• 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.