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INVESTIGATION: How Lagos Okada ban is affecting residents, SMEs; Igboho warns riders will revenge

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Riders and passengers arrested in Idi-Araba would be charged to court – Lagos State Task Force

…“Our intelligence gathered that the revenge they are planning for the Okada ban is series of Massacre”. – Sunday Igboho

The Lagos State Government says it is not slowing down reinforcement of the Lagos Traffic Law 2012 (as amended), which it embarked upon since June 1, 2022, despite resistance by commercial motorcycle operators and calls by some residents for the government to reconsider its position.

Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force Shola Jejeloye, lead his team to Festac and Oshodi-Apapa Expressway on Wednesday June 8, to confiscate commercial motorcycles (‘okada’) that have “refused” to comply with the ban.

This comes barely one day after the taskforce team raided Idi-Araba in Mushin Local Government Area and seized commercial bikes belonging to “recalcitrant” ‘okada’ operators, which led to a face-off.

“Passengers encourage ‘okada’ riders to keep operating illegally. Once there are no more passengers there will be no more ‘okada’,” Jejeloye said, adding that both riders and passengers were arrested during the raid and would be charged to court.

A week ago, the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor Gboyega Akosile, shared a video on twitter where 2,228 motorcycles impounded by the State Task Force were being crushed.

The Lagos State Task Force enforcing the ban on motorbikes in the state. 

“The enforcement exercise will continue till the six Local Government Areas and 9 LCDAs are rid of ‘Okada’. Lagos deserves better than Okada,” Akosile said in an accompanying tweet.

We are cohabiting with bloodthirsty beasts – Sunday Igboho

Self-determination activist Adeniyi Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, has warned of impending series of massacre, planned by some aggrieved groups in reaction to the ‘okada’ ban.

In a disturbing tweet on Tuesday June 6, following the massacre of at least 50 worshippers in a Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, Igboho said he had alerted some government officials to the plan, but they are handicapped and may not be able to prevent the looming disaster.

He wrote: “Our intelligence gathered that the revenge they are planning for the ‘Okada’ ban is series of Massacre. I have called the government office holders close to me but their hands are tied. It will happen and even God cannot help you. Divıde Nigerıa Now!”

In another tweet he gave his opinion out of the situation: “For me, the solution is secession! Expecting peace in Nigeria is like expecting Israel and Palestine to live together in peace as one country. We are cohabiting with bloodthirsty beasts. All Buhari & his vice could say today is I condemn I condemn”.

The Menace of Motorcycle Operators in Lagos

The insistence of the Lagos State Government to restrict the activities of commercial motorcyclists in the state, may not be unconnected to the death of 37-year-old David Imoh, who was allegedly lynched and burnt by irate commercial motorcycle operators at Admiralty Way, Lekki, Lagos on May 12.

Following his death, Lekki Phase 1 Residents Association (LERA), appealed to the state government to curb the activities of commercial motorcyclists in the area, saying it was causing more harm than good to residents.

Chairman of LERA Yomi Idowu, called on the government to invoke the ban on commercial motorcyclists with immediate effect.

“The government had called for the ban on commercial motorcyclists two years ago, but to our chagrin, this was not properly enforced and soon the menace returned.

“We are calling for this ban to commence with immediate effect. We choose to live and say no to ‘okadas’ on our roads and streets,” Idowu appealed weeks before the state announced it would reinforce the ban.

The Lagos State Commissioner of Police Abiodun Alabi, has stated that many motorcycle operators are criminals in disguise who perpetrate nefarious acts across the state.

“I want to be emphatic here, most of them are criminals masquerading as ‘okada’ riders. We have arrested so many of them with locally made pistols in the course of their operations and many of them have been charged to court,” Alabi said during a recent interview on ChannelsTV.

Economic implication of the ‘Okada’ ban on SMEs

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) account for approximately 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of employment in Nigeria, contributing 48 per cent of national Gross Domestic Product.

The critical contribution of SMEs to broader social economic objectives, including job creation,  makes them a key priority area for ending poverty, reducing inequality and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this investigation, TNG monitored the level of compliance to understand the economic implication of the ‘okada’ ban on SMEs in the affected areas of Africa’s biggest business hub.

Around Apapa Wharf which is the fourth busiest port in Africa, Agege, Costain and Ajegunle, mini shuttles picked up passengers, even though increasing their fares as a result of increased demand which exceeded the available buses.

Some passengers unable to wait for the buses to return, or part with the extra N50 charged per trip, trekked on foot to their various destination, while a few commercial motorcyclists were seen ‘hustling’ for passengers, but remaining on the lookout for law enforcement agents.

A business owner who runs a barbing salon around the port and does not want to be named, said commuting to work from a place called Coconut has become more difficult since the ban as trailers and tankers have blocked the road, making it impossible for buses to ply.

“The ban has seriously affected my business. I have more customers in Tincan who would come down or call me to come and cut their hair but now I cannot go there because there are no bikes and I cannot trek.

“Before, I can make up to N6, 000 a day but now I can hardly make N3, 000. I don’t come to work everyday because there is no bus and I have to trek when I don’t even know whether there will be business. I am ashamed to be a Nigerian,” he said.

Another businessman running a logistic company situated in Apapa who spoke to TNG on the condition of anonymity, said adjusting to the ‘okada’ ban has been difficult even though he spends less on transportation.

For him, meeting up deadlines and appointments have become more challenging due to the inherent gridlocks which would have otherwise been easy for motorcycles to maneuver and hopes that the government will rescind its decision.

A female food vendor in the Apapa Wharf area simply identified as Mama T, described coming to work from Cele as hellish, adding that the road from Mile 2 to Apapa through Coconut is difficult to access without bikes.

Commercial motorcyclists were also in operation in Surulere around the Aguda, Coker, Orile and Masha axis. Residents are business owners in the area argue that bikes are the only means of transportation in certain parts of the LGA, including from Stadium to Ojuelegba for example.

Government should be more strategic and less reactional

While most persons who spoke to TNG about the ‘okada’ ban agree that there was need to curb the excesses and unruly behaviour of some motorbike operators, they want government to provide alternative means of transportation that caters to the needs previously met by motorbikes.

“I’m not saying that they should not ban ‘okada’ but remember that almost every road is under construction. I went to Badagry with a bus on Saturday and the road was blocked with heavy traffic. I had to get down and join ‘okada’,” a passer-by Sarah Omotayo said.

In the same vein, another resident of the state Chinedu Orji, said a partial ban would not offer lasting solution to the menace caused by ‘okada’ riders and will further expose remote parts of the state to increased security risk.

“I feel that the ban is a laudable development but the government should be more strategic instead of embracing a mere reactional approach.

“The government has failed to open new routes, create suitable alternative means of transportation to reduce traffic congestions on the roads.

“They should encourage the likes of Opay, Gokada and other corporate players to handle that mode of transportation where it would be possible for the government to make the company accountable for the actions of their riders, and all those unregulated miscreants would just escape the scene by default,” Orji said.

Other Nigerian states where the activities of commercial motor bikes have been outlawed or restricted include: Adamawa, Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Taraba, Yobe and the Federal Capital Territory.

 

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