Despite ban, Okada riders take over Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, FESTAC
When in 2012, the Lagos State Government enacted a traffic law banning commercial motorcycle operators, popularly known as okada riders, from plying 475 routes across the state, many Lagosians applauded the law.
With the law in place, the number of Okada-related accidents, which has been on the increase before the ban, reduced drastically.
On assumption of office in 2015, Governor Akinwumni Ambode renewed his administration’s commitment in enforcing the law made by his predecessor’s government.
Today, despite the ban, arrests and crushing of some seized motorcycles by the security agents and state government, many Okada riders have resurfaced on some of the restricted roads, including Amuwo-Odofin, FESTAC, Mile 2 and Apapa axis. The fact that these places linked makes it easier for the riders to operate unhindered.
It would be recalled that it was in Apapa area that zonal head of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) Mr. Tajudeen Olatunji Bakare, was stoned to death last year by some miscreants and Okada riders, who were still at large.
The mob action against came barely two weeks after the state government declared renewed full enforcement of the state traffic law on Okada riders plying the restricted roads.
On daily basis, between 9am and 11pm, Okada riders are stationed on the Mile 2 Bridge from where they convey passengers to various destinations. So worrisome is the fact that they have created a mini park on the bridge, causing traffic snarl, despite the presence of LASTMA, Police and FRSC personnel around the area.
Also at the Second Rainbow bus stop, Apple and Fagbemi junctions, Okada riders have turned the service lane to their park, making it difficult for commuters using the service from 4pm till late in the night.
Curiously, majority of the motorcycles bear no plate numbers, while the riders are violent and reckless. Apart from driving against traffic rules always, they are often under “Dutch courage”
Speaking to The Guardian on the development, a resident of Amuwo-Odofin, Mr. Jude Osagwa, said there are more Okada riders in Amuwo-Odofin and FESTAC area than any other part of Lagos.
“The number of Okada riders here is increasing by leaps and bounds and the state government and the security agents appear to be helpless.
“We are worried because the Okada riders here are too many. They are security risk. Many residents have moved out because of their antics.
“Most of the places in Amuwo supposed to be Government Reserved Area (GRA), but these Okada riders don’t care. They enter anywhere, especially when they see that there is no security outpost.
“Many of us are wondering if the Lagos State has relaxed the ban on Okada on some road. They are too many around Okota, FESTAC, Amuwo-Odofin and Apapa. They have taken over Mile 2 Bridge.
“Majority of the riders are very aggressive and reckless,” Osagwa said.
A resident of Ago/Amuwo Link Bridge, Mr. Chukwuka Obi, expressed worry that Okada riders are trying to take over Apple junction roundabout.
“Yes, they are everywhere now. They are trying to turn the Apple junction roundabout to their park. They are too daring. The two places they don’t convey people to in these areas are Police Area Command FESTAC and Police Station, because of the presence of policemen/women. They operate freely in these areas,” Obi said.
Investigations showed that majority of the Okada riders in these areas have no decent accommodation. While some of them are living with their kinsmen working as security guards in the areas, others sleep in the open field in one of the state government-owned schools on 23rd Road FESTAC town.
Some of them wear a single clothe for days, ostensibly without washing, as could be felt by the stench of sweat that hits the passenger.
Now, they have formed a parallel association called Arewa Riders Association (ASA).
One of them, who identified himself as Mohammed Ibn, said: “Why should Police harass or disturb us for riding our motorcycles when government did not buy any for us.
“We are ready for Police and government. Oshodi/Apapa expressway is a federal road. Even FESTAC town is owned by the Federal Government. We always settle the Police; they are our friends.
“We are not afraid of anybody, because we are trying to survive, like every other person. If we stop Okada operation in Apapa, people cannot go there again, because there are no roads.”
In November last year, the media was awash with graphic images of a young woman involved in a terrible accident at Mile 2 on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, who was crushed by a vehicle as she was about to board a commercial motorcycle facing one-way.
Just recently, another okada was involved in a fatal accident at Cele bus stop along the same route. This time, both the rider and the passenger died.
Accidents happen almost daily with these okadas on the same expressway, but that has not deterred these riders. If anything, they are increasing in number by the day and their driving even more reckless.
At Toyota bus-stop during peak traffic hours, numerous okadas wait on the service lane to convey passengers to area such as Mile 2, Second Rainbow (on the expressway), Ikotun, Jakande Gate, Canoe and so on.
The riders usually carry two passengers, facing one way (where necessary).
Friday (surname withheld) is a trader at the popular Ladipo Auto Parts Market at Toyota bus stop. Revealing a huge scar on his leg, he said: “I don’t think I can ever take okada on the express again. I have learnt my lesson. It was God that saved me from that accident; else I might have ended up dead.
“He (the okada rider) passed one way without looking properly and there was a trailer coming. In a bid to avoid the trailer, he swerved sharply in between two cars and I fell from the bike into a gutter where I sustained this injury.
“The okada man was unaffected. You can imagine,” he lamented.
The situation is even worse at Second Rainbow bus stop. Okada riders and tricycles, otherwise known as Keke Napep, have taken over the service lane completely, jostling for title of biggest menace.
One of the riders at Second rainbow, who simply identified himself as Ismail, told The Guardian that they pay money to local governments and other bodies: “So, government knows we are here and we are not doing anything wrong.”
Asked if he was conscious of the dangers associated with riding on one-way road, he replied: “We are driving on one side. We are not disturbing anybody, so don’t come and disturb us.
“Since I have been riding this bike, I have never been involved in any accident and that is because I am careful. It is those young boys there (pointing) that you should be telling that one too.”
He went further to say the ‘young boys’ take illicit drugs and gin, which he said are responsible for their reckless driving, adding that one of them was recently involved in an accident and receiving treatment at a local bone-setter.
A motorist, who gave her name simply as Esther, lamented the menace of the commercial motorcyclists on the axis.
“They drive as if they own the road and one would try to avoid them as much as possible. Yet, they will still come and meet you. They scratch your vehicle and they will begin to fight you, even when they are wrong.
“The worst part is that their fellow okada riders would gather around and start threatening to burn your vehicle for hitting their member. Can you imagine?
“The one that even accepts that he is at fault will not tell you more than abeg ma and if you talk too much, he will begin to tell you he has your type at home.
“I am tired of them. I am calling on the government to do something about them fast and save us, because they have really gotten out of hand.
“At night, thieves start snatching bags, robbing innocent people and escape on these motorcycles. We need urgent help,” she lamented.
A passenger about to board an okada said he takes them because of speed and to avoid traffic.
“The traffic on this route is usually much, especially in the morning when I am going to work and in the evening when I am coming back. Besides, it is almost impossible getting a bus during peak periods, so it is easier to take a bike.
“The road is not good and it is worse whenever it rains, as everywhere becomes impassable.
“I am aware that accidents usually occur, but until the situation improves, there is nothing I can do,” he insisted.
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