No fewer than 16 commercial motorcycles, also known as Okada, alongside their passengers, were arrested, yesterday, by policemen, during the enforcement of the ban on their operations in six local government areas, by the Lagos State Government.
The Police also impounded 140 motorcycles, while 94 of them were seized in communities around Ajah, Ikeja and its environs.
This came, as the Lagos State government has appealed to Lagosians to use alternative modes of transportation in the state, disclosing that out of the 1,712 accidents recorded in the first quarter of year 2022, 767 involved Okada.
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Meanwhile, one of the motorcycle unions, Motorcycle Transport Union of Nigeria, MTUN, has dragged the Lagos State government before a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, praying the court to declare the ban as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.
Surprisingly, some of the major roads, such as Cele bus stop, Apple Junction and Mile 2 Oke, all on the Oshodi Apapa expressway, where riders used to cluster, witnessed free flow of traffic.
At 10 am., no Okada operator was sighted in the Lekki and Ajah axis, including inner roads like Ado/Badore, in Ajah, to Ikota complex/VGC, among others.
This forced commuters to trek long distances before boarding commercial buses to their respective destinations. Later in the day, tricycle operators were sighted plying some of the inner routes to convey commuters to bus stops.
Mixed reactions have continued to trail the ban. For some commuters, it was a welcome development, while others accused the state government of being insensitive to the impact of the ban on the masses.
One of the commuters, Mr. Sebastian Utam, a civil servant, said: “The ban is good because there’s free follow of movements for everybody. I was amused when I got to Ilaje bus stop, in Ajah. Before now, everywhere would be congested, and you might be knocked down by an Okada when you want to cross the road to the other side, if you are not careful.”
Also, a tricycle operator, who simply identified himself as Sani, said the ban was a blessing to him and his colleagues, as it afforded them an opportunity to operate on routes previously dominated by Okada riders.
But for Mary Victor, a staff of one of the private companies in Ajah, the ban was a punishment as, in some cases, no alternative was provided.
She said: “I am not happy that I am trekking this far. Although it’s an exercise, everybody wishes there were motorbikes to make it easier and faster for one to get to work but, unfortunately, there are no alternatives.”
On her part, Bose Olufemi expressed doubt in the ability of security agencies to sustain the enforcement. She said: “They can’t ban Okada in Lagos. After all, governors Fashiola and Ambode tried it, but it didn’t work. Let’s watch and see what happens in the later days.”
As for Moses, an Okada operator, who sat quietly by the roadside, observing as events unfolded, said: “Now that Okada is banned without alternatives, how are riders going to survive? Government needs to think twice and consider the poor masses, before they put any law in place.”
Although Ikorodu is not part of the six local governments affected by the ban, some leaders of commercial motorcycle operators in the area said they deliberately stayed off the road due to public outcry.
Some of them were seen collaborating with local security personnel to enforce the ban.
Vanguard observed total compliance from Anthony on Ikorodu Road, to Fadeyi, as well as Oshodi, Ikeja-Along, to Dopemu under bridge, on the Lagos/Abeokuta expressway.
Reports from Ikoyi to Third Mainland Bridge, down to Gbagada, and from Iyana-Ipaja to Abule-Egba, Ijaiye, Ahmadiya, Kola, Mosalasi, down to Toll Gate, Durba bus stop, Festac-First Gate, Second Gate, Mile 2 expressway to Abule-Ado were impressive.
Different teams of law enforcement operatives were sighted patrolling the areas.
It was, however, gathered that some of the riders had relocated to areas not affected by the ban.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has appealed to residents to use alternative modes of transportation in the state following the ban on commercial motorcycles, in the affected local government areas.
Urging operators and residents to fully comply with the order, the government reiterated that the ban was taken to ensure security and safety of residents.
Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, while speaking on the development during a television programme, said: “During the first quarter of this year, records showed that over 1,712 accidents were recorded, with Okada constituting 767, or 45 per cent of them. Of all the victims, 54 per cent were between 30 and 39 years old; our young people.”
On an alternative, he said the state government launched over 500 First and Last Mile buses, with 200 rolled out in the last weeks to serve as an alternative to Okada.”
However, some Okada riders, under the aegis of Motorcycle Transport Union of Nigeria, MTUN, have dragged the Lagos State government to court over the ban.
Applicants in the suit, apart from the Trustees, are Peter Umoh, Pastor Tony Onuoha, David Abiona, Adebayo Oluwasegun, Gambo Muhammed, Yakubu Abubakar, Ayo Boluwade, Amaechi Peter, Nwamiri Monday, Abayomi Adegbite, Oluwaseyi Funmi, Mohammed Kadi, Abdullahi Jigla, Nora Usman, Pastor Emmanuel Donatus, Sanni Abubakar and Nwibo Sunday.
Lagos Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State governor, Lagos State Task Force, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, and Commissioner for Transportation are defendants in the suit.
MTUN and 18 others in the suit, are praying the court to declare that the “purported proposed ban of the commercial motorcycle transportation in Lagos State by the state governor, without hearing from the operators whose rights are affected, or likely to be affected is a violation of the constitutional rights of the applicants to fair hearing, provided for and encapsulated in Section 36 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.”
“The applicants are also praying the court to declare that the ban of the business of commercial motorcycle transportation in Lagos by the government “is a violation of the rights of the applicants guaranteed by section 33 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“In alternative, they are praying the court to grant an order compelling the government to provide jobs for the teeming commercial motorcycle riders in the state.
“In the affidavit in support of the application, sworn to by Pastor Emmanuel Donatus, he averred that he and other operators have no means of sustenance apart from the business of Okada, which he said they had been using to feed their families.“