Lagos State Govt to fight against impunity of commercial motorcycles, or “okadas,”

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The Lagos State Government has to intensify its indecisive fight against the impunity of commercial motorcycles, or “okadas,” now that it has resumed. The administration of Babajide Sanwo-Olu is determined to uphold its authority, which is in line with the growing concern over the okada’s revival in various districts of Lagos. There must always be strict, ongoing, and uniform enforcement of the law in order to increase public safety, lessen traffic jams, and restore order to the roadways.

Following a hiatus, Oluwaseun Osiyemi, the Commissioner for Transportation, reaffirmed the state’s ban on okada activities in 10 Local Government Areas and 15 Local Council Development Areas.

He warned residents to refrain from using them on restricted routes like bridges and highways as penalties, including arrest and imprisonment of both rider and passenger and impounding and crushing of the motorcycle, citing the Transport Sector Reform Law 2018.

Although the ban was initially imposed on six LGAs of Ikeja, Surulere, Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island, and Apapa in April 2022 and extended to 10 LGAs (Kosofe, Oshodi-Isolo, Somolu, and Mushin) in September 2022, okada riders have remained defiant. In a way, politics intruded in the thorough implementation. But this is a good law, which the government must implement fully to rid the state of the okada menace.

The proliferation of okada does not befit the status of Lagos. The riders subvert, sabotage, and violate traffic rules with impunity. They refuse to wear helmets, ply ‘one-way’ wilfully, convey more than one passenger, and traverse highways with speed, thereby exposing their passengers to accidents and fatalities. Okada has become a faster vehicle for armed robbers in their dastardly operations.
In August 2022, Sanwo-Olu stated that Lagos witnessed 550 okada-related accidents monthly, but had achieved a reduction of this to less than 100 cases because of the restrictions. In 2016, there were constant reports of victims of okada accident admitted to the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Igbobi. Apart from the pressure these accidents impose on the weak health infrastructure, the quality and potential of human life are reduced by these reckless riders.

Unlike the Babatunde Fashola administration that fully implemented the ban on okada, his successor, Akinwunmi Ambode unfortunately baulked on it. Sanwo-Olu must not be like that; he must rein in the nuisance to rid strategic areas of the state of the menace and give the state a modern, progressive and aesthetic ambience.

Noticeably, the lawlessness is being aggravated by military and police officers. These officers take undue advantage of their role as state agents to perpetuate and encourage disobedience of law and order by riding on restricted bus lanes and routes. The recent arrest of a soldier on the Badagry Expressway by Sanwo-Olu reinforces this. No one should be allowed to ride roughshod on the sanctity of the state. The top echelon of the military and police must therefore ensure discipline and compliance in their ranks.

However, the menace exposes the shabby roads, poor traffic management, and lack of robust transport alternatives in Lagos. Citizens therefore ride okada to beat the chaotic traffic, and to manoeuvre the pothole-riddled roads. Therefore, the state must improve its road network by revamping existing roads and building new ones.

In collaboration with the private sector, the state government should provide robust alternative transportation services, including small buses, mass transit buses and also deploy efficient traffic managers to ease traffic congestion.

The state must train and incentivise okada riders who desire to morph into drivers of small buses, thereby easing okada out of the roads, retaining the transport workforce and providing sustainable income for them.

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