Most people opt for okada for many reasons. Some do so because it is considered convenient, fast and readily available. But then, the rise in okada usage has been accompanied by increased occurrence of avoidable loss of lives on Nigeria roads.
The excess of okada riders, especially in cities such as Lagos, Ibadan, Onitsha, Kano etc has led to lots of social ills and complications. It is, therefore, in order to sanitise the whole process that the Lagos State government came up with the Traffic Law in 2012. An aspect of the Law restricts the operations of commercial motorcycles operators (okada riders) in 495 designated strategic highways and routes out of a total number of 9,700 available routes within the metropolis.
The enactment of the law restricting okada operation in the state was primarily meant to protect the interest of the public. It was enacted to ensure that people do not ride on okada along routes that could put their lives and those of others in jeopardy.
Without a doubt, the misery and grief that okada has brought into several homes in Lagos, and indeed across the country, is not unknown to many. Available statistics from the Lagos State Management Authority (LASTMA) reveals that not less than 619 people were killed or seriously injured in okada accident between 2015 and 2016.
The breakdown shows that 107 people died while 512 sustained serious injuries. Among the dead were 71 males and 36 females. In 2011 alone, 47 people were killed while 98 others sustained serious injuries from okada accidents. And, between January 2015 and October of same year, the statistics shows that 63 people were killed while 59 sustained serious injuries.
Aside safety issue, there is also a security angle to the whole okada issue. A 2016 police report shows that out of the 30 armed robbery incidents recorded in Lagos between July and September 2016, 22 involved commercial motorcycles. According to the report, it was obvious that out of eight robberies that occurred in July, seven involved the use of okada while it was also used in 10 out of 14 robberies in September and five out of eight robberies in August of same year. Looking at these available facts and figures, there should be no controversy about the fact that the operations of okada in the state need to be regulated for the common good of all.
Besides the agony and grief it brings upon its victims, the lawlessness of okada riders on major highways is quite nauseating thereby making commuting a harrowing experience. Therefore, to guarantee the free-flow of traffic and to ensure that the movement of residents and investors coming into the state is not hindered and put at risk, the enforcement of strict law becomes necessary.
To underscore how unpopular okada has become as a mode of transportation across the country, the Federal Capital Territory and over 15 other states have similarly promulgated laws regulating the activities of okada in their respective states .
The state government is committed to improving public transportation in the state. Ongoing intervention in rehabilitating major roads across the State has brought respite and soccour to road users. The Lagos-Badagry Expressway has come alive as the first phase of the project from Mile 12-Voz was recently commissioned for public use.
Equally, 31 networks of roads were commissioned by Mr. Governor in Ojokoro Local Council Development Authority (LCDA). The reconstruction and upgrading of strategic roads such as the 6.05 kilometer Phase 1 Road from Itamaga to Ewu Elepe town, the 7.8 kilometers Owutu-Agric-Ishawo Road Phase One and Bola Tinubu-Igbogbo-Imota Road in Ikorodu has also begun.
Similarly, the Victoria Island, Lekki Traffic Circulation project on Oniru axis received a major attention while four major junctions in Maryland, Ikotun, Ajah and Allen Avenue are already scheduled to undergo comprehensive improvement with a view to easing traffic. The Agege-Pen Cinema Bridge is also slated for completion by July, just as preliminary plans for the construction of the 4th Mainland Bridge has also gotten to an appreciable level.
Lagosians are enjoined to cooperate with the state government in ensuring the enforcement of the Lagos Traffic Law since it was mainly enacted to protect the people. Self preservation is the responsibility of every human being.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja