How Okada riders cause disability, promote crime in Lagos (PART 1)

Lagos is Nigeria’s commercial centre. With a population of over 14 million persons, the state has been dogged with the challenges of Okada-related crimes. At different times, the Lagos state government had threatened to ban the use of Okada in the state due to insecurity associated with the operation of motorcycle taxis in the state. In this report, OLANREWAJU OYEDEJI reports about Okada-related crimes in Lagos.

PEDRO could barely talk when he saw this reporter, he sat on a mat with a heavy bandage on his right leg.

 “I do not have the emotional strength to talk,” he told this reporter while wiping tears off his face. 

Pedro was involved in an accident by a hit-and-run dispatch rider.

Before the incident, he worked as a licensing officer at Victoria Island and lived in the Ikola area of Lagos. 

Pedro before Accident
Pedro before Accident

Since the accident occurred, Pedro, described as a hard-working young man by his wife, refused to visit the hospital despite the worsening condition of his legs. Pedro’s wife said her husband has resigned himself to fate and refused to talk to anyone.

pedro's wife
pedro’s wife

The story of Pedro mirrors how motorcycle taxis operators popularly called Okada riders continue to cause misery for the Lagos residents.

With a population of over 14 million persons and due to the problem of traffic congestion in the state, motorcycles became a means to reach many places faster but sometimes at the risk of one’s life.

Pedro after acccident
Pedro after accident

Pedro is not alone. Comfort Olajuwon,60, narrated how she lost the balance of her legs after a motorcycle accident. 

“I went out to buy something and I was hit by a motorcycle, the rider ran away but people around came to my rescue. As you can see, my legs have become worse due to this as I can barely move from one end to the other after the incident,” she said.

Comfort Olajuwon
Comfort Olajuwon

Another victim of Okada operators is Samuel. He was not knocked down by Okada rider. He was instead a victim of robbery perpetrated by Okada riders.

Samuel who owns a three-bedroom flat in Ijaiye area of Lagos state recounted how robbers on motorcycles stormed his house. The robbers carted away money, phones and other valuables.

“It was at night when some young men came to my house, they told me that they know my wife has jewellery and we have other valuables. The armed men took my mother-in-law’s money, my wife’s jewellery and carted away six phones”

Samuel noted that the use of motorcycles helped them escape.

Mr Samuel picture
Mr Samuel

“Before we could call for help, they were gone with the help of their motorcycle,” he recalls.

Another victim, Peter, told this reporter how his bag containing documents and money was snatched by men on Okada.

“I was around Berger when my bag was snatched by men on a motorcycle. It was very horrific because I had several thousands of naira inside the bag, all my documents were gone too. For weeks I could not recover the shock,” he recounted.

Lagosians want regulation Of Okada riders in Lagos, scared of increased crimes

All the respondents, about 150 of them, who spoke to this reporter in different local government areas of Lagos state, want Okada riding to be regulated in the state.

Though they admitted the necessity of Okada as commercial taxis in Lagos, they emphasise that the government need to caution them.

A business owner in Lagos, Chidi, stated that while criminality is a nationwide issue, Lagos has become too worrisome for neglect.

He however stated that despite the trend, the government must be careful not to embolden criminality.

“There is a need to check the issue of criminality using Okada, over-speeding is another thing of worry. Many of them are not trained while some just engage in Okada business for fraudulent purposes, the government must put a stop to these issues. However, if we take Okada off the streets without alternative job creation, there may be a crisis and more criminals out there. Many of the motorcycle riders are graduates, unemployment pushed them to do the business,” Chidi said.

Beatrice Umoh
Beatrice Umoh

Another resident, Beatrice Unoh, while speaking on the issue noted that the state government should allow Okada riders to operate within inner parts of the state but not on the expressways. She also urged the government to ensure mechanisms that would not allow further criminalities, if Okada riders are asked to stay off from operation.

Lack of data on motorcycle riders emboldening criminals?

Some residents also urged the government to commence a registration portal that would ensure tracking of Motorcycle owners in the state. They lamented that when persons use motorcycles to commit crimes, they get away with it due to the absence of an adequate database.

James Oke, a resident stated that infiltration of the state by Okada riders from neighbouring countries has led to more criminality and overstretched the state.

