisory Council, on the restriction of commercial motorcyclists in certain parts of the state and the rising incidents of threat to individual and national security
Reactions to the ban on commercial motorcyclists (okada) have been mixed, some people are for it while others are against, where do you stand on this matter?
We must have an in-depth research and knowledge of how okada and tricycle became a mode of public transportation in Lagos state and Nigeria. Maybe you want to call it economic recession or nonchalant attitude of those in charge of public transportation that led to the loss of the Lagos State Transport Corporation, which has been there even from time. Suddenly, it stopped operation and some people thought maybe okada will be the substitute or replacement for these bus services and okada was brought in. There are two major things I want us to consider, go to Igbobi, a ward is dedicated to victims of okada crash. The quantum destruction of human beings through okada, the mortality figure through okada, we must consider it. Then there is their involvement in criminality. If you see okada see two men on the okada and plenty of them moving, you know there is trouble somewhere. Is either they are going to rob, forment trouble, or they are going to kidnap. Okada is an easy vehicle for them to use for all these things. When you compare the good side and the bad side, the bad side is higher, so it is good we do away with okada. It is not helping anybody. We are comparing ourselves with advance countries, go to UK, do they use okada? All they do is to improve their public transportation. The train, the road which is the bus, or you go through Uber or water or the public transportation. Our governor has decided to improve on all three. He is working seriously on the train services. He is not just going to face the one they are doing from CMS to Okokomaiko, he is going to extend it to Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry and even Alimosho area. Lagosians are going to enjoy train services. He has launched 24 boats for water transportation. Lagos state has about 820 new buses and they are to release about 500 of these buses on the roads. I think it is better to move around through these means of transportation. He is synchronizing all the three modes of transportation in Lagos State and this will meet the needs of Lagosians. You can’t choose to be lazy. Some people argue that the reason they want okada is that they cannot trek from their house to the busstop; they want okada to come and pick them at the door step, take them away and return them. Lagosians should be told the bitter truth. There is a Yoruba adage that says, “They are saving the small chicken from the hawk and it is saying that they did not allow it to go to the doorway to eat.” Whereas going there will be the end of its life. When you leave your place with okada you can only thank God when you retune home safe. The percentage of hazard in okada riding is so high. Let’s thank the governor for restricting okada from moving in very volatile areas. I know how many times trailer has crushed okada riders, I know how many times danfo has killed okada riders and the passenger on the highway. All they are saying is that, ‘these areas that are very, very prone to accident, don’t go there.’ You can still remain within your neighbourhood and do your okada business. Those saying that there must be crisis if okada does not move, are those benefiting from the sad situation in Lagos. They maybe union members who make a lot of money from the riders. Or the riders themselves who think that they cannot have any other job to do. Must you die in the process of earning your living? Must you earn your living destroying people? Before okada came people were earning their living and they engaged in other things. They should diversify, they should go to other areas of business. They should go to Okobaba and sell wood. They should go elsewhere and do business and make money, rather than insist that except they ride okada, Lagos must collapse. That will not happen. People must be educated on the dangers that okada poses to our individual and collective existence. We must resist these hoodlums.
The Minister of Transportation has cautioned against the ban of okada, saying that there will be a lot of unemployment because of the huge number of okada riders and secondly Lagos State will miss taxes from the riders?
As a Nigerian and as a minister he has his right to express his opinion. I never heard him say so. If he did, maybe he did not consider the quantum destruction of people. I will advise him to visit Igbobi Orthopaedic Hospital and see the situation of both passengers and riders in that hospital. I am sure after seeing them, he will have a change of heart. I will advise him to even go to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), there are wards for the okada riders and their passengers LUTH. He should equally visit these places. Must we earn money from the death, sadness, sorrow, destruction of humanity? Lagosians and Lagos State will be too willing to look for other sources of internally generated revenue to run the affairs of this government rather than insisting that okada must consider. He should come back and look at the pros and cons; the good and the bad and the ugly side of okada riding in Lagos and let him come and speak to Lagosians again. I know people really have in-depth knowledge of happenings in okada business will let him know that okada is not the best for this state or Nigeria.
PDP chieftain, Jimi Agbaje said the ban was abruptly done, although he noted the reasons given for the ban?
