Mixed reactions trail proposed restriction on okada, keke in Lagos
Renewed fervor to enforce the Lagos State Traffic Laws and curtail excesses of okada and tri-cycle riders were well received by stakeholders, but with a call for caution . BENJAMIN ALADE writes.
By their popular mode of transport, you shall know them. Air travel is to North America what efficient rail network is to Europe and Asia. In Africa, it is land travel, with a riot of commercial motorcycles, otherwise called Okada, competing from every inch in one of its most populous mega cities – Lagos.
The economic nerve centre of Nigeria and one of the most chaotic cities in the world, has Okada operators in almost every street. There is no estimate yet on their number, but a conservative approximation puts them in millions!
Worsen by traffic congestion, parlous state of the road networks and high unemployment rate, the okada business and tricycles known as keke have metamorphosed into a fast thriving industry with heavy royalty for all commers – road transport unions, security agencies, local governments, monarchs and chieftains alike.
But worrisome for the State government and its image in the global community, is the utter recklessness in which the modern “twin evil” do their businesses and violate all aspects of the traffic laws. State.
After the last administration did put the enforcement of the Lagos State Traffic Law 2012 on hold, the current government has found new fervor to whip the operators into line. The government has on two occasion threatened to restrict both okada and keke from popular routes in accordance to the traffic laws. But on two occasion, it had backtracked.
Concerned stakeholders, however, said the State government needs not develop cold feet in enforcing the law. The implementation, they advised, has to be systematic, consistent, and in consonance with better alternative and road infrastructure statewide.
Restricted? Not yet!
Statements credited to the State government did announced the restrictions last Friday, saying 2,000 tricycles and motorcycle prohibited area signs had been installed across major highways and bridges in the state.
The Commissioner for Transportation, Frederic Oladeinde, had warned that violators of the policy would be sanctioned.
But the government this Tuesday said it has not taken a definite action on the operations of the okada and tricycles operators.
A statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, stated that contrary to the news in circulation on the list of restricted areas, especially on the social media, purporting that the government has banned okada and Keke Marwa on some routes, the government declared that no such action has been taken.
He described the list of roads making the rounds as false and unofficial, saying it should be disregarded.
The statement was issued after a colony of riders abandoned the day job and took to the streets of Surulere, Mushin, Ojuelegba, Itire and Lawanson on Monday, protesting against the “imaginary” ban.
Better now, than never
A concerned Lagosian, Stephen Bodunrin, said if riders cannot adhere to the rules guiding their safety and protection of others, “let the ban stay”.
Bodunrin said Lagos should not be seen as a no man’s land where impunity thrives, adding that riding okada and NAPEP are not the only solution to poverty alleviation.
“I feel disappointed for graduates riding all in the name of unemployment. Everything should not be blamed on government alone. And some of them have been degraded by the miscreants among them to the extent of joining in their social vices instead of showing good examples.”
He added that the commuters too have their faults; misleading those who are supposed to guide them to safety.
“The unlearned have taken over our polity. How many learned people vote and contest? The politicians have taken advantage of this loophole. You won’t be surprised if the ban will not be lifted in order for the governor to seek reelection,” he said.
The law is sacrosanct
Speaking on the proper way to address transport problem in Lagos, Bodunrin added that everybody should respect the laws of the land, while the law enforcement agents should be up and doing without compromise
An expert on road safety issues, Patrick Adenusi, said in a sane environment, motorcycles and tricycles should not be modes of public transportation, adding that they are gaining grounds in Nigeria because of our bad attitudes on the road.
“Apart from the fact that the road is abnormally used, motorists are not using the road the way they should be. Infusing motorcycles and tricycles into it is increasing risk in the state.
“Prior to 2012, if you visit several government hospitals, you will see a lot of okada accident victims. When the Lagos Traffic law was enacted and enforcement and enlightenment followed, at a particular time in 2013 to 2014, if you go to any general hospital you won’t see any okada accident victim.”
