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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The Kabukabu renaissance in Lagos

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
CAR 1

Like it was chanted by protesting animals in George Orwell’s famous satirist classic, Animal Farm, “four legs good, two legs bad,” the stark reality of this axiom has dawned on transport operators in Lagos State.
The new transport policy in Governor Babatunde Fashola’s mega-city is ‘two legs bad, three legs fair, but anything on four legs good’; which is in relation to motorcycles (Okada), tricycles (Keke NAPEP), and vehicles respectively.
Nothing else explains the agenda, being released in phases, to turn Lagos into an elitist society. First, it was the gradual phase out of okadas, now the clampdown has been switched on to another means of public transportation – commercial tricycles, popularly known as Keke Napep or Keke Marwa.
Few weeks back, the Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, disclosed at the 2013 Ministerial Press Briefing held in Alausa to mark the sixth anniversary of Fashola’s administration, that the state government has “agreed with the operator’s unions to outlaw the operation of tricycles on some Lagos roads.”
Some of the roads captured in the ban include the entire Victoria Island, Government Residential Area (GRA) in Ikeja and Ikoyi, Awolowo road, Awolowo way and Alausa in Ikeja, and the entire major roads in Surulere Local Government.
Opeifa had warned that tri-cycling isn’t a replacement for Okada in the state, quoting Section 3 of the 2012 Lagos Road Traffic Law, which outlawed the operation of tricycle in the state.

Keke NAPEP... The People's Choice

Keke NAPEP… The People’s Choice

He said: “It isn’t a sustainable means of transport for the state, especially Lagos that is a megacity. I learnt that some Okada riders have began to sell their motorcycle to buy tricycle, but they can no longer operate on these major roads again.”
Operators and users of Keke NAPEP went to town and cried themselves hoarse about how the governor was trying to aggravate poverty, which the scheme was meant to eradicate, in the hope that the mob effect would cause government to rescind its decision.
Immediately, several factions of the operator’s unions engaged government officials in endless close-door sessions. Mute was the word from the lips of the operator’s representatives after each round of meetings, while hopes were raised on how the policy would either be jettisoned or implemented with a human face.
However, while the supposed interregnum lingered, the policy, last week, rode to town in full force, as Keke NAPEP became haram in all the proscribed areas.
This left passengers, who had slowly grown accustom to the absence of Okadas, stranded. Many resorted to trekking long distances, a few joined available taxis, while some others just turned back or board a bus, ready to roam the city in circles until they are closer to their destination.
CAR 3

But trust bustling Lagosians, who are always quick to see opportunities in every problem, an old means of transportation was revived to ease the situation and few days after Keke NAPEP disappeared from VI, GRAs and Surulere, Kabukabus have suddenly emerged from nowhere to fill the void.
Kabukabu or Bolekaja (meaning come down and let’s fight) is a form of shared taxi, which is the transportation system prevalent in most Nigerian cities and villages. These cabs, which are mostly rickety, pose even more problems than Keke NAPEP, which it has come to replace.
In the mega-city dream of the governor, these old wobbly vehicles, whose sounds could wake the dead while their exhaust fumes blind the view of vehicles in their rear, should actually not be found in 21st century Lagos.
They not only pose environmental hazards, placed under scrutiny, they are bound to fail every facet of roadworthiness test. Curiously, LASTMA and VIO officials look the other way when sighted on the road. Their gaze instead is turned on SUVs and decent-looking vehicles.
CAR 4

An angry Lagosian, who has had to report late for work no matter how early he left home, told The Guardian “Keke NAPEP is the least of our problems in Lagos State.
“It was wrong for the governor to keep pushing out his anti-poor policies without providing alternatives. This new policy will only increase criminality and unemployment. Fashola should know that fingers are not equal and Lagos does not belong only to owners of Range Rovers and Land Cruisers. More importantly, he should not destroy the platform and party that brought him to power through his anti-masses policies.”

Mother of all gridlocks

Hell as multiple crashes lock down Lagos roads
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor and Abdulwaheed Usamah

Stranded motorists in Lagos today (June 6, 2013)

Stranded motorists in Lagos today (June 6, 2013)

IT was like an apocalyptic scene yesterday on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway after a ghastly accident, which occurred between Ikeja Along and Ile-Zik bus-stop locked down the heart of Lagos for many hours and left thousands of Lagosians stranded.
At least, two people lost their lives on the ever-busy Lagos Abeokuta Expressway when a trailer carrying a container crushed the driver of Eko Meat Van and his aide to death.
Eyewitness said six other injured victims were immediately taken to the hospital for treatment.
An eyewitness, who simply gave his name as Samuel, said the truck conveying a 20-feet container rammed into the Eko meat van when some policemen attached to the Rapid Respond Squad were chasing a commercial motorcycle plying the proscribed highway.
“I think the driver of the truck did not want to kill the Okada man. As he struggled to avoid running into the meat van, he lost control, swerved to the pavement and fell on the meat van. The driver and his assistant died on the spot,” he said.

