By Moses Adeniyi
The call for the ban of the operations of commercial motorcycles (popularly called Okada) in Lagos has been awakened on Monday following resolutions reached at a Security Stakeholders Town Hall Meeting held at the State Capital, Ikeja.
Stakeholders including the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), other Security Agencies, traditional rulers, leaders of Community Development Committees (CDCs), Local Government Areas, Clerics, among others, unanimously agreed at the Town Hall meeting convened by the State Government that the operations of motorcycle riders have heightened security threats in the State most recently.
The stakeholders mentioned that the operations of motorcycle have fostered lawlessness, criminality and avoidable accidents across Lagos metropolis, hence the need for their ban.
In his appraisal of security situations in the State, the State’s Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, disclosed that between 1st of January to 7th of May 2021, the number of serious incidents committed with the use of motorcycles totalled 218.
Further statistics he presented showed that within the period under review, 78 suspects were arrested, 320 motorcycles recovered, 58 arms recovered, and 480 ammunition recovered.
He submitted that given the fact that “a large section of Lagos populace have come to regard commercial motorcycles as a necessary evil, it has become imperative for the Government to take more drastic measures against their notoriety, if Lagos is to continue to maintain its attained mega city and the first choice destination for investors and tourists.”
“To this end, further stringent measures must be taken to permanently curtail the excesses of commercial motorcycle operators,” he said.
In his comments, the paramount ruler of Ikorodu, HRM, Oba Kabir Shotobi, mentioned that it is time for the State Government to take stern measures to ban the operations of motorcycle (Okada) riders in the State.
He added that motorcycles have become instruments through which crimes are perpetrated in the State.
He said: “They must be banned; the time is now to eradicate the usage of Okada riders. It is dangerous to our health, road, and all these criminalities are perpetrated by Okada. We cannot continue to harbour them. This is the time to ban Okada finally.”
According to him, the recent Prohibition of Unlawful Societies and Cultism Act of 2021 signed by the State Governor into law against cultism is well thought out, but must be forcefully enforced.
He called for local policing with engagement of traditional rulers in the selection processes on community basis.
Speaking, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State, Bishop Dr. Stephen Adegbite said motorcycles must be banned in Lagos State, mentioning that “it cannot be part of the megacity,” vision of the State.
He further called that the transport unionists must act responsibly, stating that the uncoordinated conducts of the unions without contributing to road infrastructures and other development in assistance to the State is uncalled for.
He however noted that the increase in the campaigns of secessionist movements is not the solution to the problems of the Country.
“You cannot develop under violence. All hands must be on deck to have a better Lagos. No country can develop under an unsecured entity,” he said.
In his comment, the Chairman, Oshodi-Isolo Local Government, Idris Bolaji, noted that motorcycle has become the easiest way for criminals to escape the scene of crimes, mentioning that they constitute the worst violators of traffic rules in the State.
He however implored the State Government to replace motorcycles with better mode of transportation to reduce the incidences of preventable accident and provide alternative means of livelihood.
“It is time for his excellency (Governor) to put his feet down to eradicate Okada,” he said.
He mentioned that banditry and armed robbery which have become pronounced in Ikorodu, Ajah and Epe area of the State must be addressed by the security agencies forcefully.
He further said the internal crisis of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) must be addressed by the security agencies, saying their crisis do escalate to other parts of the State to crumble economic activities.
Meanwhile, information gathered revealed that in few days following the salah festivities, the State Government would be launching the Last Mile Buses initiative where pronouncements on new enforcement regarding operation of motorcycles would be reeled off.
The “Last Mile Buses” is designed to ply inner roads and safely get commercial passengers to their final destinations. It was gathered that the State is working to deploy over 500 of these buses to alleviate the pain associated with the restriction of motorcycle and tricycle operations.
In his address at the Town Hall Meeting, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, mentioned that the stakeholder’s meeting is a very important forum, considering the disturbing trends of insecurity in the State and nationwide, adding that the forum was convened to “ensure that everyone is duly carried along in the task of keeping Lagos safe, secure and peaceful.”