The man only crosses rivers on the map. He is not part of the Lagos state government and he doesn’t know how prepared Lagos state government was before taking that decision. I am sure Lagos state government must have been planning the ban of okada for one or two years. If not, they will not have the buses that are readily available. They will not have the ferry services. They have considered a lot of things. Agbaje doesn’t have the statistics at his disposal to utter those words. I just sympathize with politicians who want to become popular by running down an existing government. Agbaje is a Pharmacist of note. I appreciate that. But he is a man who cannot develop his own business more than one shop, since he has been running that pharmacy and he wonders how Lagos state is progressing. How were we able to move from the point of just N600 million internally generated funds per month to over several billions per month without additional hardship on Lagosians? All we did was effective scientific, prudent management of resources to achieve the goals. Agbaje is not competent and he is not a person with what it takes to run public affairs. His comment is very unfortunate.
The Peoples Democratic Party called for Mr. President’s resignation for not being able to secure the life and property of Nigerians. What is the way forward to provide better security for Nigerians?
Well, the issue of security is not meant only for Mr. President with the service chiefs. Every Nigerian should be security conscious. Those threatening the security of this nation are our people. They are Nigerians. They are not masquerades. We know where they live. What I think we should do urgently is to allow state police. Once we have state police, we will be able to handle most of these things. The state police will operate in form of community police. The community knows everyone; where they stay and how they live. It will not be difficult for the community police to identify who stays in the community and how they operate. These criminals live within the community. The National Assembly should quickly allow states to establish their own police. The issue of the governor as the chief security officer is by word of mouth. The state governors know what it takes them to get the commissioner of police it their states to perform duties of security, because they don’t have absolute command over them. Whatever the governor tells the CP in his state is still subject to approval of the IGP, so what are we talking? We have a structure in security that is not functional or effective enough to provide security for this nation. They may grade offences that the state police can will deal with. There are several offences that the national police cannot cope with because of the level of poverty, even among the Nigerian police. I do not know if a Constable earns up to N100000 per month. How can a Constable earn N50,000? It is not going to help. They should improve the standard of living of policemen. They should provide education for their children. They should give them transportation. A lot of welfare packages should be given to the police so that they can be more committed, more patriotic in their service to Nigeria. We appreciate the South-west governors on the Amotekun initiative. They can’t fold their hands and see their people being dealt with by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and ritualists. You can imagine picking a student from the Lagos State University (LASU) to Osun state, only to end up being killed. Who is that governor that will be happy? Don’t we have police in these three states? Don’t we have police in a place where somebody is establishing a church which transforms to a shrine? The structure of the Nigerian police today is not strong enough. It is not adequately providing enough to meet 50% of the security needs of Nigerians.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo has condemned the stance of the President that Boko Haram kills more Muslims than Christians. He insists that as Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, he has a duty to protect all Nigerians; whether Muslim or Christian
Is it not laughable, the President is trying to explain certain things and he used that analogy, when he is a Muslim and they are saying Boko Haram are concentrating on Christians. From all records, which are not available to Adebanjo, on the number of people killed and the religion they belong to. He was saying what he knows. He was not trivializing the matter and we don’t have to input religious bias into this serious matter, we are all Nigerians. Boko Haram doesn’t know Christian or Muslim. They just want to cause disaster, disaffection, destruction and destabilize the country. We all know this. In the area where they operate, the percentage of Muslims are far larger than Christians. You don’t want to say in Borno that the Christian population is more than Muslims. You don’t want to say that in Yobe, the Christian population is larger than that of the Muslim. You don’t want to say in Kano and Kaduna Christians are larger than the Muslims. That is not to say that there no Christians in these states. Of course, we have Christians. Boko Haram just goes to the market and destroys people. They don’t target Muslim or Christian and because of the percentage of Muslims in those particular areas, definitely the victims will be more Muslims than Christians. We don’t want to trivialize serious matters. It is true that the President needs to improve the security situation in the country. The primary assignment of any good government is the safety of lives and property. That is noted. What the present government is doing may not be enough but you want to note that what is going on is guerrilla warfare. It is not the normal war where you identify your enemy and you know the area. In this particular case it is better for government not to kill innocent people rather than saying they want to kill Boko Haram in the process and kill more Nigerians who are innocent and don’t know anything about it. We need to be extremely careful and unfortunately the way we handle information is not too good. When the armed forces identify Boko Haram locations, before you try to hit them, Nigerians living in that area that are being protected pass information to them. One critical thing we have to know is communication with telephone is doing a lot of terrible things. They communicate and you don’t know the quantum of networking available to these Boko Haram people. Adebanjo is not an expert on security issues and we don’t have to politicize everything. He talks so that people will hail him. I know that gentleman. I respect him. He is older than me and our culture does not allow some of us to talk ill of elders. I give that respect to him. But in this matter, he is politicking. This should not be a subject of politics. This is life. This is security. When the President resigns, what happens? Did he consider the implication of Mr. President resigning? He resigns and the Vice President takes over. Will we have peace in this country? We will have crisis of unimaginable magnitude if that happens.