Scene of the accident

Scene of the accident

Speaking on the incident, the Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations, Lagos, Mr. Tunde Shobulo, said he was not briefed that his men were chasing the Okada rider when the accident occurred.
His account of what happened was, however, different. According to him, the van was driving against traffic and crashed into the oncoming truck whose driver lost control, given the heavy load it was carrying.
The accident brought traffic to a standstill around Ikeja, Iyana Ipaja, Agege and Oshodi. According to other eyewitnesses, the collision involving three vehicles, including a fully loaded articulated truck, was caused by an Okada rider, who was trying to evade arrest from policemen at the scene of the accident. One of them told The Guardian that the policemen sped away immediately it happened in a white RRS Hilux with the inscription number 333.
For over seven hours, it was a hellish experience for motorists with the eight-lane expressway blocked on both lanes. 18-wheelers, fuel tankers and sedans, wedged bumper-to-bumper in both directions.
trafic2

Curses and horn blasts pierced the exhaust-choked air. Brakes screeched as vehicles inched forward and cars rocked violently back and front at little intervals of movement.
It was the mother of all gridlocks, a spiraling effect, which left all the bus-stops along the route crowded with thousands of commuters, while stranded passengers decided to help themselves on foot by trekking long distances to their destination.
With the restriction on activities of motorcycles on the highways, which effectively banned Okada on the route, the only alternative left for commuters, which was to ply the trains, was also hitched, as the rail line passing through Ile-Zik was obstructed by the accident. This also shut down the trains from operating for most part of yesterday.
While the incident at the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway hampered movement in and around Ikeja, a string of multiple accidents in other parts of Lagos led to an emergency situation on almost all major roads in the state.

Stranded commuters at the bus stop

Stranded commuters at the bus stop

An accident involving a truck at Magboro junction going towards Ibafo on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway caused heavy traffic on the busy highway, which stretched to Arepo and Berger on both sides of the express. Also, another accident occurred at Ijora Olopa under bridge that locked down traffic along the axis.
It wasn’t until 4pm when a crane was used to remove the fallen truck that traffic eased at the Ile-Zik bus-stop, but the respite was only for a while on the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway as the daily traffic buildup of motorists returning from work heightened the gridlock, which extended to Agege-Mushin motor-road.

Living In Lagos Without Stress

By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos-City Editor

THIS IS LAGOS: Chaotic scene at Lagos-Abeokuta expressway

THIS IS LAGOS: Chaotic scene at Lagos-Abeokuta expressway


LIVING in Lagos can be as stressful as living in a war zone; the weather is constantly humid, traffic is hellish, living conditions are horrid, the government doesn’t give a shit, and in the last few days, Lagosians might have had a taste of what hell jmay look like with the midday intense heat.

For most residents, it couldn’t have been worse with last year’s ban on commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada, from plying some roads in the state.

The enforcement of the ban, which began in October, turned violent when okada operators took to the streets to protest indiscriminate arrest of their members and subsequent seizure of their motorcycles. They, in the process, destroyed public facilities, including BRT buses.

This, however, angered the state government, warranting a heavy clampdown on the defaulters by policemen, even on inner-city streets, not included in the official restriction notice. All these have made life miserable for Lagosians. At every bus-stop, commuters are seen stranded, while some were left with no option than to take a long trek to their destinations.

Even car owners are not spared. The ban has witnessed an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, as those who rarely use their cars, for fear of being held up in traffic and missing business engagements, have no option than to put their cars on the road and spend hours in traffic.

The worries do not end there, as every person behind the wheels are weary of policemen and other law enforcement agents in several shades of uniforms, prowling the streets to enforce the Lagos Traffic Law, which among other regulations, banned eating while driving, making phone calls, and driving against the traffic, with many of the one-way streets unmarked.

