Commuters groan as Lagos govt enforces ban on ‘okada’ operations

MANY commuters in some local governments (LGAs) and local council development areas (LCDAs) in Lagos State where the government has banned the operation of commercial motorcycles were compelled to trek long distances today as the enforcement of the ban took effect.

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had on May 18, 2022 announced a total ban of the operation of commercial motorcycles, widely known as okada, in some local government areas in the state with effect from June 1, 2022.

Sanwo-Olu made the pronouncement at a meeting with all Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and Area Commanders in the state at the Lagos House, Ikeja.


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The LGAs and LCDAs affected by the ban are Ikeja, Surulere, Eti-Osa, Mainland, Lagos Island and Apapa.

“This is the phased banning we are going to be embarking on so that others in the short while will begin to look for something else to do. We are giving the notice now, so you can begin your strategy. From the 1st of June, we want the okadas to be off these major roads,” the governor said.

The ban is coming in the wake of the gruesome murder of a sound engineer, David Imoh, allegedly by commercial motorcyclists in the Lekki axis of the state on May 16, 2022.

According to reports, Imoh and a friend, a saxophonist, were said to be involved in a disagreement over N100 with a commercial motorcyclist and were attacked by the rider’s colleagues, during which they killed Imoh.

Lagos Late Sound Engineer, David Imoh
The late sound engineer, David Imoh

Narrating her ordeal, Grace, the widow of the 37-year-old Imoh, said her husband was wrongly labelled as a ritualist and yahoo boy and was consequently lynched to death.

Today’s Checks

With the population of Lagos State bursting at the seams and the number of commercial buses in the metropolis inadequate to satisfy commuting demands, the ‘okada’ has been a respite. ‘Okada’ operators stream into the state in their tens of thousands, especially from the northern parts of the country, and from countries like Mali, Chad and Niger Republic. But with the service the ‘okada’ riders provide has come disorder, chaos and violence. The riders flout traffic laws brazenly, ride recklessly and often cause accidents, killing innocent victims and maiming many, and attacking motorists and other citizens at the drop of a hat, like they did to Imoh on May 16. Not satisfied with killing him, they burnt his body.

Public outcry over the incident galvanised the Sanwo-Olu administration into reviving the extant Lagos State Transport Reform Law of 2018, although with some modifications. The governor restricted the ban to only six local governments and local council development areas, but maintained the ban of ‘okada’ operations on highways and bridges.

When The ICIR went round today to monitor enforcement of the ban, it observed virtually a total compliance. Certain roads like Mile 12-Ojota, Oshodi-Mile 2, Ojodu-Agege, Ijora-Apapa, Ikeja Along and Yaba-Oyingbo-Idumota, where the operators could always be seen plying in their hundreds, even riding the wrong way (one-way), were empty of the menace. Also some bus stops, like Oyingbo, Ojodu-Berger, Yaba, Ikeja, Mile 2 and Apapa, which ‘okada’ operators always populated in their thousands were desolate of them today.

The ban affected thousands of commuters, whose mode of transportation to their various destinations had been the ‘okada’, as the number of commercial buses and taxis has always been inadequate to satisfy demand. Many commuters, many of them so accustomed to using the ‘okada’, were forced to trekking long distances to their destinations.

A male commuter, Kola Adewole, who works at the Apapa port, told The ICIR his experience. “This ban is a double-edged sword. Yes, okada riders are lawless and can be violent, but they have their very important uses. They invited the ban of their operations; they were becoming uncontrollable.

“The government was caught in a fix: leave them to get wilder or deal with them. I am suffering the agony now, walking to work. When have I done this kind of long trek? But then, what can I do?”

Another female commuter, who gave her name simply as Motunrayo, was  at the Mile 2 bus stop, a terminus notorious for criminal activities by hoodlums on motorcycles, wearing a long face. Her dilemma: how she would get to her destination at Mazamaza, a densely populated community in the Agboju-Amuwo LCDA. As Motunrayo lamented, trekking was like taking the death pill itself; she had never done any long distance trek all her life.

At the Akiode bus stop, located in Ojodu LCDA unaffected by the ban, okada riders operated from within the inner access roads and refused to venture onto the main Omole-Ojodu road for fear of the police. One of them told the ICIR that to the policemen, a bazaar had arrived and the ban would suddenly cover everywhere.

And, truly, at the junction of the main road were armed policemen, whose presence the commercial motorcycles must have seen to be entertaining such a fear.

Okada ban in Lagos
Armed police lurking behind commuters at Akiode Bus Stop. Credit: Joseph Olaoluwa_The_ICIR

At the Berger bus stop, the situation was no different as members of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) were deployed to also support the traffic situation. ‘Okada’ riders plying Akute, a heavily populated town bordering Lagos and Ogun states where many workers working in even far Lagos Island and Victoria Island reside, also stayed far from the major bus stop, their normal terminus.

Many passengers who wanted to patronise them had to walk, at least, five minutes into the inner access streets to take the service. Many others just gave in to trekking long distances to their destinations.

Okada ban in Lagos
Commuters trek longer distances to board bikes going to Akute. Credit: Joseph Olaoluwa_The_ICIR

At Agege, also unaffected by the ban, the commercial motorcyclists were allowed to run their usual operations. But some of them who spoke to The ICIR still expressed their disappointment with the ban, saying the government did not provide alternatives for them to earn livelihoods.

