The police in Lagos on Monday arrested four members of the Joint Action Front (JAF) and leaders of commercial motorcyclists popular called Okada during a rally organised to protest the new Lagos traffic law. The rally was organised by the JAF to protest the new Lagos traffic law.
The protesters were arrested in Yaba area while distributing leaflets to residents.
Those arrested were taken to the Iponri Police Division where they were detained. Three of them were identified as Simeon Aremu, Yusuf Oladimeji and Malik Pappuchi.
The General Secretary of the JAF, Abiodun Aremu condemned the arrests describing it as unjust and an attempt to intimidate the people.
Addressing the crowd gathered at the NLC secretariat annex at Yaba, Mr Aremu said Nigerians will not be intimidated by arrests.
“We are here to tell the Lagos State government that enough is enough. Enough of the humiliation of poor people. The law banning okada is a bad law and the government should rescind it,” he stated.
He urged the people to come out and fight for their rights. “This is the beginning of the struggle to liberate the poor people in Nigeria and the struggle must continue until we win,” he said.
After his speech, the protesters marched round some streets in the area displaying placards with various messages.
“You gave us no job, we gave ourselves one and you are killing us for it.
“They say okada riders are robbers, who gave them guns?” “Fashola, give me my vote back,” the inscriptions read.
The Commissioner of Transportation in Lagos State, Mr Kayode Opeifa, has claimed that since the Lagos Traffic Law came into existence with the restriction of motorcycles-Okada- on major highways, accidents involving Okada has reduced by 95 per cent.
Mr Opeifa made this known on our weekend show Sunrise, where he also revealed that a reduction of 32 per cent has been recorded in the number of people committing traffic offence.
“We have recorded 32 per cent reduction in the rate at which people commit traffic offences” he stated, adding that “we have also recorded 35 per cent decrease in the reduction of accidents involving okada and other vehicles and 95 per cent reduction in just okada accidents.”
Confirming this development, the Zonal Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr Ademola Lawal, stated that “the Lagos Traffic Law is helping to get safer roads with the restriction of okadas as drivers can now drive on Lagos roads without thinking that someone can destroy one’s side mirror.”
Meanwhile a social activist, Mr Debo Adeshina, disagreed with the law saying it is part of a tyranny policy in Lagos, to victimise the poor.
He claimed the move by the state government to bring in more BRT buses is a ploy to reward their capitalist friends and ensure their huge returns at the expense of the poor.
The former Secretary General of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) argued that “the poor is the victim of every policy in Lagos” and this he described as a tyranny.
Mr Adeshina advised that the state government should have created a dedicated lane for the okada instead of banning them.
He also claimed that the state government has given a false perception that for every accident that occurs involving a motorcycle, the okada driver is at fault, whereas there are also careless drivers on Lagos roads.
In a bid to give Nigeria’s most populous city an effective transport system, the state government has announced plans to introduce bicycles lanes on major roads across the city.
This announcement was made by the Commissioner for Transportation in Lagos, Mr Kayode Opeifa, on Sunday at a cycling event ‘Park and Ride’ which urge Nigerians to park their cars and ride bicycles for an enhanced lifestyle and cleaner environment.
Speaking at the event as the special guest, Mr Opeifa noted that “the bicycle programme is on and pretty soon, you will see some roads in Lagos, marked as bike zones.”
According to the Commissioner, “what is alternative to Okada (motorcycle) is the bicycle.”
This is coming at a time when the state government is still embroiled in controversy with the Okada riders over their restriction to ride on some highways in the city and a recent clampdown on them for defaulting the new Lagos Traffic law.
Discouraging the use of okada on walkable distance, the Commissioner stated that “anybody who wants to take a bike (okada) from their house to the bus stop, should use their bicycles.”
“And when they (commuters in Lagos) get to the bus stop they should tie their bikes to the poles provided at the bus stop and join the BRT buses.” “The poles we are providing at the bus stops are not for decorations but for people to tie their bicycles” he added.
“All over the world, from London to Stockholm to Buenos Aires, people now ride their bikes to work because it saves the environment of the gaseous emissions that is harmful to the environment.”
He also noted that cycling will enhance people’s lifestyle and thereby improve their productive and lifespan which he claims will also have a resultant effect on the nation’s GDP.
Acknowledging that the tropical weather in Lagos will make it uncomfortable for cyclers, the Commissioner noted that “yes, the weather will make people sweat but offices will be urged to provide showers” to ameliorate the discomfort.
This he claimed is done across the world.
Park n Ride is an annual event organized by On Air personality, Mannie of CoolFM Lagos, which urges people to park their cars and ride bicycles in a bid to address climate change and improve people’s lifestyle.
The Lagos State House of Assembly on Monday threatened to ban commercial motorcycle popularly known as Okada out rightly from the State.
The Speaker of the House, Adeyemi Ikuforiji made the threat following a report on the destruction of government properties by the protesting Okada riders along Ikorodu road.
The House frowned at the attitude of Okada riders in the metropolis, calling on the state government to further strengthen security agencies to protect lives and property.
Mr Ikuforiji, while reacting to the incident said the House would not hesitate to ban Okada out rightly if the riders continue to destroy government property and constitute nuisance in the State.