All these are enough to stress out even the calmest soul, and sometimes most people who are stressed out don’t even know it until it’s too late. No wonder then CNN’s Christiane Amanpour called Lagos the third unlivable city in the world after Harare in Zimbabwe and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Chaotic Lagos traffic

Chaotic Lagos traffic


According to health experts, constant stress puts one’s health at risk. If the mind and body are constantly on edge because of excessive stress, one may face serious health problems. But it is an irony of sorts that the city of Lagos, which prides itself as the centre of excellence and commercial capital of Nigeria, still attracts visitors in their hundreds daily.

A stress expert, Dr. Noble Oguguo, however, disagrees that living in Lagos induces a special kind of stress on any individual. In his words, “it is a function of mindset. The same environment that poses a challenge to an individual could well be an opportunity to another because a lot depends on the individual’s disposition. What is a problem for one person could be turned to an opportunity for another.”

He noted that the environment generally throws up challenges, whether in the city or in a village, but a lot depends on the coping skills of the individual. “The basic difference between an individual with good coping skills and the other with poor coping skills is the disposition of the mind and the understanding of the context and content of the challenges thrown up by the environment.

“In the journey through life, the environment throws challenges at us and make demands on us. The inability to meet up with the challenge and the individual caves in under pressure is what exposes him to distress. On the other hand, the demand on an individual that will make him mobilize resources – time, talent, treasure, skill, good health, intelligence, conceptual ability, family and social network – to confront the challenge successfully is Eustress.”

Oguguo, author of Executive Stress Management: A Strategic Approach To Stress Without Distress, listed the causes of stress to include self (health, debt, low self-esteem), family, work, unrealistic targets and inability to meet expectations, while the health problems of stress are high-blood pressure, damage to blood vessels, heart attack, diabetes and poor performance.

ON some coping strategies, the stress expert advised people to avoid unnecessary stressors like learning to say no, expressing feelings instead of bottling them up, accepting the things one cannot change, be willing to compromise, making time for fun and relaxation and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

“People often ask me how they can maintain a healthy lifestyle and I say it’s simple: exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, reduce caffeine and sugar, avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, and get enough sleep,” he said.

Oguguo can be reached on hospbizmgners@yahoo.com

LAGOS: More Pains, Agony As Okada Revolt Against Restriction Continues

By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA

At last, the Lagos State government has proved doubters wrong that laws, especially the new traffic law, can be enforced. After several weeks of state-wide public enlightenment, which saw state officials, including Governor Babatunde Fashola, visit clubs, associations and professional bodies to take the message to the doorsteps of Lagosians and why they should support its implementation, government last week bared its fangs on defaulters.
And when the enforcement team came to town, the assignment was simple but akin to a shoot-at-sight order: Rid Lagos highways of motorcycles, popularly called okada. While no blood was shed, thousands of motorcycles were confiscated in one fell swoop. Across the state, policemen were catching fun dispossessing riders of their bikes and dumping them in the vans.
But like a man pushed to the wall, the men who had been the butt of police brutality in recent weeks, bounced back and revolted against the state. On Monday and Tuesday last week, economic and social activities were partially paralysed by okada riders to register their displeasure with government over the ban placed on their activities on some roads in the state.
The men, in their hundreds, trooped into the popular Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, disrupting free flow of traffic at the Alakuko-Mosalashi and Kola axis of the road, chanting slogans. But for the quick intervention of some mobile policemen who dispersed them with teargas at Kollington/AIT Bus Stop in the early hours of Tuesday, the okada riders had attempted to set another government commercial bus, commonly known as BRT, on fire.
According to an eyewitness, when the protesters sighted the BRT bus, they quickly rushed at the driver, beat him and later set the bus on fire. He added that the fire was put out by the mobile police officials, who eventually dispersed them with teargas

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

Many road users did not go scot-free as some hoodlums hijacked the protest to rob some innocent and unsuspecting commuters, as well as market men and women, around within the vicinity.
Meanwhile, some commercial drivers plying the road could not continue with their activities, while a few of them that attempted increased fares by 100 per cent. One of the witnesses told The Guardian that Alagbado to Oshodi was N300 as against the old N120 fare.
A mobile policeman disclosed that they were sent to maintain law and order within the vicinity, stressing that the okada riders should not have taken laws into their hands since they had approached a competent court of law to address the situation.
One of the commercial motorcyclists, who simply identified himself as Bello, said he regretted participating in the election that brought the incumbent administration into power, lamenting that all the policies made by Governor Fashola have been anti-people.
For the three working days of last week, it was a hellish experience for Lagosians, who were moving from one part of the city to another. Due to the ubiquitous Lagos traffic and unavailability of buses and tricycles, many were stranded at the bus stops, while others had to walk long distances to get to their destinations.
Many of the okada riders, whose bikes were yet to be seized took them off the streets and those who dared to operate charged exorbitant fees and carried two passengers to make up for the risk of being caught.