One ‘okada’ rider, Moses Esha, said he and his colleagues had not been able to operate at ease since morning without fear of arrest.

Esha said, “We all knew that they banned motorcycles from the roads, but we are finding our way around it. But now they banned it everywhere now, there is no fixed road that I can work.”

He explained that he usually plied Agege to Berger and Ikeja, but with the ban, those places were out of it for him. He said that he can only operate in places like Berger and Alausa, and that would be achieved only by, he alleged, greasing the palms of law enforcement officers. He has consequently jacked up his fares.

He said, “I wanted to go to Berger, but if a passenger cannot pay N1,500 or N2,000, I am not going anywhere. Even Alausa that we are carrying N300, we have changed the price to N500. That is, two persons will be N1000 instead of N600. I go with fear and one mind.”

His colleague, Arabambi, predicted that there would be a ripple effect of this policy on traders and commuters alike.

“Everybody knows it would affect everyone, including traders and buyers. Many riders are so scared and they did not come out today,” he told The ICIR.

Okada ban in Lagos
Yellow buses take up bike spots at the railway line close to Ikeja Underbridge. Credit: Joseph Olaoluwa_The_ICIR

Finding solutions to the perennial problems

Esha urged the government to provide the ‘okada’ riders with alternatives as a way of moving forward.

He said, “The better way is that there should be another alternative. If you want to ban something, there is no work outside. This is the only thing people use to survive outside, there is no work. If there is work, nobody will be saying that they want to drive a bike. It is not something that is easy. It is not an easy job.”

Meanwhile, the West Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, today raised some arguments about this policy on his LinkedIn page earlier, comparing Nigeria’s situation to Rwanda’s.

In the post, titled, ‘To ban or regulate’, Oyedele wrote, “In Rwanda, okada riders known as Motorbike-Taxis are registered and licensed to operate. They are organised through recognised groups, they obey traffic rules, speed limits, no driving on red light or against traffic. Riders and passengers must wear helmets and now they are going to make them environmentally friendly.”

Today, enforcement officers seized some few commercial motorcycles that they caught disobeying the ban. Sanwo-Olu had met with security operatives to effectively plan how they would enforce the ban.

Defaulting bikes arrested by taskforce.

The governor and the operatives could be expecting a backlash of violence from the riders. After Sanwo-Olu announced the ban last month, ‘okada’ riders confronted the police on May 19, 2022, as the security operatives sought to enforce the already existing law regulating the operation of commercial motorcycle riders.

Okada ban in Lagos
‘Okada’  riders abandoned their once popular spot at Ikeja Underbridge. Credit: Joseph Olaoluwa_The_ICIR

The confrontation degenerated into mayhem in the Iyana Iba axis, causing gridlock on the expressway, from the Ojo barracks and Iyana Iba areas to Okokomaiko. Many commuters were consequently stranded on the expressway.

A viral video obtained on Thursday, May 19, 2022 by The ICIR showed the embittered commercial motorcycle operators fighting the police.

The riders were seen chasing the police with sticks, while the men of the force, although brandishing guns, retreating. Two persons were feared dead, although the Lagos police Command maintained there was no casualty.

The Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Police Command, Superintendent Benjamin Hundeyin, confirming the incident in a telephone interview with The ICIR, said, “Police officers were there to enforce the ban on okada and they impounded over 200 motorcycles. The few motorcycle riders that chose to be confrontational and unruly were arrested. There is no record of casualties, any injured or dead.”

The state government has created an anti-Okada enforcement squad of 600 persons to enforce the ban. The police will be doing the job in conjunction with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos Safety Neighbourhood Corps (LSNC) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

The Lagos State Ferry Services, (LAGFERRY) said it had deployed more boats for operations to cushion the likely attendant effects of the ban on commuters.




     

     

    The Chairman of Lekki Phase 1 Residents’ Association, Mr Yomi Idowu, explained that the ‘okada’ ban had been done thrice. In a recent interview, he urged the residents of the estates in that environment to form their own task forces, and get rid of the ‘okada’ riders in their own domains, and then leave the highways for the government.

    “We are supporting the government. They need to come out, too, and support the government. They cannot just sit down in their own estates while okadas are going up and down, and expect the government to come and chase them out. The government is busy clearing the highways. Let us also do the same and clear them out of our own estates,” Idowu said.

    He expressed some pessimism about Sanwo-Olu sustaining the enforcement, saying everytime the government kicked out the riders, they always came back in higher numbers.

    He said, “If you take 500 out today, 1,000 will come back tomorrow. That is the problem we have here. But we in Lekki Phase 1 have continually kicked them out even before the ban. At times, they will attack us. They will call their men to attack us. They even wounded some of our security men. When they were banned again, they sent a message that they were going to attack Lekki Phase 1 because we were the ones that said the government should ban them. But we are not deterred. We are going to kick them out from here eventually.”

    Experienced Business reporter seeking the truth and upholding justice. Covered capital markets, aviation, maritime, road and rail, as well as economy. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @theminentmuyiwa and on Instagram @Hollumuyiwah.

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