*As Government Announces 86% Reduction in Crime Rate, 63.7% Decline in Okada-Related Accidents
Lagosians are calling on the State government to ban commercial motorcycles.
At a stakeholders’ forum convened to review the ban on commercial motorcycles, popularly called ‘okada’, in six local government areas, participants unanimously called for a total ban on the mode of transportation.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy Mr. Gbenga Omotoso explained that Governor Sanwo-Olu mandated a committee to engage stakeholders and review the ban, which took effect on June 1, 2022.
The Commissioner said, “After seeing the results of the ban in the six local government areas, many Lagosians have been calling on the government to expand the ban. Some say it should be statewide, considering the present anxiety over security. Mr. Governor has mandated us to have this meeting to discuss what next”.
Calling on stakeholders to present sincere opinions and recommendations that would aid the government’s decision, Omotoso noted that data available after the ban indicated an improvement in security, a reduction in motorcycle accidents and lower admission of ‘ókada’ victims in hospitals.
Commissioner for Transportation Dr. Frederic Oladeinde said an anti-okada squad was inaugurated to aid the police and task force in enforcing the ban.
The Commissioner said: “In the affected areas within the period under review, available records show that crime and accident rates reduced by 86% and 63.7% while 7,500 motorcycles were impounded and crushed”.
He said the forum was convened “to reignite the State’s commitment to tackling insecurity, crime, non-compliance to safety rules and traffic regulations as well as underground activities perpetuated by non-State actors with the use of Okada”.
Oladeinde gave an assurance that the State Government would consider the views at the forum in taking further decisions on the okada menace.
Kick-starting conversations at the meeting, the moderator and anchor of the popular Journalists’ Hangout on TVC, Mr. Babajide Otitoju, emphasised the need for participants to give candid opinions that would help Governor Sanwo-Olu take the most beneficial decision on okada.
Otitoju gave examples of states that had banned the mode of commercial transportation, saying “When Boko Haram was using okada to kill people, the government had no choice but to ban okada in Kano. If it can happen in Kano, I am convinced a total ban can work in Lagos”.
He cited examples of other States that had banned okada as Akwa Ibom and Enugu.
The Lead Speaker at the forum, Prof. Bamidele Badejo, Dean of the Faculty of Social and Management Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye, traced the emergence of motorcycles as a means of transportation in Lagos to the economic depression in the early eighties.
He, however, noted that the advent of ‘okada’ heralded security and safety challenges, health consequences, confusion on highways and high level of indiscipline and harassment on Lagos roads, among others.
Prof. Badejo insisted that commercial motorcycles must be banned because the trend does not comply with “global best practices for mobility infrastructure development” and its health consequences, such as pollution; smoke emission and, abuse of drugs, among riders, as well as security and safety challenges.
Expressing confidence in the State Government’s transportation plan, Prof. Badejo said that completion of the ongoing rail and road projects as well as opening of the waterways would remove the need for okada in any part of Lagos.
The panelists – Mr. Sanya Oni, a representative of the media; Nelson Ekujumi, an activist and representative of Civil Society Organisations; Chairman of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (Lagos State Chapter), Comrade Olalekan Sulaimon-Oba, and Alhaji Azeez Amusat, Chairman Lagos State Community Advisory Council – were unanimous in their recommendations that the Government should ban okada across all Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas.
The youth representative stated that his constituency is hundred percent in support of a “total ban” and was emphatic that the government should ensure that all Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas stop the issuance of riders’ permits to commercial motorcyclists.
Sulaimon-Oba went on: “Politicians should stop empowering youths with okada in Lagos State. The government should also not relax the ban due to approaching elections”.
Also at the event were security chiefs, traditional rulers and religious leaders, who were all in support of a ban on commercial motorcycles operating in Lagos.
Oba Segun Ajasa of Onigbongbo said; “Okada should be banned all over. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. It is used to steal and snatch phones. Okada is not a good thing because the riders are looking for fast money. That is our experience”.
The Grand Chief Imam of Ikorodu Division, Fadheelat Sheikh Seifudeen A. A. Olowo-Oribi, applauded Governor Sanwo-Olu for providing various empowerment programmes for youths.
Sheikh Olowo-Oribi noted that many okada riders have arms and ammunition in their possession.
“Tell Mr. Governor to make the ban total across local governments to ensure safety all over the State”, he said.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation Mr. Sola Giwa urged all participants to return to their communities and “walk the talk” on decisions taken at the stakeholder engagement.
The event was attended also by members of the State Executive Council, including Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources Mr. Tunji Bello and the Commissioner for Housing, Mr. Moruf Akinderu-Fatai.
Also present were the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Kamal Olowosago, the Executive Assistant to the Governor on New Media and Public Relations, Mr. Olusegun Fafore, and other top functionaries of the State Government.