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

There were, however, conflicting reports on the Tuesday morning incident, which occurred along Ogunusi Road in Agege with some claiming that a motorcyclist died while others claimed he survived and escaped arrest.
Traders said policemen were executing the ban on okada in the area when the incident happened. Some motorcyclists around Pen Cinema junction alleged that one of the policemen hit an unidentified rider with a baton resulting in the motorcyclist falling into a ditch.
The rider was struggling to escape from the policemen when one of them allegedly hit him with a baton. The motorcyclist fell into a ditch close to AP Filling station and was reportedly severely injured, fuelling rumour that he had died.
Another rider also escaped death on Monday around Eko Hotel Roundabout in Victoria Island. The rider on sighting policemen, made a quick U-turn to escape but was unaware a policeman was lying in wait behind, who immediately hit him with the butt of a gun that saw the rider fall metres in front of an incoming truck.
Many who witnessed the scene hailed the rider for his close shave with death while they rained unprintable words on the governor and the policemen charged with enforcing the law.
A motorcyclist, Bashiru Abubakar, said the confiscation of their bikes had rendered hundreds of thousands jobless and for people like him who are fortunate to hold on to their bikes, it is now almost like a game of chess, as the battle for survival gets stiffer.

Egbe Esther said the situation is compounding the traffic situation in Lagos with many finding it difficult to get to their destinations on time. According to her, the numbers of cars on the road have increased as many now use their cars to meet up with appointments since there are no bikes and where few bikes exist, many commuters had to jostle for them at a higher fare.
Timothy Damilare works on the Island and normally takes a bike from CMS to Akin Adesola Street, where his office is located for N200, but since the enforcement of the restriction on some roads started, he now pays over N1,000 for cab to get to his office.
To Niyi Ademoye, commuting by bike is not a pleasurable ride, especially on the few times he had tried riding on it when he had deadlines to meet. “I can assure you that I never enjoyed the ride. In as much as I do not support the total ban, I will want commercial motorcycles to be available on inner-city streets, especially on the island and some parts of Ikeja.”
However, the state House of Assembly has said it might review the restriction placed on commercial motorcycle operators by the state Road Traffic Law to outright ban. The law had restricted okada riders from operating on 475 major highways, roads and bridges in the state. Speaker of the Assembly, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, in reaction to the protest, said if the riders did not stop the vandalisation of government properties, the lawmakers of the state might have no choice but to ban their operations.

Okada In Lagos: Menace or assistance?

As Lagosians get set to resume work tomorrow after the Sallah break, many people are apprehensive of the traffic logjam and chaos that would be experienced, as some fear they could be a social and economic shutdown in continuation of the protest by commercial motorcyclists.

Lagos Traffic Law: Panic Over Enforcement, Imprisonment

BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA

TO transport operators of different categories, the signing of Lagos State Road Traffic Law (2012) has been generating fright and panic over imprisonment clause despite repeated attempts by Governor Babatunde Fashola and his aides to allay fears that the law was not enacted to sentence traffic offenders, but rather deepen the culture of public safety.

The law, which repealed the 2003 Road Traffic Law, according to the governor, contains some innovative clauses that were brought into the legal regime, first to ensure public safety within the state, and second, to boost Lagos megacity status.

Section 36 (3) of the law states: “In sentencing a person convicted of committing an offence, the court may, in addition to or in lieu of the prescribed sentence, direct suspension or revocation of the driver’s license and direct the person convicted to render community service,” thereby setting a tone for deterrence and voluntary compliance.

But the section is not complete in itself. It is only operational under Section 347 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (2011), which sets definite circumstances and conditions by which any court of competent jurisdiction can order a person convicted of certain offences to render community service.

Also, the court, under the same section, can direct a person convicted of committing an offence to enroll for and attend courses at the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute (LASDRI) for a period not less than seven days at his cost. At the discretion of the presiding magistrate, such person may be sentenced to both community service and enrolment in the drivers’ institute.

This, thus, explains why Fashola during the week, said the law is all about the safety and benefit of Lagos residents as it was not meant “to send anybody to jail. A jail sentence will be an extreme case, especially when the presiding magistrate has identified an offender to be hardened or such person has been committing a particular offence over and over again.

“Unlike the provision of the old traffic law, the new law has made provisions not only for payment of fines, but for convicted offenders to engage in community service such as directing traffic for a specified period among others. The objective of the new law is to get people to comply rather than getting them arrested or apprehended. There is nothing spectacular about the provisions in the new law that is not applicable in distant locations.

