Commercial motorcyclists allege high-handedness by govt, extortion by officials, seek relaxation of restrictions
THE Lagos State government of Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) is lucky its fate does not lie in the hands of commercial motorcycle operators in the state, popularly called Okada.
If it did, then, give the Okada riders a few days and Fashola would not be sitting in the Round House as, according to one of them, Kola “this Fashola is not the one we voted for last year”, a commercial motorcyclist, Chidi Anah told The Guardian at Ikotun yesterday.
“If we had the power, we will remove him immediately and bring in a kind, understanding governor who will realize that, we, Okada riders are hardworking Nigerians.
“We are only trying to eke a living with an option many of us would not have considered, if things were different.
“Yet, difficult as life is for us, Fashola wants to force us into more hardship and even crime by making life even more and more unbearable for us in Lagos with his new Lagos Traffic Law. ”
Since the law took effect, there have been protests by commercial motorcyclists in different parts of the metropolis against the new traffic law, especially the aspect that bans them from more than 490 roads, highways and bridges in the state. Last week, in their thousands and carrying placards, they barricaded the stretch of road leading to the State House of Assembly and Government House, chanting anti-government songs.
They are also bitter that the government is using policemen, Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) and the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officials to attack them and confiscate their motorcycles.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the riders protested in parts of Mushin and Iyana Oba.
Yesterday, it spread to the Okeafa- Ejigbo- Egbe-Ikotun Road and the Toyota area of Oshodi-Apapa Expressway where leaders of the Motorcycle Owners Association of Lagos State (MOALS) tried to force members who wanted to carry the teeming passengers to stop work.
As a result, commuters were stranded for hours at Ikotun, Cele Express, Jakande Gate and Mushin Bus Stops, as the available buses were not enough.
In Ikotun and Egbe, armed policemen were very much in sight and there were skirmishes between them and the protesting riders who made bonfires of used tyres along the Ejigbo-Egbe-Ikotun Road with several on the Egbe Bridge.
An unidentified rider was said to have been hit by a vehicle as he tried to escape from policemen who wanted to impound his motorcycle.
In the Maryland axis, commercial motorcyclists, numbering several hundreds, also yesterday protested, some venting their anger on tricycle operators, called Keke Marwa.
One of the tricycle riders, Ibrahim Salami lamented that they had been harassed “since the ban of motorcycles on many roads.
“It is not our fault and they should stop acting as if we caused their problem.
“Now, the pressure is on us because many of those who used to patronize motorcycles now board Keke Marwa.”
In the Lawanson axis of Surulere, hundreds of people were still waiting at the bus stop as at 9.00a.m. long after they should have been at the offices or shops, but for the scarcity of commercial motorcyclists.
One of them queuing for Keke Marwa, Sulaimon Shittu, told The Guardian: “The government should not have come down so hard on commercial motorcyclists.
“The BRT buses are not enough, tricycles are so few, yet, government went ahead to impose such restrictions on motorcycles. “Lagos is a fast city, which is why commercial motorcyclists are important.
“Unless they modify the rules and relax the restrictions, this present situation may bring about high rate of robbery in the state as Okada riders, who cannot feed their families, will resort to crime, robbing from street to street, house to house as had happened before in Lagos.”
A rider, amoli, who dropped two passengers at Toyota Bus Stop from Mile Two in contravention of the regulations told The Guardian: “ We make more money on the expressway.
“For instance, I can charge as much as N600.00 from Oshodi to Mile Two and sometimes N700.00.
“If I do that 10 or 15 times a day, you can see how much I would make.
“Yes, I am aware of the risk involved in riding on the expressway, but this motorcycle is on hire purchase and I must meet the conditions I agreed with regarding the payment,” he added.
It is not clear yet, whether the state government will look into the issues raised by the commercial motorcyclists when they went to Alausa last week.
In a protest letter they submitted to the Deputy Speaker, Taiwo Kolawole through Debo Adeniran of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, they accepted aspects of the law, which stopped them from carrying pregnant women, carrying more than one passenger at a time and the use of crash helmets.
But they drew the attention to “the fact that under the new law, there are routes listed in Alimosho, Badagry, Epe, Ikeja, Ogba, Ikorodu, Mushin, even Lagos Mainland, Victoria Island, and other parts of Lagos state that commuters have no other means of affordable transportation other than motorcycles. “Banning Okada on these routes will not only inflict serious hardship on members of the public but also send thousands of commercial motorcyclists into the already-choked labour market.”