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Lagos State Begins Enforcement On Okada, Tricycle Today

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Okada

*Over 10,000 Accidents, 600 Deaths Recorded In Three Years – Information Commissioner

 ***It’s An Attack On Masses-Bike Rider

***Megacity Should Have Different Means Of Transportation- Gokada Manager

Lukmon Akintola

Lagos

Transportation is an integral aspect of any economy, as the movement of people, goods and services from one place to another is inevitable.

In developing continents like Africa and indeed countries like Nigeria, means of transportation differs depending on the terrain.

Predominant means of transportation in Nigeria include vehicular transportation, train and ferry services. However, the hinterlands are covered by tricycles popular as Keke Napep, and commercial motorcycles also known as Okada.

While the government continues to strive to achieve an ideal transportation system, individuals have set up alternative means of transportation basically as a business.

However, supposed evolution, restructuring all in the name of reforms appears to be doing more harm than good for these businesses, especially as the government has been accused of not caring about the consequences borne by the masses in their bid to achieve desired goals.

This is why a recent ban on Keke NAPEP and Okada in six Local Government Areas (LGAs), nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and 10 major highways across the state with effect from today, Saturday, February 1, has sparked off reactions, as residents of the state who make use of this means of transportation frown at the development.

Attributing the ban to scary casualty figures from accidents on Lagos roads between 2016 and 2019, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso while announcing the decision of the government at the State House in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos on Monday, January 27 said: “After a robust assessment of the debate on what has been widely referred to as the motorcycle (Okada) and tricycle (Keke) menace, the Lagos State Government and the State Security Council have decided that the security and safety of lives of Lagosians are paramount.

 “The figures are scary. 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 of 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).”

Also banning Okada and tricycles from plying 40 bridges and flyovers across the state, Omotoso said the lack of regard for the Lagos Traffic Laws by the Okada and tricycle riders had resulted in preventable loss of lives, adding that their impermissible movements on restricted highways had also contributed to traffic jams. He thus directed security operatives to embark on total enforcement of the state’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 to immediately address the chaos and disorderliness created by illegal operations of Okada and tricycle riders in restricted areas.

Coming barely three years after erstwhile Governor Akinwunmi Ambode placed a ban on Okada on 520 roads, attributing his action to the level of insecurity in the state, members of the public have described the move by the government of Babajide Sanwo-Olu as a wrong one, with some people even describing it as a deliberate attack on the masses who voted in the government.

“We voted them into office, now they are after us. It is the same old story every time a new government is about to come in. They promise heaven on earth but forget the moment they get there. There are no jobs, a lot of people who do this Okada business are graduates, but they have had to settle for this to be able to feed their family, now they want to take it from us. What do they want us to do? We are useful during elections, but afterward, we become filth to them forgetting that it is not everybody that owns a car to use as a means of transportation and fingers are not equal. Some of us even got the Okada on high purchase just to make ends meet, but is that going to be possible with the ban?” Oojor a bike rider in Ajah bust stop told Saturday INDEPENDENT.

 On his part, Akinola Ajana (not real name) who rides a Gokada commercial motorcycle described the ban as one which was not well thought out, adding that it would discourage investors. According to him, the lack of continuity synonymous with politicians is what is happening with this ban.

Explaining Ajana said: “The government of Ambode encouraged investors to come into the state and do business. Since he left, there have been several clampdowns on businesses like ours. Ordinarily, one would expect that companies like ours would be exempted because of the setup, we are organised, registered and with an office, they can go to the office anytime, but nothing like that has happened. Rather it is a ban that they have slapped us with.

“First, it was something about the particular kind of bikes that could be found on highways and the company had to upgrade its motorcycle to 200cc, now they have returned with a new restriction, do they want to kill the business, what happens to the money invested in the business?

“Meanwhile, we still suffer from task force arresting us and touts in different locations collecting money from us. This kind of situation will hardly encourage investors because today, a government makes a policy encouraging businesses and the next days, it is making another one which negates the interest of the same business.”

Indeed the position of Ajana sheds some light on the implication of this decision, but there are other far-reaching consequences like an increase in crime rate resulting from unemployment, while there will be more people left stranded due to shortage of alternative means of transportation. This is explained by Tope Biobaku, a middle-aged civil servant, who said Lagosians should be ready to witness experiences of insecurity and criminality synonymous with Lagos State some years back.

“The truth is that the state government is either knowingly or unknowingly signing the untimely death of many people in the state. An idle person we know is the devil’s workshop. It will now be survival of the fittest, and I see folks doing anything possible to survive,” he said.

The reality of the decision taken by the state government appears unclear to the decision-makers. This is based on the fact that a week before it decided on the ban, it said deliberations with stakeholders in the industry were ongoing only to return with a shocking judgment for both investors and members of the public.

“We have just concluded our routine security meeting, during which the issue of Okada and tricycles was discussed exhaustively. For now, no major decision has been taken on the matter. There are several factors for this development, but the main reason was to reckon with various opinions expressed by stakeholders.

“So many people have made representations to the Government concerning commercial motorcycles and tricycles, including human rights groups, unionists and traders. They came up with many reasonable observations; all their views have been collated and are being considered.

