It has now been three weeks since the Lagos State government commenced its enforcement order restricting commercial motorcycles and tricycles, popularly known as okada and keke marwa respectively, from operating in six Local Government Areas (LGAs), nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and 10 major highways across the State.
In a statement issued on January 27, Gboyega Akosile, the Chief Press Secretary to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State, quoted Gbenga Omotoso, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, as saying that the Lagos State government took the decision in response to the “scary figures” of fatal accidents recorded, the lack of regard for the Lagos Traffic Laws and the high level of crime rate recorded from the operation of okada and keke marwa in the state.
Despite several protests by the okada and keke maruwa operators and appeals by some Lagosians for the order to be rescinded, the prohibition of both means of transportation from certain routes in the state began on February 1 as scheduled. During the first week of the order’s implementation, there was a heavy presence of law enforcement officers – including personnel from the Nigeria Police Force, the Lagos State Task Force and the Nigeria Security and Defence Corps (NSCDC) – along the prohibited routes. This resulted in a high level of compliance from the okada and keke operators.
However, towards the end of the second week of the order implementation, it appeared that some of the okada operators, in particular, have reappeared on some of the restricted routes. Some of these routes include Allen Avenue in Ikeja Local Government Area, Ketu and Ojota axis of Ikorodu Road, the Itire-Lawanson-Ojuelegba axis of Surulere Local Government Area and Tejuosho Road, Montgomery Road and Herbert Macaulay Road all situated in Yaba Local Council Development Area.
It was observed that while the scale of operations of okada riders was nowhere near the level it was before the ban, a number of them have gradually returned plying the routes outlawed for them. Our correspondents noticed that a good number of the okada riders operated based on the “hide and seek” game. Some of the riders appear to have navigate the inner streets around and would then stop to observe if law enforcement officials were parading the area before quickly entering the restricted routes and zoom off. It was also noted that the number of enforcement personnel on the prohibited roads visited by Newsbreak had significantly reduced compared to the first week, which may have probably encouraged the riders.
The okada riders, it was also discovered, operated more along the restricted routes during the weekends.
Some riders of the okada which some of our correspondents boarded in the course of preparing this report declined to be interviewed on record due to the risk of being caught and arrested by the police. Others who agreed to speak on record pleaded for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
One of the riders, who rode one of our correspondents from Tejuosho Road to Herbert Macaulay Road, Yaba, lamented that the ban has severely affected their means of livelihood.
“I won’t lie to you, this ban has really crippled my income. Before, I could make close to N3,000-N3,500 when carrying passengers through this route before this ban. But since the beginning of this month, I have struggled to make even N1,000 because of this ban. It is hitting me hard,” the rider said.
Another okada rider, who operates along the Ojuelegba Road-Randle Avenue axis, also corroborated the aforementioned rider’s position. However, when asked why he could not relocate to other LGAs in the state not affected by the restriction order, he said his house is domiciled in the restricted routes and would find it difficult to relocate.
“The question of finding a new place away will be difficult for me. I live in Surulere and I use my okada to feed my family. Now that my business has been affected, it will be difficult for me to leave and search for houses in those areas as money is not easy to get. Also, if I move to another place and Sanwo-Olu decides to ban okada in that place, what will I do?” the rider asked.
An okada operator who plies the Ojuelegba-Cole Street-LUTH Road axis lamented that the government failed to provide credible alternatives for the riders before the enforcement of the prohibition. He insisted that despite the state government’s effort to limit their activities through continuous arrests, the okada riders will continue to operate on the restricted routes.
“What our government fails to realise is that people will starve if they don’t work. Fine, they banned us from some routes, but the thing is that if we don’t work we wouldn’t eat. This situation is like the soldiers’ issue; soldier go soldier come, barracks go still remain. The more they raid and pack our okadas, the more we will continue to come out again,” he said.
When contacted, the Lagos State Police Command – the primary law enforcement agency leading the implementation of the prohibition order – said enforcement is still ongoing and described its role as a “continuous exercise”.
Bala Elkana, the Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, told Newsbreak in a telephone interview that the police and other law enforcement officials empowered to enforce the order continue to arrest defaulters irrespective of status.
He insisted that the daredevil operation of some of the okada riders on some of the routes does not mean that the police have relaxed in its enforcement.
“Well, that does not mean that there is no enforcement going on. The enforcement is going on in the stipulated areas, but for the fact that some people try to test the resolve of the law enforcement agents does not mean that there is no enforcement. We arrest offenders and those who are recalcitrant and seem that they cannot obey the law, they will still come out and meet their waterloo. We apprehend them and impound their motorcycles,” he said.
On the level of enforcement on weekends, Elkana said: “There is no day that enforcement is lower. We work 24 hours; we don’t have workdays, we don’t have weekends. Go round Lagos and see for yourselves, there is enforcement all over. We go out even on weekends on monitoring, so there is no day that the enforcement is low. There is no holiday, we are always working 24/7.”
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