Some Okada riders went on the rampage in various parts of Lagos State on Monday to protest the ban on them from plying 475 roads in the metropolis.
At Onipanu, on Ikorodu Road, the protesters vandalised about 10 BRT buses during the violent protest against the Lagos State Government.
Armed with sticks, iron roads and other dangerous weapons, the Okada riders hauled stones at BRT buses on Ikorodu road at Onipanu and Palmgrove bus stops.
There was pandemonium in the area and a team of policemen from the Rapid Response Squad, RRS was deployed to the area to quell the protest. It was gathered that some arrests were made by the police but the number of arrests is yet to be confirmed.
Similarly, the riders also protested in Ikorodu and Ejigbo areas of the state this morning over the ban on them by government. In Ejigbo, the riders blocked the road, causing traffic jam in the area while they carried leaves and chanted anti-government songs. They rejected the ban placed on them from plying 475 roads in Lagos, saying it would cripple their businesses.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, confirmed the protest, saying the police moved in on time to quell the protest.
Total war on Okada
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has declared a total war on commercial motorcycle riders plying the 475 prohibited routes in the Lagos metropolis.
Speaking at a forum to enlighten military officials in Lagos, the State governor, Babatunde Fashola solicited the assistance of the army in the implementation of the new traffic law.
“The military gave us this democracy, so there must be a continuing partnership to keep it going,” Mr Fashola said.
The governor however insisted that such partnership would happen “only where the rule of law prevails.”
He said: “About the Okada, for me, I understand the economics of the okada. But it also has the social effects. Many fathers have lost their children; many husbands have lost their wives; many children have lost both parents.
“All we are saying is don’t go on the highways. First because we must even understand, Okadas and vehicles are automobiles; they are not toys; they are mechanical devices and therefore for you to even use them you must go and train. That’s why you go to driving school to go and learn; then they certify you.
“Somebody just pulls okada from any parts of the country he likes, gets onto a truck, he’s going to Lagos and then you entrust your life to that man? As if that was not bad enough, he drives against traffic?
The Lagos State Security Council met Wednesday at the Lagos House Marina under the Chairmanship of the State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), with the Police pledging their readiness to begin full enforcement of the law and warning that in the process, nobody would be spared.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abubakar Umar Manko, who gave the indication after the meeting, said the delay in enforcement was in order to allow for public enlightenment and all other requirements to be put in place to ensure easy compliance by members of the public.
Fielding questions from newsmen after the meeting, the Police boss explained, “Since the Governor signed it, it has become law. The fact that it has not been massively enforced does not mean that it is not in existence. So we have just finished a meeting. Everybody now knows there is a new law and that law is going to be fully enforced”.
According to the Commissioner, “Government has done its part, public enlightenment has been made, road repairs are going on and there are traffic signs everywhere, therefore, no citizen has the right to say that he does not know. The Police are going to start the enforcement in full and nobody is going to be spared”.
Promising that members of his Command would not disobey the law, Manko declared, “We are going to start full enforcement and we expect compliance to this law from everybody. The contents have been made public, so excuse of ignorance of the law is no more there”.
On “MBER” months, the Commissioner, who described them as no different from other months of the year, said although there may be some challenges the Police was fully prepared and would come out en masse to ensure that public peace was not disturbed.
Commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada riders on Monday dragged the Lagos State Government to court over its new Road Traffic Law, part of which restricts their operations on major highways across the state. The okada riders under the aegis of All Nigerians Autobike Commercial Owners and Workers Association, is seeking an order of court restraining the state government from prohibiting them from operating on the major highways listed in Items 1-11 and other parts of Schedule II of the New Traffic Law.
In the suit No ID/713M/2012 filed through their lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, the claimant is also asking the court to restrain the Lagos state government from molesting, harassing, arresting, seizing their motorcycles or subjecting them to any treatment not suffered by any other road users.
Joined in the suit alongside the Lagos State Government are the state Attorney-General and Lagos State House of Assembly.
The claimants also asked the court to declare that the New Traffic Law constitutes an unjustifiable violation of the right to freedom of movement of the Claimants and their members guaranteed by section 41(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
They also asked the court to declare that the new Law constitutes a violation of the defendants’ means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment for them as provided for in Section 17(3) (a) of the Constitution.
The okada riders asked the court to declare that the major highways listed in Items 1-11 and other parts of Schedule II of the New Traffic Law in which okada operations are restricted are Federal Trunk or Highway Roads within the meaning of the Federal Highways Act, cap F13, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
They also asked the court for a declaration that the defendants have no power whatsoever to make any law to regulate traffic on any of the Federal Trunk or Highway Roads listed in Schedule II to the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, No 4 of 2012 and in the Federal Highways Act, cap F13, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
In addition they sought a declaration that the provisions of that section 3(1) of the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, No 4 of 2012 to the extent that it prohibits the riding, driving or propelling of a cart, wheel barrow, motorcycle or tricycle on the Major Highways in Lagos listed in Items 1-11 and other parts of Schedule II is in fundamental conflict with section 4(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and is therefore ultra vires, illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null, void, oppressive, inoperative and of no effect whatsoever.
The claimants further asked the court to order directing the defendants to immediately release all motorcycles belonging to them and their members seized by and in the custody of the Defendants and their agents and or officers.