The recent ultimatum issued by the Lagos State government on commercial motorcycle (Okada) riders to observe the status quo of keeping off restricted roads listed by the immediate past administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola is quite uncomfortable and vindictive. While this is not the first time such a threatening position would be taken by Lagos State government, the mode and timing of this punitive move by the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration is quite disheartening.
Indeed, it is the constitutional responsibility of any government to protect lives and property. Beyond that, the government also needs to ensure that its citizens are taken care of directly or indirectly. Specifically, creation and provision of jobs are very crucial for the security of any society
October 20, 2012, the government effected the restriction a Okada on 475 roads out of 9,100 roads including the highways. The major reason given for this partial ban was that okada accidents were on the rise as evidenced in high number of accident victims.
Lagos state with its teeming population has however tried in different ways to see that crime rate is reduced to the barest minimum. But the stance of the current administration on okada operation in the state has further heightened the fate of many of the operators in the state.
The past administration of Governor Fashola gave room to the police and task force officials to unduly harass the Okada riders on daily basis even when they kept to the rules. Some of their motorcycles impounded were destroyed which some surprisingly disappeared from the law enforcement’s custody only to discover the same motorcycle operating by task force officials’ relatives.
Besides the divided position of Lagosians over the restriction of these commercial motorcycle operators on some roads, especially those who patronise them, there have been accusations that the government is insensitive to their circumstances.
Undeniably, many of the Okada operators rely on this business as their means of livelihood and those of their family members.
More worrisome, is the state government’s promises to the operators during its political campaigns. What is rather expected of this government is come up with alternative means for these operators and not just to focus on how to forcefully tame them.
What the state government and other critics consider as nuisance should also be seen as a child of necessity which can only be rehabilitated and not necessarily killed.
Lagos state government may not be banning the operators completely, but some excesses of its task force and police witnessed under the past administration left much to be desired.
If government is to go ahead with its threat to ban and arrest commercial motorcycle operators on listed roads as promised, it should also consider the plight of those who patronise them, because it is not every resident in the state has a car, and not every area allows commercial buses.
A situation where even the roads that are not among the restricted ones outlined by the government became no-go-areas for the operators was quite hypocritical and disdainful.
The okada operators consider that the government has been very harsh on them, and the implication is that most of them would suffer as a result of this restriction.
I believe the security offices such as police, LASTMA, Civil Defence, KAI, among others are already warming up to maul down the hapless Okada operators many of whom are victim of circumstances.
More can be done by the government and stakeholders in addressing the issue of commercial motorcycle operators by creating alternative means for them rather than just restricting, banning, impounding the motorcycles or arresting them.
One of the veritable ways to significantly tackle this is for the current government to adopt some policies such as those a former military administrator of the state, Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) successfully implemented that saw to the employment of many young men and women.
Marwa through who Keke Marwa came into operation, helped in reducing the operation of commercial motorcycles.
Another step taken by the man is the generation og employment through Direct Labour Agency initiative which made impact almost every nook and cranny of the state, including Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry. Many people were employed under the scheme which made many inner roads motorable and also patched up some major roads. Even though the administration was a military one, I strongly believe that the current democratic government can do better if it sincerely wants to.
Lagos state government needs to face realities in resolving this issue of commercial motorcycle operators by putting first things first.
Many inner roads are not in bad shape. This has also immensely contributed to the daily gridlock we have on most major roads