The law is reason, free from passion. – Aristotle
For a city grievously lacking in good road infrastructure, and perpetually caught in snarling traffic jams, okada, the local parlance for commercial motorcycle operators in Lagos, has become the saving grace for most commuters. Operators of this means of transportation often reach far into areas that are not motorable in the city, and make the huge difference between keeping up to time for appointments or arriving late.
However, the notoriety with which these okada riders operate; the dangers they pose to other road users, and the desire of the Governor Raji Fashola administration in Lagos to transform the state to a mega-city have necessitated the need to draw up a comprehensive road use law which aims to check the excesses of this particular set of road users, as well as other motorists.
Signed into law in August 2, 2012, the Lagos Traffic Law restricted the activities of okada riders to some designated routes within the metropolis, and also set a time frame within which the commercial motorcyclists could operate.
Despite being passed almost two months ago, it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the law came into full effect. Though the law applies to all road users, okada riders, and commuters seem to be the ones bearing the brunt the most. Only last week, the Lagos State government through its task force officials seized and crushed no fewer than 3, 000 commercial motorcycles that allegedly contravened the law.
So far, it has been series of protests on the part of the commercial motorcyclists, and knocks for the Lagos state government and its implementation of the traffic laws.
Despite the seizure of more commercial motorcycles everyday, this has not reduced traffic jam in the city. Rather it has succeeded in inflating transport fare; leaving huge numbers of commuters stranded at the bus stops, and denied thousands of young men their means of livelihood.
What is even more appalling about the law is the manner officials of the Lagos State Task Force enforce it. It should be noted that some of the arrests and seizures made by officials are done forcefully and violently, with at least the death of a motorcyclist recorded at Cement Bus stop, along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, when an overzealous policeman hit him on the head with the butt of his gun.
Laws should be thoroughly thought out, and their formulators pragmatic, hence the need for the quote at the beginning of this piece.
Can the Lagos State government sincerely tell commuters that it has provided alternative means of transportation to cushion the effect of the ban on okada? How about the thousands of ex-okada riders that are suddenly left with no means of livelihood, how does the state hope to get them gainfully employed? Telling them to leave Lagos state to their states of origin is the height of callousness and insensitivity on the part of the government.
In a similar manner, okada riders should realise brazen disrespect to traffic laws, rascality, and vandalism of government properties is not the way to go about things. Whoever is caught engaging in acts that contravenes the law should be made ready to face the consequences. Dialogue and moderation should be employed in all dealings with the government.
Until the fundamental issues of unemployment and decaying infrastructures are earnestly tackled, an effective ban on okada in Lagos still remains doubtful, the Lagos Traffic Law and high-handedness of its Task Force officials notwithstanding.