From all indications, the Lagos State Government is not having an easy task in giving effect to its planned, gradual ban on commercial motorcycles from operating in the state. This much is apparent from the stiff opposition the (okada) riders are showing. Their point, that government must provide alternative means of livelihood for them or deal with the bad eggs among them, cannot be disregarded.
At the same time, the state cannot continue to live with the menace constituted by many such riders to the peace, orderliness, safety and security of the ordinary citizens of the state. A truce to reflect the desired new order of Lagos State as a megacity and one of the most important not only in Nigeria but in Africa must be reached with all stakeholders being fully carried along.
The ban on commercial motorcyclists by the Lagos State Government under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is actually an affirmation of earlier restrictions placed on the motorcycles and tricycles called keke last year, in a move to implement the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018.
On both occasions, the government predicated its decision on the frequency of fatal accidents and the misuse of motorbikes for criminal activities. The ban was fairly effectively enforced last year. But in sustaining the policy, the government has continued to face challenges concerning the populace who lament a dearth of means of public transportation; and the operators who complain that their source of livelihood would be adversely affected. By and large, most people tend to agree that the government’s motive is laudable and that there is a need for a serious control mechanism on Okada and keke riders.
In January 2020, Lagos State Government proscribed operations of the motorcyclists and keke riders in six Local Government Areas (LGAs), nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and 10 major highways across the state with effect from February 1, 2020. Following the action, security operatives embarked on total enforcement of the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018. The aim was to address the chaos and disorderliness created by illegal operations of Okada and tricycle riders in restricted areas. Besides, the government also banned okada and tricycles from plying 40 bridges and flyovers across the state.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, decried the “scary figures” of fatal accidents recorded from operations of okada and tricycles in the state between 2016 and 2019, stressing that lack of regard for the Lagos Traffic Laws by the okada and tricycle riders had resulted in preventable loss of lives and traffic jams. “Also, the rate of crimes aided by okada and keke keeps rising. They are used as getaway means by criminals,” he said.
This time around and to address the concern of commuters, the government announced the launching of 500 “First and Last Mile (FLM)” buses, intended to ply “inner” roads, as an alternative means of transport. This is intended as a step towards the gradual but total phasing out of the motorcycles in the entire state. Although the government states that it has been in consultation with the Association of Commercial Motorcycle Operators of Nigeria, ACOMORAN, there is apprehension on the part of many members who have vowed to resist the ban.
Government should expect some peculiar challenges on this issue. Commercial motorcycles started operating in rural areas where roads are not motorable. Their use for public transportation in urban areas started for the same reason. Behind the parapet of major highways in the cities, there are streets that cannot be plied by vehicles. Certainly, the FLM buses launched by the Lagos State government cannot ply many of these streets. In the circumstances, how are people to move around?
All over the world, good roads are an indication of good living, especially in urban areas. It is an indication of a low level of development to have filthy streets which do not facilitate the provision of water and sanitation. This is an area that must be addressed in the country particularly Lagos State. Streets in urban areas and rural roads are the responsibility of local governments. The comatose condition of this tier of government is the root of much suffering by the people.
A famous jurist in the United States once said that “if you want a law respected, you must make the law respectable.” The commercial motorcycle operators have utilised their registered association to lodge their concerns with the government and also to the awareness of the general public. It is important that government seeks to address their concerns, especially about being thrown into unemployment; else, an attempt to enforce the ban may boomerang on the government.
Like all trade groups, ACOMORAN know that it is in their best interests to cooperate with the government to find mutually acceptable solutions. The members state that government can register members of their association because the state has the capacity to investigate and fish out those engaged in criminal activities.
While the government’s goal of raising the status of Lagos Megacity and the state is commendable, the importance of addressing the issues raised by all stakeholders equally should not be understated. After all, the government is not only about laws but humane policies that guarantee the welfare and security of the people.