“As the economic and commercial hub of Nigeria, the security of Lagos cannot be taken for granted. Lagos State is not just home to the headquarters of the biggest companies in Nigeria, and to one of the largest stock exchanges in Africa, it is also the primary gateway for passengers and freight, in and out of Nigeria.
“As we speak there are several billions of dollars of investment ongoing in Lagos State, in real estate, transportation, manufacturing, services, agriculture, and several other areas,” he said.
He mentioned that with role of the State as the economic hub of the Country, Nigeria’s ability to reach its full economic and developmental potential will be severely constrained in the absence of guaranteed security of lives and property in Lagos.
He mentioned that the resultant effect of the ENDSARS mayhem has contributed in no small way to the severely fragmented security architecture experienced in the State.
“In recent times, we have recorded a worrying trend of nefarious activities in the State; from kidnappings, armed robbery, cult clashes and violent assaults.
“For us in Lagos State, there is a direct correlation between security and long-lasting economic growth and development. We cannot speak of a 21st century megacity and the vision of a Greater Lagos if we are unable to assure and guarantee the security of our citizens and their properties,” he said.
According to the Governor, some of the measures put in place to address security threats in the State include, Monitoring of Abandoned Buildings and Properties; Demolition of Shanties; Eradication of cultism; Deployment of Technology; Transportation Reform; Deployment of Amred Personnel and Crime Fighting Equipment, and Partnership, among others.
He mentioned that the State Government have demolished several hundreds of shanties and illegal structures around the metropolis which have been serving as hideouts for criminals, and exacerbated the insecurity situation in Lagos State.
Governor Sanwo-Olu stated that in line with the efforts to address security threats in the State, his Administration is striving to ensure the creation of jobs and economic opportunities that will take people off the streets and give them the wherewithal to afford decent accommodation.
He mentioned that the recent signing of the new State’s Prohibition of Unlawful Societies and Cultism Act of 2021, which prescribes a 21-year jail term for convicted cultists, will help in widening the dragnet in the hunt and prosecution of what he described as “these nefarious gangs intent on sowing fear and chaos in the State.”
He added that in a bid to strengthen security in the State, his administration has completed more than 1,800 kilometers of fibre optic cables across the metropolis to create a statewide broadband network which on completion will support the deployment of CCTV cameras that will help ensure that high-risk crime areas are kept under round-the-clock surveillance.
Speaking on the lawlessnes of motorcycle riders and commercial motorcyclists he said: “We have noted with dismay the fact that Okada riders are disregarding and flouting the restrictions we imposed on their activities in certain areas of the metropolis. In this same vein, we have also observed with dismay the ongoing war between commercial motorcyclists and our law enforcement agencies.
“This propensity for lawlessness is not who we are as Lagosians. The Lagos State Road Traffic Law, enacted in 2012 to safeguard the lives of people and to maintain law and order on our roads, is the legal backbone for the restrictions put in place early last year and designed to curb the Okada menace in the State.
“As part of the restrictions put in place, we banned the activities of Okada and tricycle operators on key roads, highways and Local Government Areas,” he said.
He however, lamented that several Okada and tricycle operators have continued to flagrantly disobey the law and, in some cases, resist enforcement by engaging in organised attacks on law enforcement agencies.
He added that the Government has observed a worrying trend in which criminals have found commercial motorcycles a useful and enabling tool with which to perpetrate heinous crimes, with the motorcycles acting as quick-getaway vehicles.
“Consequently, and based on all that we have seen and experienced in the past couple of weeks, as well as the increasing threat posed by the activities of commercial motorcycle operators to the safety and security of lives, we will in the coming days be announcing further changes to the parameters of motorcycle and tricycle operations in the State,” he said.
He further issued warnings to the Transport Unions declaring that if they tarry in their uncivil conducts, the State would have no choice than to employ the rod of the law.
He reiterated his administration’s commitment to the maintenance of law and order in the society, stating that “our mission of attaining a Greater Lagos can only be achieved when we all resolve to live in an orderly manner.”
“Permit me to reiterate this: As the Chief Security Officer of Lagos State, securing the lives and property of Lagosians is a responsibility that is dear to my heart and to this administration,” he said.