“So, the popularity of the law is very evident. Everybody should comply. For anyone who is convicted, he will either undergo compulsory training at the drivers’ institute or community service by managing traffic. Traffic management is a reality of the country’s large population. That is why we have also introduced a traffic radio to provide advance information to residents on how they plan their route,” Fashola said.

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AN in-depth examination of the law gives an insight into various challenges it intends to solve. Under Section 1, for instance, the law prohibits the use of any specified road by vehicles of specified class; regulates the conduct of persons driving, or riding any vehicle or animal on a highway and restricts the use of sirens as well as the sounding of horns or other similar appliances either in general or during specified period.

Subsection 2 and 4 gives power to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officers “to arrest where appropriate and prosecute any persons reasonably suspected of having committed any offences under the provisions of the law.” But LASTMA’s power to prosecute any suspect is subject to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Section 3 also prohibits any person from riding, driving or manually propelling a cart, wheel-barrow, motorcycle and tricycle from no fewer than 11 highways, 41 bridges and 496 routes, which are all stated under the Schedule II of the new traffic law. As contained in the schedule, these categories of vehicles are restricted from plying any route in Eti-Osa Local Government, which covers Victoria Island, Lagos Island as well as Ikoyi.

Under Subsection 4, commercial motorcycle riders are expected not to carry more than one passenger at a time. Aside, the subsection also states that a pregnant woman, a child below age of 12 and an adult with a baby or heavy load placed on her head or which obstruct normal sitting shall not be carried as a passenger, an act, which authors of the law, believe can cause untold suffering and multiple loss.

If any operator fails to comply with these provisions, subsection 5 therefore spells out stiff penalties ranging from serving a three-year imprisonment or rendering community service or the offender might have his vehicle forfeited to the state government, but an award of such penalties will be at the discretion of a presiding magistrate.

The Schedule I x-rays a wide range of traffic offences, which relates to any form of action that precludes drivers from operating with two hands, such as eating and drinking, making use of mobile phone, counting money and smoking while driving.

 

THE law has equally stoked stern reaction from different quarters. Chairman of Motorcycle Operators’ Association of Lagos State (MOALS), Tijani Perkins, described the law as anti-people. He observed that the new traffic law might create more social problems than it intends “to solve originally. Furthermore, the law breached an agreement, which associations of motorcycle operators had with the state government on August 24, 2010. The agreement spelt out the routes on which okada riders can operate in the state.”

An okada rider, Tope Aronipin, said the law is meant to punish operators for practising in the state. “For a long time, Fashola has been trying in vain to stop us from ‘eating’, and this time around, he won’t succeed. I am, however, happy for the law banishing agberos from the road. These people are just criminals and touts, who rob commercial bus drivers and okada riders in broad daylight in the name of collecting tolls.”

Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeola Ipaye, cited instances where human heads were smashed due to reckless operations of commercial motorcycle riders, traffic gridlocks created as a result of lawless driving of many motorists, and diverse cases of armed attacks on unsuspected residents, all of which he said, necessitated the enactment of the law “to avoid a situation whereby Lagosians are used to such gory scenes.”

In 2010, Perkins said it was agreed that okada operators would not ply all bridges and highways across the state. But he expressed dismay at the enactment of the new traffic law, which he said, was designed to disengage all okada operators out of business. “It is unfair to restrict our operations to Trunk C and D roads. This is unacceptable to us. On the 2010 agreement, we stand. We also have rights under the 1999 Constitution and shall exercise them.”

He explained how socio-economic challenges brought thousands of his colleagues to eke out a living from okada business. “How can the state government decide to disengage people going about their lawful activities without providing alternatives, especially in this era of depressed economy. As a body, however, we have decided not to take the matter to the court of competent jurisdiction until the law is gazetted and its enforcement equally takes off,” he said.

Musiliu Saka, like many of his colleagues, is not too happy with the enactment of the law, which he believes, will threaten sources of livelihood for many citizens with its adverse ripple effects on the society.

On his part, a bus driver, who plies Ketu-Oshodi route and simply identified himself as Bamidele, said the law would not work, urging that what the government had succeeded in doing was to empower LASTMA officials to continue their extortion spree. “This is a way of further enriching the highly corrupt LASTMA officials. Tell me how one could drive in a day without falling foul of the law. The government is indirectly saying we should pack our bags and go to our villages. Some aspects of the law are simply draconian,” he said.