• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Lagos ban on motorcycle and the river between

Recently, the Lagos State government extended its ban on the operations of commercial motorcycles, popularly called Okada. Four more local governments including Kosofe, Oshodi-Isolo, Somolu and Mushin and five local council development areas (LCDAs) were added to the earlier six.

This action came about three months after a total ban on Okada in six LGAs, comprising Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Surulere, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, and Apapa, as well as LCDAs under them. So far, Okada has been banned in 25 out of 57 councils in the state.

Though Lagos is not new to the ban on Okada operations, the latest action seems to show that the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration has resolved to end what many believe is a huge menace of Okada and their overly desperate operators.

Poor road infrastructure and lack of adequate multi-modal and functional transport system in the state encourage citizens to patronise Okada riders even against extant laws

Okada ban in Lagos dates back to the days of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor of the state. Tinubu, preparatory to his exit as governor, banned Okada operations in 2007 as a parting gift to Lagosians.

This was followed by another ban in March 2012 by Babatunde Fashola who succeeded Tinubu as governor. After Fashola, the next governor, Akinwunmi Ambode banned Okada in the state in 2017.

Besides accidents, fatalities and armed robbery cases, security issues are top reasons frequently given by the government for the banning of Okada operations in the state. Frederic Oladehinde, the state’s commissioner for transportation, explained that the recent extension of the ban was to sustain the gains so far recorded from the first phase of the ban.

According to Oladehinde, “Okada accidents and fatalities have reduced by 63.7 percent across the 15 local councils where the first phase of the ban has been enforced; this has significantly brought down the rate of crime associated with motorcycles.”

We commend the courage and political will of both past and present administrations in the state in banning Okada operations which, though with all imperfections, is bringing a semblance of sanity and order in the affected areas of the state.

We, however, see a river between the intent to ban and the will to enforce and achieve compliance. It baffles us along with other concerned Lagosians that with five different levels of Okada bans across four different administrations, Lagos has not been able to achieve reasonable compliance.

Read also: Okada: Lagos extends ban to 4 more LGAs from Sept 1

Though we are not disputing the figure, we are bold to say that Commissioner Oladehinde’s 63.7 percent reduction in accidents and fatalities is just a matter of conjecture. It could be much lower because a visit to hospitals and bone-healing homes across the state tells a different story.

We are nonetheless pleased that the state government is desirous of ending all the negatives that come with Okada operations in the state, but it is not difficult to see or understand why both enforcement and compliance have become difficult, if not impossible.

Governor Sanwo-Olu’s first ban on Okada was in February 2020. This second one came in June 2022. The question we ask is what happened to the first ban and even the ones before him? Again, we are asking, what has changed? What is the assurance that this current ban won’t go the way of others?

The answers, in our view, lie in what we have termed the river between as reflected in the lack of adequate provisions made for the riders. Unarguably, there are bad narratives around commercial motorcycle riding, but we see it as a source of income for the hundreds of riders and their families.

In that sense, it provides some level of employment for these riders which is why placing a ban on the source of income of these riders without plans to have them gainfully engaged, makes it easy for them to stage a come-back once the authorities let down their guards or relax their vigilance.

Poor road infrastructure and lack of adequate multi-modal and functional transport system in the state encourage citizens to patronise Okada riders even against extant laws. Many roads across the state are in very bad shape and can only be navigated using motorcycles.

Even where the roads are fairly good and motorable, traffic congestion also encourages use of Okada to meet official or business engagements. Stories abound of many contracts lost and employment interviews missed on account of gridlock on most roads in the metropolis.

Flooding, which is a seasonal problem, has demonstrably become too difficult a problem for the state government, meaning that during rainy seasons, commercial buses are practically unavailable in most areas, hence, commuters rely on Okada riders to get to their respective destinations.

It is on the strength of the above that we advise the state government to tackle these rivers as a major step to achieving a long-lasting, meaningful and economically viable ban on Okada operations.

Our hearts are gladdened by the ongoing Blue Line and Red Line rail projects in the state which, expectedly, will be completed and put to use in December 2022 and first quarter of 2023, respectively.

We are of the view that the completion of these projects, improvement in roads infrastructure, further development of the state’s water transportation system, and good traffic management system will provide greater impetus and strong moral ground for the Lagos State government to end Okada operations in the state.