Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Umar Manko, spoke with MOYO FABIYI and LUCKY LAWAL on the enforcement of the Lagos Traffic Law, the ban on agbero or touts and why the law cannot exempt policemen. Excerpts:
The police have commenced the enforcement of Lagos Traffic Law that banned Okada operations from the highways. Same law banned touts or NURTW men from collecting money at the motor parks and bus stops; when will police enforce the ban on touts?
If a law is enacted covering many areas like the traffic law, it does not mean you start to enforce every aspect of the law at the same time but if you decide to start with commercial motorcyclists, that does not mean we have abandoned the other aspects of the law. By the time we finish with the motorcyclists, we will move to other aspects.
We decided to start with okada riders because of what they have been using them for, like crime such as robbery, kidnapping and other bad activities which have become alarming in the state, and which at times have been traced to commercial motorcyclists. That was why we decided to start with them.
If an okada rider is caught violating the law, he cannot say it is because he is looking for a means of livelihood, as many of them have been saying. The law does not recognise such plea. We intend to enforce the different aspects of the law one after the other.
Some commercial bus drivers and passengers too are of the view that there has been a deal between the police and the touts. How do you react to this allegation?
I don’t know what you mean by a deal. And I won’t want to ask you where you got your information from. I am saying it clearly and publicly that I don’t have a deal with any agbero(tout) because I don’t see how me, a Commissioner of Police in the Nigeria Police Force will have a deal with agbero? What can they do for me? I don’t see any officer serving in Lagos Police Command having a deal with any of them (agbero).
However, if anybody decides to have a deal with agbero, such a person is doing so at his own risk. If a law is enacted, it must be enforced. Of course, you can see in a normal society, if government says take this measure to regulate our behaviour, somebody will go somewhere and say this thing will not be done, this law is not for us. Who is that that will claim superiority over government? As far as I am concerned, that law is to regulate human behaviour on our roads.
They should also thank the governor for the restriction of okada riders. If I should have my way, I will prefer a total ban of commercial motorcyclists. They have done it in other states. For God’s sake, heaven did not fall.
I know some states including the Federal capital territory, FCT, Abuja that have banned okada riders. What are we talking about here in Lagos?
A law had been enacted. Those who think they have a stake are free to challenge the law in a court as okada riders have done. But they should allow the court processes to determine their fate.
In a situation where government passes a law and some people don’t want to obey it and they think that as Commissioner of Police, I will sit here and close my eyes as if nothing is happening, I am a law officer and the only business I have here is to enforce laws.
Do you think police have sufficient logistics to enforce the ban on touts at the many motor parks and the bus stops scattered all over Lagos State?
By the time I start to enforce the aspect of the law on agbero, I will map out strategies to contain them. I am not afraid of any agbero. When we get to the level of enforcing the law on motor park,s they (Agbero) will obey the law. How I will do it, you will see.
Okada riders have claimed that they were arrested and money extorted from them on roads where their operations were not banned…
Policemen of this age are not illiterates. They should be able to distinguish where a law is supposed to be effective and where it is not. The era when everybody thinks that every action a policeman takes is aimed at extorting money is gone, not now. All these insinuations are because of past perception that a policeman doesn’t do anything without extorting money. Policemen are not illiterates, they are not blind. They enforce the law where and when it is supposed to be enforced. Lagos State is not an exemption. Those of us who work in the state know where the law is expected to be effected and where it is not. Like I have always told people, if you see one or two policemen doing contrary to what the law says, come and tell us with facts and see what will happen to such policemen. The issue of making general statement does not work these days. People must come with facts. Policemen don’t carry money to come and give to me. Anyone who decided to do that is doing so at a very high risk.
Is there a way members of the public could reach your office by phone calls or e-mail to make a report of erring policemen?
If there is any state that has done that abundantly, it is Lagos State. My telephone numbers are all over the place. The government of the state circulated the phone numbers of area commanders and other senior officers among the media houses in the state. Also, emergency telephone numbers like 767 and 112, you call anyone of them and somebody will respond. Getting across to the police when somebody is in distress is easier in Lagos than any other police command.
Some okada riders also claim that on roads where their operations are not banned, policemen arrest them and collect bribe of N5,000 or N10,000 for each bike seized?
Why must they operate for policemen to arrest them? Government is saying, this thing is banned in this place. Live within the law and spare yourselves of these troubles. Of course, what do you expect from okada riders? When they are arrested, they will make allegations of bribery. Every officer knows the implication of getting themselves involved in bribery?
I am just coming from a discussion with the Inspector General of Police and he personally told me to ensure that we pay our policemen’s salary between now and next week to make them comfortable during the Christmas. What else do they need to get themselves involved in bribery.
We have somebody, IGP, who has the welfare of all of us at heart. The man is working hard to ensure that what is due to us is given to us. Anytime you people are talking of bribery, it worries me.
Some policemen, who took loans or bought motorcycles on hire purchase terms were also caught up by the law. Any palliative for them?
My men are not exempted from the law. If you ride motorcycle son certain roads, it is illegal. I used to arrest my men for flouting the law. If you want to lead, you start with yourself. I have said it severally, those who want to enforce the law must obey it. I am determined to live by example. If we are to enforce the law, we should not be seen to break it. I have arrested policemen and taken their motorcycles to the place they gathered them at Alausa. The law has no exemption.
If I decided to ride okada as the Commissioner of Police, I am breaking the law and I don’t expect a policeman who is out to enforce the law to respect my uniform.