Two months after the Lagos State Government commenced the enforcement of its new traffic law restricting the operation of commercial motorcycles, a.k.a. okada, on 475 roads in the metropolis, it is still business as usual for the riders as they continue to ply the restricted roads.
P.M.NEWS investigations revealed that after the initial bravado by the state government to enforce the law which led to the seizure of about 3,000 motorcycles belonging to offenders, law enforcement officials appeared tired and this has emboldened the riders to continue plying the restricted routes.
A close monitoring of the 475 restricted routes by P.M.NEWS revealed that some okada riders were still plying the routes.
These recalcitrant riders can be seen on Oba Ogunji Road, Acme Road, Ikorodu Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos -Badagry Expressway, Herbert Macaulay Way and other restricted routes.
The activities of these disobedient riders are more pronounced at Pen Cinema, Agege, Acme Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Lagos- Ikorodu Road Lekki-Epe Eexpressway.
At Pen Cinema, Agege, the riders now operate with impunity by parking on the median near the Women Development Centre, in the morning and late evening to pick passengers. Policemen at the nearby Pen Cinema, it was gathered, always send policemen to the area to apprehend them but the cops end up extorting money from the riders.
At Mobil Road, Oke-Ira, Ogba, a large number of okada riders operated on the restricted road unchallenged.
On Iju Road, Agege, the story is the same. Okada riders operate on the prohibited route and constitute nuisance as usual in deviance of the law. Likewise at Fagba and Abule Egba areas, okada riders operate with impunity.
They also ply the ever-busy Agege Motor Road as the police and government officials seem to have gone to sleep. It was on this road that Governor Babatunde Fashola personally arrested a police officer riding on okada last week.
On Acme Road, Ogba, the law seems to be ineffective as a large number of okada riders ply the prohibited route throughout the day. The same scenario was observed along Akilo and Agidingbi roads.
On Ekoro Road, Abule Egba, okada riders are making a lot of money by plying the prohibited route. Also in Command, Ipaja the motorcyclists operate as there is no law barring them from the route.
On Lekki-Epe expressway, okada riders are having a field day as they operate unchallenged. The same situation was observed at Victoria Island and some areas in Ikoyi.
Investigations also revealed that majority of the motorcycle riders found in restricted areas of the state are security officials who now use the opportunity of the ban to make brisk money by using their uniforms to flout the law.
As a result, some of the riders who had earlier abandoned the business are gradually returning while many of them make friends with policemen, soldiers and officials of the Lagos State Road Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to evade arrest.
“When they seized my first okada, few days after they began the implementation of the traffic law, I waited to know what next to do. But I realised that the thing to do is to have a policeman as a friend. So I bought one of the seized motorcycles from a policeman at N15, 000 and went back to the business.
“Though it is risky to ride okada in Lagos now, those of us who have the courage still make our money,” Okechukwu Ani, an Igbo man residing in Agege, said, adding that anytime he was caught, he always sought the assitance of his police friend.
Another rider, Sunday Emo, who picks passengers from Pen Cinema to the Secretariat, said it was risky but that the riders are now very careful.
“It is now a case of the cat and mouse relationship. We know that if we are arrested, our okada is seized and we may be prosecuted, but now, we are more careful than before.
“These days, as we ride, we ask our colleagues the situation of the roads. We no longer wait to pick passengers in secretariat. Once we get there, the passenger, who must have paid us before reaching the place, jumps down and we move on,” he said.
Some of the riders also told P.M. NEWS that they decided to engage in the risky venture because they have no alternatives.
“Of course, the law was passed despite our efforts to persuade the government against it, but what is the same government doing to cushion the effects of the restriction on our lives?” asked Victor Akinwunmi, a rider who still plies the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
Chairman, Okada Riders Union, Ikeja branch, Mr Olukayode Amadi advised government to deploy a taskforce on all restricted routes to stop okada riders from plying them and leave riders to ply the inner roads.
“If the government should deploy the taskforce on all prohibited routes, okada riders will be forced to use the inner streets and the police should not arrest our men in the streets that we are not banned from plying,” he said.
Commenting on the flouting of the law by okada riders, PPRO, Lagos State Police Command, Ngozi Braide lamented that okada riders did not want to comply with the traffic law. She accused them of being hostile to policemen trying to enforce the law. “When we try to arrest them, they will start blackmailing us. We will try our best to ensure that okada riders obey the law,” she stated.
Reacting to the development, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba said the law was still on course and that government was ever ready to ensure its success. He said government was not helpless in enforcing the law.
Ibirogba stated that the mere fact that some okada riders flouted the law did not mean that it was not working, adding that several okada riders had left the prohibited routes.
“If somebody is trying to make the last minute rush and dodge, it cannot be used to gauge the law. The law has planted the right thing to do in the minds of Lagosians and everybody is now aware of the existence of the law. The law has awaken the consciousness of all of us that we don’t take things for granted.
“Even those who are trying to evade and dodge law enforcement officers in breaking the law, know the law exists. They are operating illegally. We are all law enforcers and we have to take a decision not to break the law,” he said.
The commissioner stated that government would try as much as possible to ensure that okada riders were not allowed to ply the restricted routes, adding that with time, 100 per cent compliance would be achieved.