Lawless okada riders

By Kazeem Ugbodaga 

Despite its barking one week ago, the Lagos State Government appears toothless in enforcing ban on okada riders from plying major highways across the metropolis. Okada riders are now king of the road, daring the government to stop them.

More than ever, the menace of Okada riders has increased since the state government held a press conference last week Thursday ordering security agencies, LASTMA, FRSC and others to begin immediate arrest of Okada riders plying restricted routes.

State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde spoke tough that day. He said the game is over for lawless Okada riders and ordered full enforcement and clampdown on belligerent riders, including tricycle operators.

His tough speech came on heels of several attack on Task Force officials enforcing the restrictions on the riders. Okada riders have taken over major roads and expressways in Lagos, driving against traffic and on BRT lane. They have also attacked Task Force officials trying to regulate the law.

Recently, a mob of Okada riders attacked task force officials in Mile 2, vandalising three vehicles and injuring one para-military officer.

Also, another mob of Okada riders attacked and chased away task force officials in Ikeja and damaged BRT buses.

According to the law, okada riders and tricycles are banned in six Local Governments and nine Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs.

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The LGs and LCDAs are: Apapa LG; Lagos Mainland LG; Surulere LG; Ikeja LG; Eti-Osa LG; Lagos Island LG; Onigbongbo LCDA; Ojodu LCDA; Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA; Iru-Victoria Island LCDA; Lagos Island East LCDA; Apapa Iganmu LCDA; Yaba LCDA; Itire-Ikate LCDA; and Coker-Aguda LCDA.

They are also banned from plying bridges, such as Dopemu bridge, Iyana-Ipaja bridge, Agege bridge, Airport Road bridge, Ojuelegba Bridge, Apapa-Iganmu bridge, Liverpool bridge, Mile 2 bridge, Cele-Ijesha bridge, among others.

According to Oladeinde, “restriction of okada on certain routes in the State is still in force. Failure to comply with the law will attract sanctions as stipulated in the TSRL 2018, with penalties ranging from N20,000 to three months imprisonment.

“Any motorist caught driving against Traffic will pay the maximum penalty, which is to have their vehicles impounded, and forfeited in line with TSRL 2018, while the drivers will be equally charged to the court of law. In line with this Administration’s plan to build Lagos that works for all, we are determined to continue to engage with the various Transport Unions and Associations of Tricycle and Okada operators to ensure their members cooperate with us in the process of ensuring public safety by abiding with the TSRL 2018 at all time.

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“With the upsurge in the number of commercial motorcycle operators, we shall intensify our enforcement strategy. This we intend to carry out along with the various transport Union Leaders. We will set up a joint enforcement team to ensure that our roads are sanitized from the menace of okada riders.”

He then said: “the game is over for Okada riders.”

But the game is not over for the riders. One week after talking tough, the state government has gone to sleep as okada riders reign supreme as the king of the highways. The government has not been able to match words with action. They continue to drag the dedicated lane with BRT from Abule Egba to Oshodi. They ply the expressways and bridges with impunity unchallenged.

It is clear that the #EndSARS violence has embolden the riders, resorting to violence at the slightest provocation. They are ready to engage Task Force and the police in combat or how do you expect armless LASTMA and FRSC to arrest belligerent okada riders without being mobbed or killed?

All over the metropolis, on restricted routes, anarchy reigns as the riders are having fun, making brisk money, daring the government to arrest them. They ride against traffic at will and will even insult any motorist trying to correct them. Even the BRT drivers are begging okada riders to leave the way to ply their dedicated lanes.

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One week after, motorists and other road users are still waiting for the state government to curb the anarchy ongoing on Lagos roads occasioned by activities of lawless okada riders. Is government powerless to enforce the law? Is government afraid that the riders will go violent when trying to enforce the law?

But government is there to enforce laws and order, ensures that the traffic laws are obeyed to the letter, as well as reduce road accidents to the barest minimum. Pundits are of the view that government has no excuse not to enforce the laws and get okada riders to comply with laid down rules.