The plan to crush and recycle over 4,000 units of seized commercial motorcycles popularly known as okada, in Lagos State, deserves serious interrogation before it is executed. The plan, according to the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, is in line with the Lagos Traffic Law of 2012 which prohibits motorcycles from certain routes throughout the state. The law was passed in response to the increasing wave of motorcycle accidents on the expressways and the widespread use of the machines for criminal activities, especially robbery.
Commercial motorcycles help to fill a huge void in the public transportation system of the state. Traffic gridlocks have been a constant feature of urban transportation in Lagos and the okada satisfies the yearnings of many Lagos commuters for speedy transportation that is unhindered by the debilitating Lagos traffic. Over time, therefore, the number of okadas and their operators in the state swelled beyond control, with many more flocking in from within and without the country. Its use for quick escape from crime scenes by criminals, however, became its undoing, as it was outlawed on the major expressways.
On the face of it, the Lagos Traffic Law can hardly be faulted. The okada operators are expected to cooperate with the government and the law enforcement agencies in their determination to make the state safer and more efficient for all. But, it is in the area of enforcement of this law that the state falters. If a strict application of the law were to be carried out, far more motorcycles would be involved, as okada riders still wilfully ply the expressways from which they were banned.
Beyond the enforcement of the law banning commercial motorcycles from expressways, however, is the cost-effectiveness of the plan to crush the seized machines. Will the proposed crushing of the seized motorcycles serve the purpose of curbing the okada menace? Has the government given sufficient thought to the conditions that make okada an acceptable and popular means of transportation in the state? Have enough alternatives been provided to fill the void that the okada covers, in the face of its banishment from the said routes? These are the posers that should be considered before the crushing of the machines.
It is perfectly in order that the okadas have been confiscated in accordance with the extant law. We are, however, concerned about the huge economic waste that the crushing represents in a country that is grappling with widespread poverty. The high cost of motorcycles and the fact that the machines could be put to use in some other parts of the state, and even the country, especially the rural areas, call for a rethink of the plan to crush them.
We are opposed to any semblance of a waste of resources, especially in the current serious economic crunch that the nation has found itself. Would it not make better economic sense if a way is found to make the machines add value to the state? Have the authorities given any serious thought to this option? What if the machines are given at a cheap rate to unemployed but licensed riders for use on the routes that they are allowed to operate, or in the far-flung parts of the state? These machines can be used for poverty alleviation and the empowerment of impoverished Nigerians.
It is also necessary to ask whether seized motor vehicles are crushed in the state. Why, then, the decision to crush the seized motorcycles? This is an aspect of the proposed crushing plan which must be well thought out before it is implemented. The okada represents a means of employment for many of its operators. Nothing should be done to suggest that government is unmindful of the need to tackle the economic challenges confronting its poor citizens.