“We feel it will not be good enough for the Government to take a final decision on the matter without considering the opinions of the stakeholders. That would be against the spirit of democracy for which the Sanwo-Olu administration stands,” a statement signed by Omotosho and released before the restriction placed on Okada and tricycles said.

Members of the public are now asking if the consulted stakeholders who ordinarily should include investors and operators in the industry agreed to the government partially shut down their businesses.

There have also been questions about why the government appears to want to cripple the industry when it could have created a reform and organised the sector, while also sensitising commercial motorcycles and tricycle riders on the need to obey the law.

Amidst the ban, some believe that the decision to ban Okada in Lagos State might be politically motivated. These crops have questioned why the companies operating these businesses were given a license of operation by the state government only to turn around and shut them down, forgetting that millions have been invested into the sector.

This position is supported by Idowu Wilson, a community leader who was quick to ask what becomes of the corporate couriers’ motorcycle services and branded FMCG company tricycles when he heard of the ban.

However, the Lagos State Government has stated that nobody has been given a license to run Okada business in Lagos State.

Speaking during an interview on Sunrise Daily, a programme on Channels Television, Omotosho said that the government was trying to regulate commercial motorcyclists so that their excesses can be curtailed.

According to him, “As far as I am concerned, the government has not registered any company to come and be running Okada.

“What the government was trying to look at is how to regulate these people so that their excesses can be curtailed.

“But as far as I know, nobody has been licensed to go and start running Okada because it is unfortunate the rate at which people are being robbed on the roads, the police are worried, everybody is worried.”

Further, Omotosho clarified that the ban did not affect courier services operators who are allowed to ply all routes because they don’t constitute so much danger.

“The guys who are doing courier services, for example, they don’t carry passengers and they don’t constitute so much danger. So, those are allowed.

They have to be above 200cc and you have to have a box behind you that you are doing courier service and you don’t have to carry passengers, you have to be well-kitted and wear your helmet,” he said.

Indeed, just as the consequences of the ban is going to affect individuals, it will also affect transportation and E-commerce companies who use bikes.

 In an earlier conducted interview, Gokada’s Offline Marketing and Partnership Manager, Akinwale Afolabi described the company as a tech company leveraging experiences in logistic to solve the major issue in Lagos State which is traffic.

Afolabi refuted links to Gokada being a transportation company saying:

“For us, we believe that Lagos is a megacity meant to have different means of transportation to make life easier for the people. As it stands today, we have the conventional Yellow Buses, BRT, Lag Bus and a little of ferry. We believe that it is our responsibility to make life easier for Lagosians and that is why we came up with this. We are not a transport company, we are a tech company leveraging on our experience in logistic, e-commerce as well as in other sectors to solve the major problem in Lagos which is transportation.”

Afolabi acknowledged the existence of traffic laws but believes that with consistency and regulation, the government would realise Gokada is not just Okada, but transformation, and a free traffic Lagos idea which is done in partnership with security and traffic agencies such as Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), Federal Road Safety Corps, the police among others. He also revealed that Gokada was at a recent stakeholder meeting held to stop traffic congestion in Lagos State.

Asked if he didn’t consider the fact that Gokada plying restricted roads are committing offence, Akinwale said “It is not the issue of offence. Most of these government regulations are due to people’s yearnings, people’s feedback. We are all the government, we voted them in and our feedback decides the next policies, so it is as a result of vices attached to conventional Okada riders that we have these issues. As time goes on, the government will come to see that what these guys are doing makes sense, people are coming to accept them and they are beginning to change the face of this means of transportation.”

Journalist, Hazeez Balogun agrees with Afolabi, urging Lagos State to borrow a leaf from countries like Malaysia, Singapore and many others where motorcycle taxis have been embraced. “Tens of thousands of men without jobs. I hope Lagos understands the security implications of this. What is wrong with motorcycles as a means of transportation? Is Lagos better than Malaysia and Indonesia, or Argentina that motorcycle taxis (as they are called) are a major transportation means? Any tourist to these countries, talk about how convenient and fast these commercial motorcycles were to move around the city. There are tons of YouTube videos you can watch to confirm this.

 “Instead of an outright ban, why not institutionalise them? Create separate lanes for them as the Benin Republic has done. Register each motorcyclist, train them, monitor them, encourage them to join apps like Gokada, and also encourage more of similar apps. The recent ban will not stop them from operating, it will only increase their fares. Except the governor wants to go and stand by the road himself. And of course, there will be more ‘something’ for LASTMA, and police, if you know what I mean.”

 Indeed, there have been speculations of law enforcement officers taking advantage of the low level of education of Okada and NAPEP riders. It is indeed a common sight to see Okada riders who hardly ply proscribed roads being arrested by police officers all in the name of enforcing the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018.

While reluctant to comment on the new ban on Okada and Tricycle saying that it was too early to react, Lagos State Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Bala Elkana, while speaking with Saturday INDEPENDENT, in an earlier conducted interview, agreed that criminals now use Tricycle for one chance to rob people, adding that undercover patrolmen and ‘stop and search’ strategies are now being used to battle the menace.

 With the ban kicking off today, commuters in Lagos State can get ready for the worst experience as far as transportation to and from their destination is concerned.

 

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