Recently, motorists and commuters were stuck for hours after a commercial motorcyclist carrying two passengers collided with an on-coming, Lagos, yellow commercial bus (danfo) at Dopemu Bus Stop on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
The commercial motorcycle, aka okada rider, was riding against traffic in a brazen manner. It was gathered that he was speeding recklessly in a bid to beat the heavy morning traffic. His passengers sustained various degrees of injuries. One of his passenger’s legs was severely twisted; the bus driver lost control and plunged into a nearby canal.
The Dopemu accident was one out of several other reported okada accidents that occur daily in different parts of Lagos. Many have been killed, while others were left with lifelong scars. Residents who ply the city’s roads are tired of the menace of the motorcyclists, who operate with sheer recklessness.
Despite the ban on okada from plying 475 of an estimated 9,000 roads and bridges by the Lagos State Government in 2012, it has become worrisome to many how the riders keep defying the order with impunity, wreaking havoc in unquantifiable proportions. Six years after, the state government is still grappling with the full implementation of the traffic law.
On Monday, March 26, 2018, a commercial motorbike operator and his female passenger were killed in an
accident. Both were crushed by a truck on Oba Akran Road in Ikeja. The duo died on the spot. Oba Akran Road is one of the routes motorbikes were restricted from.
Sympathisers who rushed to the scene wailed profusely at the sight of the mangled bodies of the victims and their blood flowing on the street.
Observers insist that the Lagos State government has long lost the battle to curtail the excesses and recklessness of motorcycle operators, who keep plying the forbidden highways and bridges. Most people who ply the roads have sad tales to tell. They insist that the menace of okada riders is a big headache every other road user has had to deal with for long.
Although, from time to time, some arrests are made by the special task force created to check the okada riders, they seem more defiant than ever. They steadily increase in number, making their presence visible even on Obafemi Awolowo Way leading to Government House, Alausa. It is obvious that several warnings by the state government keep falling on deaf ears.
From Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Mile 2-Badagry Expressway, Funsho Williams, Ojota-Ikorodu, Lagos-Ajah Road, Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, Ago Palace Way to Okoko, okada riders are everywhere, in the day and at night hours.
On the Mile 2-Badagry road alone, one can count hundreds of them in just a few minutes of observation.
According to Daily Sun’s investigation, many law enforcement officers and military men are involved in okada riding in Lagos. They indulge in the trade as a side hustle to make ends meet. At Oshodi Under Bridge, security men, mostly Mobile Police, can be seen every evening soliciting passengers heading for Iyana-Ipaja, Egbeda, Abule-Egba, Toll Gate and Sango. To these security men, the Lagos traffic law does not exist for them.
At Second Rainbow Bus Stop on the Oshodi-Mile 2 Expressway, the okada riders are there every day in their numbers, aggressively soliciting passengers on the main road. Scores of them, who occupy the edge of the road, perch on their bikes waiting for passengers.
A rider at Ile-Epo in Alimosho Local Government Area of the state, Garba Sani, told the reporter that okada riders were by far better than thieves who rob innocent people.
When asked if he was aware that his activities were restricted to certain routes, he described that as a huge joke, insisting that he and his colleagues buy tickets from local council workers on a daily basis in order for them to be allowed to operate.
He maintained that, if they were carrying out an illegal trade, government representatives wouldn’t have been collecting levies from them.
“The police also collect money from us on a regular basis. We are contributing to the government in one way or the other. There is no government job for us to do, that is why some of us are riding okada. There is no way Lagosians can do without us because their journey is made easy on motor bike,” he said.
But despite their seeming usefulness, many Lagos residents are angry with the worrisome way okada riders carry on. Seeing the riders operating with the guts of the gods with some performing various stunts right on the road, who would not be worried? Many do so with an unfathomable gusto; need one say that they contravene the law even in the presence of security men?
Some keen observers of the development argue that many okada riders are still holding sway as a result of poor enforcement of the Lagos State Traffic Law by those entrusted with the responsibility. They want government to match its words with action by clamping down on the operators who still thrive on restricted routes. These concerned Lagosians call for 100 per cent enforcement of the law.
Daily Sun gathered that some residents are even pointing at the state government’s inability to deal with the situation or deliberately refusing to enforce the traffic law to the letter strictly for political reasons, especially as elections approach.
These residents have warned that the damage being done by the okada riders is far more than their usefulness.
A businessman who deals in electronics at Alaba International Market, Mr. Michael Ikenna, said:
“For the fact that one jumps on motorcycles, which ride against the traffic, to get to their destination in time does not mean that one should support their activities. They actually constitute a menace to other road users. Safety should not be traded for anything.
“There is a high number of armed robbery cases being executed on okada; there is an increasing rate of accidents by commercial motorcycles too.
“Just recently, a man was gunned down at Maza-maza Bus Stop in a broad daylight by a young man riding on okada. After killing the man, he jumped on a waiting bike and made a quick getaway.”
Another concerned Lagos resident, Adeyemi Alade, told the correspondent that lack of political will and abysmal disconnection with the masses were responsible for the poor implementation of the Lagos Traffic Law.
“It is sad and disheartening that government is treating the ban on okada with levity. The effective implementation of that traffic law is capable of ushering in a serene environment for a healthy life. But government has decided look the other way. Law becomes useless when it is not put to use.
“You will weep when you see the nuisance of these okada riders in most parts of Lagos. The invasion of Mile 2 inward Apapa road by motorcyclists could best pass for a state of anarchy.
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Watching their sheer display of recklessness, you wonder if we have a government in this state at all.
“All over the world, when people are not prosecuted for violating laws, others will be encouraged to follow
suit,” he said.
Daily Sun further discovered that there has been a steady influx of young okada riders particularly from a part of the country. Many of these youngsters do not know or care to learn the rudiments of traffic and safety regulations.
The constant violation of traffic laws by the motorcyclists, and the seeming failure of government to stop them continue to unsettle many residents. Against this backdrop, residents have called on the authorities to rise to the
occasion and prevent the crisis from further escalating. Failing to do this, some residents maintain that the government ought to be held responsible for indirectly aiding and abetting the disaster.