We have not banned ‘Okada’ – Lagos state government

The Lagos state government on Monday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that it has not imposed a ban on the operations of commercial motor cyclists, otherwise known as Okada, on Lagos roads.

The Okada riders are demanding that the court gives an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Lagos state government from hindering their operation or arresting their members for using commercial motorcycles

The state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye said this while making submissions in a suit filed against the government by four different Okada riders associations.

The motorcycle operators had filed the suit alleging plans to ban their operations by the state government.

Those who filed the suit are the Trustees of National Commercial Motorcycle and Tricycle Owners and Riders Association; Motorcycle Transport Union of Nigeria; Trustees of All Nigerians Autobike Commercial Owners and Workers Association; and Okada Welfare Association.

They listed the state government and the state Attorney general as respondents to the suit.

The Attorney General however told the court presided over by Justice Steven Adah that what the Okada riders were reacting to mere newspaper reports.

On the issue of a ban being a breach of fundamental rights of the applicant, Mr Ipaye said that “it has not been alleged anywhere that commercial motor cycles would no longer operate on the roads.”

“What are imminent are regulations which are facts of life in any business. It would therefore not be appropriate in any civilised society for there not to be regulations,” he said.

On the operations of the applicants for commercial purposes, the Attorney General said that since they carry people in return for payment of services rendered, “and if government is to be alive to its responsibilities, it is a business which must be regulated”.

Mr Ipaye also said that the constitution vested the executive with powers and the courts can not intervene in the exercise of such powers.

He therefore urged the court to dismiss the application of the Okada riders stressing that “any one complaining of the action or inaction of an administrative body must show clearly that that administrative body has exceeded the power conferred on it by the constitution”.

Counsel to the applicants, Bamidele Aturu had earlier told the court that there is no law in Lagos State which empowered the executive to ban the operations of commercial motor cyclists on Lagos roads.

According to him, the state house of assembly has not, as at date, put in place any law to back the action of the government to ban, seize commercial motor cycles or arrest the operators adding that the state government also do not have any authority to ban Okada from federal roads.

Mr Aturu also told the trial court that the respondents raised certain fundamental issues in their written address before the court which he said are not justifiable under the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution and certain provisions of the African Charter on Human and People’s Right.

He accused the respondents of embarking on a selective reduction of the applicants’ claim to just the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution.

Citing relevant decided cases on whether provisions of chapter 2 of the constitution are enforceable, he said that section 13 of that chapter gave all organs of government and any person exercising legislative power to implement chapter 2 of the constitution.

“When two sections of the constitution are in conflict, the latter section prevails”, he said.

The presiding judge adjourned the matter to the 4 May for ruling.

The applicants are seeking among other declarations that the proposed ban and restriction of their operations will constitute a violation of their constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of movement.

The Okada riders are demanding that the court gives an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Lagos state government from hindering their operation or arresting their members for using commercial motorcycles or in any other ways preventing the members from gainful employment through the use and or operation of their motorcycles.

They also sought an order directing the respondents to release all the motorcycles that had so far been seized.