Emerging from a meeting with Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, leaders of commercial motorcycle (Okada) operators in the State, on Tuesday, pledged to comply with and self-enforce the new Lagos Road Traffic Law among their members.
At the meeting which had in attendance the leaders of the various associations of okada riders who spoke one after the other at the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House, Alausa, the Chairman of the Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State, Ambassador Tijani Pekis, pledged that the associations’ leaders would go ahead to sensitize and sanitize their members for total compliance adding that the leaders would also help in the enforcement of the law.
Echoing the Governor’s statement that obedience to the law is better than the sacrifice of lives of the people Pekis declared, “The Governor has asked us to go and comply with the law. The issue of 2010 is beyond 2012. May be then some of us did not take it serious but now we are out to sensitize and sanitize our members for compliance”.
The Chairman, who described the Governor’s address at the meeting as touching and human, said the address had made them to understand that the present administration meant well for them and interested in their future, adding that personally, he had obtained a written document from the State Commissioner of Police through the Operations Officer to enable the various unions enforce the law among their members.
He told newsmen after the meeting, “The Governor has told us to obey before complaint and we are going out en masse to sensitize our members for total compliance. Every association, whether recognized or not will pick a date when they will go out to enforce the law. We will meet all the DPOs with the document from the Commissioner of Police to get enforcement backing”.
“One big statement that has been giving me problem since I sat here is, am I going to ask my child to come into this business? I think that question has personally knocked me out of the okada business”, the Chairman said.
Earlier, in his address, Governor Fashola , who took time to explain the objectives of the law as the safety, good health and improved quality of life for all, urged okada operators in the State to comply with the law first before complaining promising that his administration was ready to listen and make operational changes where there are genuine complaints.
“Obedience to this law is better than to sacrifice the lives of the people. Go and obey first; our doors are open and we will be ready to listen to you when there is genuine complaint”, the Governor said adding that compliance to the law was in the best interest of every citizen including the operators themselves.
Governor Fashola expressed dissatisfaction with the way the okada operators acted in total disregard of restrictions and rules of operation made by the Government in 2010 even after a meeting and agreement with their parent unions, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Owners Association of Nigeria saying their activities became even worse after the meeting.
“You are operating in Lagos and you are attracted to Lagos because there are opportunities. Some people worked very hard and invested their lifetime to create those opportunities. I appealed to you about a year and a half ago to stay off certain routes, close at particular time. What I saw immediately after that meeting was even worse”, the Governor said.
Pointing out that he has received numerous letters of complaint from other citizens of the State against okada operators, Governor Fashola declared, “Now, I am the Governor for every citizen of this State. You want to do business, some people are complaining; they have the same right as you have. In the same way I will stand up for you if anybody does business at your expense, I will stand up for them if you do business at their expense”.
The Governor noted that many women and children have become widows and orphans while many have been made invalid for life as a result of the recklessness of okada riders adding, “You have a right to do business but that right is not absolute. It means you must respect other peoples’ rights so that they will respect your own”.a
Pointing out that he receives scores of letters and e-mails from the public complaining about the activities of okada operators in the State, the Governor said, “Now you think I am restricting you; some people want you banned”.
He advised the various associations of okada and tricycle operators to go and harmonize themselves into the ones recognized by Government pointing out that the Government recognizes only the NURTW, RETEAN, MOALS and NAKOWA. He declared, ”Yes you have a right and freedom of association but we have the right to choose who we want to do business with”.
Governor Fashola appealed to the association leaders to endeavour to educate their members on the need for compliance to the traffic law noting that the State Government is spending huge sums of money on free medical care for victims of okada and tricycle accidents. “Such taxpayers’ money can be judiciously utilized on other sectors which could be beneficial to everybody”, he said.
Debunking the idea to suspend the law for now, Governor Fashola pointed out. “The law is now in force. From the day I signed it, it became a law so the idea of suspending the law is not something I can do even if I wanted to. But what we have said consistently and I repeat is that our intention is not to arrest people; our intention is not to jail people. Our intention, and that is why we are having this meeting, is to explain to you why this law is in your interest and in the interest of other citizens so that you have a choice as an adult to say ‘I will comply with this law. It may require me to make some sacrifices but the gains that I see will be bigger’ and, therefore voluntary compliance is the real objective of this law”.
On the 475 roads restricted from okada operations, Governor Fashola, who pointed out that the law was made after painstaking consultation with the people, noted that the number was less than 10 percent of the 9, 100 roads in the State adding, “The State Government is not unmindful that change is difficult, as a responsive and responsible Government whose primary responsibility is to ensure the protection of lives and property of the citizenry, the motorcycle and tricycle operators in the State need to comply with the law”.
He promised that Government would continue to support law-abiding motorcycle associations and any of the members who could not continue with the business as a result of the law was free to register with the Skill Acquisition Centres across the State or take to farming as a profession.
Concerning the operation of the NURTW and RTEAN, Governor Fashola urged them to find a better way to collect dues instead of the present method which disturbs the peace of the people both at the various motor parks and the highways urging them to build a better image for themselves.
Also present at the meeting were the Deputy Governor, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa and his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba while motorcycle operators’ associations in attendance included MOALS, ANACOWA, ACOMORAN, Okada Welfare and while KORAN 3 Wheeler Unification of the NURTW and 3 Wheeler Association represented the Tricycle Associations.