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As ban on okada kicks off in Lagos

The foregoing was the lamentations of one Salisu Mohammed, an okada operators who plies Ikeja in the central part of Lagos and who is also…

The foregoing was the lamentations of one Salisu Mohammed, an okada operators who plies Ikeja in the central part of Lagos and who is also one of the victims of the onslaught of the Lagos State government on commercial  motorcycle operators which took effect from September 1,2010. Some of the colleagues of Salisu jettisoned lamentations by confronting the law enforcement agents with clubs and missiles.

At Bariga and Shomolu on Thursday, it was an open battle between okada riders and policemen over the non-use of helmets. The okada operators, in support of some of their colleagues whose motorcycles were used for violating the rules decided to let hell loose.

In the ensuing melee some okada operators sustained  injuries while some of their motorcycles were also confiscated The harvest seizure of motorcycles  also spread to other parts of the state like Orile,Lagos Island, Mushin, Ikorodu and environs as the government began implementing new regulations on the operations of commercial motorcyclists .

The Lagos State Government’s regulations had barred okada riders from the entire Lagos Central Business District (CBD) area on Lagos Island; Ozumba Mbadiwe (from Bonny Camp – First Roundabout) on Victoria Island; Awolowo Road, Bourdillion Road, Gerrard Avenue, Alexander Road, Osborne Road, Alfred Rewane Road, in Ikoyi; and CMS (Outer Marina).

They were also forbidden from plying the entire stretch of Funsho Williams Avenue – Eko Bridge – Apongbon; Murtala Muhammed Way, from Jibowu – Yaba – Oyingbo – Iddo – Idumota; Jibowu to Ikorodu town roundabout; Third Mainland Bridge (from the old toll gate to Obalende); Apapa-Oshodi Expressway (excluding the service lanes); the network of roads around Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa; Awolowo Way; Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way – Maryland Junction.

Other areas included the stretch from Moshalashi – Oshodi – Abule Egba – Ogun State boundary and all bridges in Lagos. This is in addition to regulation forbidding okada riders from carrying pregnant women and children.

At the first day of the exercise, a combined team of armed security personnel were deployed to strategic areas of the state like Ojuelegba, Ketu, Lagos Island and Ikorodu Road to ensure compliance with the directive as early as 6:30 am

These law enforcement agents, included personnel from the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Kick Against Indiscipline, Federal Road Safety Commission as well as the police.

Our correspondent gathered that some okada operators disobeyed the directive to stay off restricted areas  as well as  the use of helmets. Others plied the expressways.

An okada operator noticed at Ojuelegba bridge seen on the ground 8am said he left his home very early, to avoid being arrested by law enforcement agents.

However, many defaulters lost their motorcycles to the law enforcement agents while some others escaped. The situation affected public transport around the metropolis, leaving many people stranded at bus shelters. Many persons had to trek to Bonny Camp from CMS before they could get buses.

Some stranded passengers expressed regret over the development and described the ban as ill conceived and anti-people. “I wonder why Lagos with very poor roads and transport networks will ban okada operations,” said Mr Tunde Lawson, a businessman.

“Agreed, the okada operators may be unruly sometimes but they make movement a lot easier,” he said, adding that many people met deadlines in Lagos due to the assistance of okada.

Another commuter, Christopher Anani, said most times, even if he was driving, he would park at some point to use okada to beat traffic and make appointments, while tasking the government to regulate rather than ban the okada.

Mary Akpovi, a banker, said she had to trek long distances on Victoria Island as she couldn’t afford a drop, (chartered taxi).

According to her, “Buses don’t ply all routes in Lagos. The least amount you can pay to taxi is about N1,000 for a small distance on the Island. The same distance in Abuja when I traveled was N200. So, does Fashola want to kick us out of Lagos?” she inquired.

Alade Sonibare, a trader, remarked that the Fashola government was becoming anti-masses.

According to him, Fashola seemed to forget that the masses voted him and his policies should ease their problems rather than compound them and advised the government not to be carried away by the praises he has received recently.

“I reckon he is being carried away by some of his achievements but 60 percent of Lagos roads are still bad. The transport network is still largely poor and inadequate for the Lagos population. For now, Lagos has no transport and the road infrastructure to support okada ban,” he said.

But the State Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Alhaji Akanni Olohunwa, urged the okada operators and his members to comply with the directives, saying it is in the interest of all, while also appealing to the government to ensure that law enforcement agents do not extort riders, in the guise of enforcing the restriction.

“It is true that some law enforcement agencies may capitalise on this to extort money from them. We have noticed this in the past. We have appealed to the authorities to caution their officials. If an okada operator does not flout the law and he is arrested, he should let us know and we know where to report,” he added.

Besides, the Chairman, Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State, Mr Tijani Pekis, expressed satisfaction with the compliance and urged his members to further exercise restraint.

He said the compliance would go a long way to allow the union negotiate a waiver with the state government on the Moshalashi-Mushin-Oshodi-Abule Egba route which he said led to rural areas and should be considered for a waiver, so as not to increase the hardship of the people.

Besides, some members have expressed fears on the impact of the restriction on their businesses and families. They contended that while the government says it meants well for them and their security, the restriction would adversely affect their businesses and families.

“Within the first day the ban commenced, my sales reduced. I wish to plead with the government to reconsider. I have children in school whom I am going to pay their fees this September. No one has come to my aid since five years ago when I lost my husband. It is this food selling that has been sustaining me, a food vendor at CMS, Iya Kabiru told our correspondent.’’

Now that the ban has commenced in full gear, only time will tell whether the Lagos State government will shift grounds and hearken to the calls of food vendors like Iya Kabiru.

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