“The truth is that we have many foreigners in Lagos doing Okada business but because there is no adequate registration process, they get away with it when they commit crimes. The state does not generally know all those doing Okada business” he opined.

Sunday Olaoye, a business owner said that while the need to ensure that there is more security in the state, if the Okada riders will be allowed to remain on the streets of Lagos and taken away from the expressway, they must be captured by data. He noted that with the National identification number, such can be made possible, so as to ensure that when a motorcycle is used to commit a crime, it can be traced to the owner.

Checks, however, reveal that the Lagos state government has a provision for licensing Okada riders in Lagos state. The state also requires dispatch riders to register so as to enable them to run businesses in the state. The registration process is done at the local government and state levels. 

There is also the Lagos state motor vehicle administration agency responsible for issuing the rider’s card for dispatch riders. Another provision states that the registration can be done through motorcycle dealers for new motorcycles.

The Lagos state government also has made it compulsory to get insurance cover for ‘Okada riders’ according to official provisions seen.

What Lagos State transport policies say on motorcycles

 According to the Lagos state road policy 2012 official gazette, nobody shall operate a motorcycle or tricycle without a rider’s card issued by the Lagos state motor vehicle administration.

The law also stated that nobody shall operate a motorcycle without a standard crash helmet. The punishment for going against the law was put at three years imprisonment or rendering community service. The law further stated in schedule one number 22 that operating a vehicle in a restricted area will lead to a N30,000 fine and impounding the motorcycle, the same goes for riding vehicles against traffic.

The law listed 41 bridges and 11 major highways as forbidden for the operation of motorcycles. The Lagos Transport sector reform bill document in 2018 retained the need for rider’s card, crash helmet for both motorcycle rider and passenger.

How laws on registration, traffic enforced in Lagos?

During the time of this report, this reporter observed that motorcycle riders frequently flouted the traffic laws; going against one way and speeding without restraint. 

A motorcycle rider told this reporter that security agents enable disobedience.

“If I pass one way like this now, all I have to do is settle my way out,” he told this reporter.

Notwithstanding, there have been efforts to enforce the traffic laws in Lagos state, efforts that sometimes lead to death. In 2021, an Okada rider was reportedly chased to death by the state’s task force.

In another instance, three persons were reported to have lost their lives after an attempt to arrest Okada riders that allegedly violated traffic laws. Many persons including policemen and riders suffered varying degrees of injuries.

Lagos respondent Bilikisu
Lagos respondent Bilikisu

In September, the Lagos state government began a new consultation on how to end the Okada menace in the state.

The spokesperson for the state task force, Femi Malik, disclosed that 5,200 motorcycles were impounded in the state in six months while agitating for a statewide ban of Okada.

Akerele Oseni, Legal head of the Lagos Traffic Management Authority (LATSMA), told this reporter that Motorcycle riders who flout the laws of the state are tried through mobile courts.

He also stated that there are registration procedures that allow tracking of riders in the state.

“We track them through different means because when registering, they register with their phone number, residential details and other details. If anyone commits a crime, we have a way of using the details to track them. We have done this successfully and will continue to do so” Akerele said.

He further restated the commitment of the agency to ensuring respect for provisions of road, registration and traffic laws.

Attempts to reach the police spokesperson of Lagos state, Adekunle Ajisebutu, on what the police is doing to arrest criminals leveraging on motorcycles proved abortive.

Expert proffers solutions

    A security expert, Timothy Avele charged the police to bring the violators to book.

    “Crime increase anywhere when people have the inclination to do so and get away with it because security agencies cannot deter these crimes from happening nor has the capacity to apprehend those that commit these crimes.” 

    He noted that agencies, especially the police, should deploy intelligence-based policing while recommending stringent regulations, monitoring and surveillance of motorcycle riders. He noted that a partnership with transport workers unions is necessary to make this work.

    This report is produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). 

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    1. Motor cycling as a commercial venture has been banned in the state of Lagos Nigeria although millions of riders are uncompliant especially in the mainland and uncapitalized cities unlike Ikeja etc. The riders are arrogant hurting and killing in their dealing with the citizens of the state.


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