Okada riders as beautiful bride

• Ambode support group launches sticker campaign on okada routes
By Tope Templer Olaiya
For most parts of the second term tenure of Governor Babatunde Fashola, which will expire on May 29, 2015, motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada riders, were harassed and hounded on Lagos roads by policemen and all other law enforcement officers, including local council officials.
Today, politicians, political parties and affiliates are falling over themselves in a desperate attempt to secure the support and loyalty of commercial okada riders ahead of the elections.

Bike

Jimi Agbeje riding into a campaign rally on Okada

Their travails on Lagos roads began immediately the state government was armed with the Lagos Traffic Law passed by the state House of Assembly in 2012. And when the enforcement team came to town, the assignment was simple but akin to a shoot-at-sight order: Rid Lagos highways of okada.

While a few riders lost their lives evading arrests, thousands of motorcycles were confiscated. Across the state, policemen were having a field day dispossessing commercial bike riders of their bikes and dumping them in their vans.

However, there were a few gains. Before the restriction/partial ban, there were daily reports of robbery by okada riders and it was common to see commercial motorcycles in their numbers during rush hours, jostling for the right of way with vehicles on dual carriage and expressways.

oookada

All Progressives Congress governorship candidate, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode (middle); his deputy, Dr. (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule (second left); and Chairman, Support Group for Ambode 2015, Chief Demola Seriki (second right) launching the OKADALLOWED sticker campaign in Ikeja, Lagos on Monday.

From the Third Mainland Bridge to the Apapa-Oshodi and Lagos/Abeokuta expressways, no area of Lagos was spared the onslaught of the ubiquitous okada riders.

Despite its vulnerability, transportation by motorcycles thrived as more and more residents, who sought to beat sluggish traffic and keep appointments, kept on patronizing the operators.

Before October 20, 2012, when government began its restriction of okada on highways, about 65-70 per cent of accident victims, who have varying degrees of bone injuries, were said to have been caused by okada accidents.

In addition, statistics from notable sources indicated there was alarming increase in okada-related deaths and maiming – the majority of their victims being innocent passengers.

There were also stories of involvement of okada riders in crime, especially bag snatching.

WHEN THE GOING WAS GOOD: Governor Fashola campaigning for second term  with a long retinue of okada riders

WHEN THE GOING WAS GOOD: Governor Fashola campaigning for second term with a long retinue of okada riders

Not surprisingly, as it was in 2011, the two-wheelers are having an easy ride these days on Lagos, especially since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Lagos, Mr. Olujimi Agbaje, made a public showing of his affection for the okada riders when he rode on one to a campaign rally at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS).

Seen as a far-reaching campaign strategy that may swing some bloc votes for the opposition party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) decided to join the fray and assiduously worked to deflect some of its perceived anti-okada stance.

   In a move that will shock many Lagosians, the governorship candidate of the APC, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, might have concluded plans to return Okada to the major roads if a message on a flyer distributed around Lagos mainland is to be taken seriously.

Okada In Lagos: Menace or assistance?

Okada In Lagos: Menace or assistance?

The statement reads: “You can ride okada on 9,000 roads and stay off 475! Yes you can.”

A necessary clarification of the campaign leaflet distributed by the Support Group For Ambode (SGFA) came on Monday, when Ambode promised to advance progress recorded by the outgoing Babatunde Fashola administration by improving the people-oriented policies and ensuring the safety of all commuters.

Speaking at the launch of the OKADALLOWED sticker campaign organised by the SGFA, Ambode said the state government has responded to the needs and yearnings of Lagosians by providing basic amenities.

He said the safety of the commuters was the motive behind the traffic laws of Lagos State describing the awareness effort of the group as the right step in the right direction

Noting that the PDP deliberately misinformed the general public to score cheap political points, he said the sticker campaign would expose their campaign of misinformation and show that the Fashola administration truly meant well.

GOOD RIDDANCE TO BAD RUBBISH?: Heaps of confiscated bikes destroyed by the state.

GOOD RIDDANCE TO BAD RUBBISH?: Heaps of confiscated bikes destroyed by the state.

Also speaking at the launch, the chairman of the Support Group for Ambode 2015, Chief Demola Seriki, said the group discovered that the campaign of misinformation by the PDP was misleading many operators of commercial motorcycles to assume that they were banned from operating on all routes.

He said the group studied the Lagos Traffic law and interacted with stakeholders in the transportation sector, such as the Ministry of Transportation, local government, Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA) and grassroots politicians to design the sticker campaign.

He said each LASAA street pole on roads that commercial motorcyclists can ply according to the Traffic law would be decorated with the sticker.

He pleaded with law enforcement agencies to be humane in enforcing the state’s traffic laws, noting that complaints from operators were mainly on extortion rather than the route.

Similarly, he called on operators to obey the laws by using helmets and carrying the approved number of passengers to ensure safety of the passengers.

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It’s 60 years of restoring sight, hope to the visually impaired

By Tope Templer Olaiya
It is sixty diamond years of giving vision to the blind at the Nigeria Society for the Blind Vocational Training Centre in Oshodi.
Nothing is worse than going blind but watching students with their long white cane poring every square inch of the now familiar grounds of the vocational centre with renewed enthusiasm makes one wonder what might have been for the young energetic future leaders, who fate has let to face a solitary world of darkness.
Tucked away behind the serenity of Command Secondary School and NAFRC Army Barracks, Oshodi, the Nigeria Society for the Blind (NSB) for six decades, which was founded by a group of compassionate and spirited Nigerians and expartiates, has been training and rehabilitating the visually impaired to give them hope, succor and a sense of belonging in a society that has subjected them to a life of begging, or worse, locked up at home at the mercy of family members.
In the words of the chairman, Mrs. Biola Agbaje, “since inception, we have trained over 2,000 students who are either gainfully employed or are being useful to themselves. We train them first to be able to move around on their own and we teach them to read and write in Braille.

Blind

Creative Director, Verdant Zeal Marketing Communications Ltd, Mr. Dipo Adesida (left); Chairman, Nigerian Society for the Blind (NSB), Mrs. Biola Agbaje; Vice Chairman, Asiwaju Fola Osibo and Council Member, Mrs. Arit Tunde-Imoyo at a press briefing to mark the 60th anniversary of the Society.

“Once you teach a person to read and write, teach them to move on their own, then life has become almost normal. This is in addition to developing their skills for handcraft like typing, telephone switchboard operation, computer operation, tie and dye, basket weaving and carpet making,” she said.

It is a remarkable feat that the NSB has continued with these rehabilitation activities since inception without any subvention from either the state or federal government.

The society is today governed by a three-member Trustees namely Ambassador Aduke Alakija (Life President); Chief E.O. Akinsete (1st Vice Life President) and Mrs. Ebun Onabanjo (2nd Vice Life President). There are 18 Executive Council members, who all serve voluntarily in various committees to chart the path for the society through regular meetings.

gallery4From an old workshop building donated in 1955 for the take-off of the rehabilitation programme, the NSB has through the support of philanthropists, corporate organisations and religious bodies developed a training complex consisting of a new state-of-the-art workshop, library complex housing a computer school and a Braille press, an ultra-modern digital recording musical studio open for public patronage, block of classrooms, an administrative block and residential accommodation for teaching staff and students.

Some of the activities lined up to celebrate 60 years of the society include a seminar on Living With Blindness at Muson Centre on March 19, Open Day at the centre on April 10 and 11, May Ball Dinner and Dance at Muson Centre on May 25 and a grand finale ceremony on November 28.