Beyond the ping-pong blame game, traded over the recent ban placed on the use of both ‘okada’ motorcycles and Keke Napep tricycles, as means of transportation in some selected areas of Lagos State by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu are some pertinent questions begging for urgent answers.
For instance, was the decision taken in the best interest of the good people of Lagos State? Was there due consultation with the relevant stakeholders? Will it facilitate free flow of traffic in the fast exploding megalopolis? Is it in tandem with the master plan of a Greater Lagos that would conform to internationally accepted standards on transportation? And would it impact positively to reduce the increasing incubus of insecurity concerns in the state in particular and Nigeria in general?
As we seek credible answers to these burning questions, we recall that while launching eight locally manufactured speed boats of the state ferry services, Lagferry, in Badore Ferry Terminal, Ajah, Governor Sanwo-Olu recently declared that the ban on commercial motorcycle and tricycle popularly called Okada and Keke Napep in the state would not be reversed. A hard stance, some people would say, but let us take a cue from the reasons adduced.
“The security and safety of citizens are paramount to any government. As a responsible government, we will not fold our arms and allow any security breach in the state. We will continue to ensure the safety of our people on all fronts. There have been reports of serious security breaches and safety concerns in areas where these operators ply. We had to respond to these concerns because of life and safety matters to this government,” Governor Sanwo-Olu reiterated. Well said.
Let it be noted, that the primary purpose of government is to guarantee the security of lives and property as well as to provide for the welfare of the citizens. This is in tandem with Section 14, Sub-section 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Any government- at the federal, state or local government council level – that fails in this fundamental mandate has no moral ground to stay on in political power.
Lest we forget, that within a week of the governor’s order the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Turkur Buratai made a public statement to the effect that he was aware that there are terrorists all over the country, Lagos inclusive! What more does anyone need to give kudos to the governor for taking the decision that comes as an act of courage?
It would be recalled, that Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), the current Minister of Works and Housing and incidentally, the former governor of Lagos State, has advised Lagos residents to give the needed support to the state government. That is precisely so, to see the success of the recent restriction on motorcycles in some local government areas in the state. Agreed, that some discomfort comes along with the enforcement but the security implications of not enforcing the law constitute serious threat to peace in the state.
Fashola should know, given his wealth of experience. He was the governor of the state when the Lagos Road Traffic Law came into effect in 2012. In fact, he did make public the fact that at some point during his wave-making administration, there were attempts by some terrorists to cause havoc in the city. But thank God, that with effective information gathering mechanism such was quickly nipped in the bud. Without an iota of doubt therefore, any full blown devastation to Lagos State affects not only the security, economy and politics of the state but the country, the West African sub-region and Africa as a continent.
Speaking as the guest speaker at the fourth annual public lecture/symposium organised by the United Action for Change in Lagos recently, Fashola noted that motorcycles had been identified as the favourite means of escape by criminals. In his lecture titled, ‘Insecurity: Taking action against organised crime,’ Fashola said “insecurity is a global problem that requires the input of citizens to eradicate.”
As a way forward, he identified peaceful co-existence, intelligence gathering and curbing the menace of drug abuse as some of the solutions.
In retrospect, back in 2018 at a stakeholders’ meeting with some seasoned media practitioners and public affairs analysts, with yours truly in attendance, representatives of the then Governor Akinwunmi Ambode were told point blank that the influx of all manner of questionable characters, fleeing the insurgency from up north constituted serious security implications to the state. Proactive measures were therefore required to stem the tide. This hitherto uncontrolled situation has been worsened by the federal government’s controversial visa-on-arrival policy.
As recently revealed by Dr. Femi Hamzat, the deputy governor, some of the okada riders, apart from constituting themselves into lords of the streets, and causing avoidable accidents have been found to carry knives! And you cannot but ask yourself, “what for?” The answer should be obvious to discerning minds.
On the surface of it, there might not have been extensive consultations with the stakeholders on the ban on okada and keke Napep but the needful action has been taken. And at the right time too. As Fashola rightly noted, motorcycles could not be the preferred choice of transportation in a centre of excellence like Lagos, angling to become a smart city within the next decade.
It is noteworthy that soon after the ban came into effect, the governor directed the Lagos Bus Services Limited(LBSL) to provide 65 buses for some selected routes. These may not be enough, considering the huge population of commuters but this is only a first step.
Similarly, it has launched 14 new ferry boats to strengthen its public transportation system. The state is targeting to lift at least 480,000 passengers daily on the waterways. What more, the new passenger boats are fitted with modern communication gadgets and Wi-Fi deployed in the first phase of the state commercial ferry service, which began on February 4, at Obadore, in Ajah area of the state. Also, new train services will come into serve as alternative to road transportation.
All said, the ban on okada and tricycles has caused hardship on many commuters. But this comes as the price to pay to ensure an enduring peaceful situation in the state. We have to be alive to carry out activities to give meaning to our dreams.
––Ayo Oyoze Baje, Lagos