However, he added, “government misbehaves, they lost their guards when election is near. They closed their eyes to the law as if enforcing it is a sin. Assuming it was sustained between 2012 and 2013, I can bet that right now the degree of sanity on our road will be a lot better than it is right now..
“One of the things we had then was people riding against traffic, even tricycles now, they do one-way at will. They don’t stop for traffic light. I will rather ride an okada than tricycles because every crash of the tricycles is extremely deadly.
“The Lagos State government is in line with the action but my concern is the impact it will create. Because the secret of impact is continuity. If you are not going to continue it, don’t even bother starting it.
“There is hardship already in town and then to now introduce this to it, I mean the motorcycles and tricycles killing and nailing people, the person who doesn’t have money to eat is now having an accident. I think the initiative is in line.”
Government should stand by what they have said. No Okada on major roads, restrict them to inner roads and passengers should obey traffic rules.”
He also urged the public to become enforcement agencies, saying no to disobedience of traffic rules.
The Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said desirable as the ban may be, there is need for systematic approach.
Odewumi said wholesale ban on all of the alleged roads would create a critical gap that would create desperate disobedience and enforcement becomes difficult when violations are widespread.
“For instance, If BRT is rolled out on Abule Egba-Oshodi, then you can ban Okada on the corrido,” he said.
The don stressed that there is no magic bullet to tackling the “multifaceted issue”.
“The route, the environment, the machine and the man. The route needs massive palliatives and reconstruction.”
He said the government is in charge of this. It seems the government is doing its best but it must do more to make significant difference.
“The machines or vehicles belong to the individuals. The state of the vehicles that are breaking down and spilling cargoes on the roads creating gridlocks is a factor of economy of the country.”
According to the don, the man is the most difficult factor. “Both as motorists and public, our road indiscipline is legendary. Our values of extreme selfishness, intolerance and ignorance are fully displayed on our roads.
“Law enforcement that can curb traffic indiscipline is facing constant attacks, inadequate equipment and insufficient numbers. The traders display their wares on the roads and the commercial drivers pick and drop passengers’ right at the middle of the roads.
“I believe those guys in charge of Transport in Lagos State know their jobs, but the problem is hydra headed. They need the support of everybody to succeed,” he said.
Senior Director of Operations, Oride, Ridwan Olalere, said: “From a Government’s point of view, we understand why this is a tough time. Just visit hospitals and see the spate of needless critical injuries that could have been avoided if the regular street rider had a full comprehension of what was at stake or that the passengers demanded more safety tools from the rider. And that is why we are dedicated a lot of resources to drive as much rider and passenger education as possible.”
Speaking on the impact of the ban on its operation, he said: “As to the impact of the tough stance on our operations, we are very strong collaborators with Lagos State and have ensured that we’ve kept our operations above board to the level that the State wants even before this stance recently became public. So, we really don’t anticipate that much of an impact on our operations because we already complied even before this became the stance of the Government.
Going forward, he said the firm believe that if we continue to meet the safety and security standards, we have set for ourselves, we would continue to enjoy the utmost support of the State Government.
“We have also collaborated with the other bike hailing platforms to form the Transportation Hailing Alliance of Nigeria (THAN) which is a coalition of operators leveraging technology within the moto-taxi industry in Nigeria. We are committed to safe, reliable and fairly affordable transportation.”
He added: “In the immediate future, we see the opportunity to collaborate with the government in reforming the motorcycle industry altogether. Whether it’s in driver training and retraining, adequate safety tools and awareness, and managing enough identity information on drivers that reduces the threat of security drastically. More importantly is the use of technology that helps the government get more visibility into the operations of the industry as a whole, and helps with better city planning.
“We are all working towards the goal of making transport easily, safely and securely accessible for Lagosians. As an industry, we’re proud to be at the forefront of a sector that is changing exponentially and look forward to being a part of its continued evolution with a guarantee that Lagosians can continue to depend on us to set the pace for safe and secure motorcycle transportation in the state,” he said.
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