Once again, the Lagos State Government accompanied by the Police Command in the state has come with that familiar story of reading the riot act against commercial motorcycle riders popularly known as okada riders.
This is not surprising as it happens everytime there is a crisis involving the okada riders who are legit looking for their daily bread and that of their dependants.
What is however shocking is the inconsistency of government and the portrayal of same as a toothless bulldog on many occasions. And this is majorly because government is insincere with itself and the people it hopes to regulate with such announcements.
If memory serves me right, okada have been banned about 3 times in the last four years-at least on major roads and highways- in Lagos state. So why do we keep having them back on the roads?
One, it is same politicians who solicit their votes during elections, promising them the heavens and paradise and sharing campaigns materials such as helmets and T-shirts to them. You un-ban them before elections and ban them just immediately after the elections. How does that work?
Two, if LASG is serious about banning okada on Lagos roads then you have to stop generating revenue from them. The LGAs must stop ticketing them. A leaked document I obtained from a certain LCDA revealed that each okada unit delivers as much as 80k to the local government administration weekly. And they could have up to 50 of those in one LGA
And do the NURTW deliver to the state as well?
Three, please why does the LASG keep registering them as commercial number plates when you are trying to limit their presence on the roads.
Four, you don’t need to live more than two days in Lagos before you conclude that the metropolis operates on a failed transport system. What provisions or alternatives have been made to replace okada?
Five, if the government ever becomes sincere with the ban of okada, what provisions have been made for the millions of okada riders (some of them graduates) who would be driven out of jobs? Mind you, some of them will join bad gangs to further worsen the insecurity situation of the state.
Overall, I also think the trust deficit between the leaders and the followers is very high. People no longer trust the government due to the inconsistency of policies and lack of transparency and accountability in its dealing with the people.
In one of the interviews granted an okada rider by a popular TV station in the aftermath of the latest crisis involving the commercial motorcyclists and the Lasgos state Task Force officials at Amuwo Odofin, the motorcyclists revealed how government officials were targeting new motorcycles.
He also narrated how after being arrested and taken to the office, the motorcycles are sold. Government is officially yet to respond to this weighty allegation.
Before you come for me, I have had several unfriendly experiences with okada. My first accident was on a commercial bike and so was my first robbery. Friends have told me of their ugly experiences with Okada riders while in 2013, when my mom was on admission at the National Orthopedic Hospital in Igbobi, I witnessed how nearly every minute, new patients were brought in from okada related accidents.
So understand that I am not making a case for them, all I want is for government to decide what exactly it wants and to be truthful to its choice.
Lagos shall rise again.
By Seun Awosika