On 27 January, the Lagos State Government declared a ban on the activities of commercial motorcyclists popularly known as Okada and tri-cyclists otherwise called Keke NAPEP in 11 local government council areas in the state with effect from 1 February. This was during a press addressed by Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, the Commissioner for Information. Implementation of this draconian order will increase the already terrible situation of hunger and joblessness in the state as many people rely on these means to survive. Poor workers who utilize these means of transportation most will also be adversely affected in a drastic way.
Successive Lagos State governors from Mr Raji Fashola’s era have time and again issued ban orders on motorcyclists’ activities in the state. Each time, this has resulted in the worsening of the state’s terrible transportation and placed a heavier burden on poor Lagosians. This time around, the government says the current ban policy, which is built on the previous anti-motorcycle law is necessary to reduce accidents and crimes in the state. But that is more like a half-truth and a superficial approach to addressing insecurity in the state. On one hand it is totally erroneous to state that motorcyclists are responsible for crimes and on the other hand it’s an attempt to react to the effect and not engage the root of criminal activities in the state. It is a known fact also that bad roads in the state is a major cause of accidents.
The state governor and his cohorts failed to put into consideration the effect their decision will have on the state of transportation in Lagos which is already in crisis. The policy has worsened the transportation situation in the state, this was made clear on February 2nd, the day the anti-people policy came into full effects, people were seen trekking en masses to their workplaces. The situation is expected to get worsen in days to come when over 8 million commuters would ply the less than 9100 roads in deplorable state.
It is important to note that Lagos is infamous for its terrible traffic gridlocks that make movement around the state a difficulty for over 22 million people. This takes a toll on the mental and physical health of workers. One can say that the demonstrated insensitivity of Mr. Babajide SanwoOlu in passing this law is like unleashing hell on working people in Lagos State.
It is a shame that over 22 million people have to rely largely on a road system for commuting. No other city in the world with that kind of population relies only on road transport. Meanwhile bulk of vehicles are privately owned in poor conditions. It is an established fact that limited availability of comfortable and publicly driven mass transit system is partly responsible for the transportation crisis in the state.
Unfortunately, the APC-led governments in the state have over the years successively exploited the transportation situation in the state and turned it into a conduit pipe through which a good chunk of the state’s funds is conveyed into private pockets. In August 2019, the predecessor of the current governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was probed for fund misappropriation over procurement of over 820 buses with N47billion (which was never approved and the cost massively exceeded the initial amount proposed by the statement government in 2018 & 2019 budgets) by the Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA).
A committee was set up to investigate the matter but till date the LSHA is yet to make the findings of its investigation public and neither has Akinwunmi Ambode been prosecuted for the transportation fraud. Although that’s not surprising as these elements belong to the same political group and are complicit in diverting public fund for personal interest. We are also aware that the query of Ambode by the LSHA was due to the fallout between him and his political boss, Ahmed Tinubu in the last general elections.
In 2009, under the administration of Raji Fashola the state commenced construction of a 27km light rail system. This was contracted out to the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC). It is instructive to know that a similar light rail system (electrified) was awarded to the same CCECC in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2012 for a 34km and was completed in 2015 with a total sum of $475 million expended. Meanwhile in Nigeria over $1.2billion was awarded to the project yet it is not even near completion after 11 years of commencement.
It is therefore not a myth that the Lagos bosses and successive governors right from the Tinubu administration to the current one, who is by the way – like all others since Tinubu- his stooge, are responsible for the deplorable state of the roads and transportation crisis in the state and not the motorcyclists.
The commercial tricycle and motorcycle system provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of youths in a country with over 45% youth unemployment. The ban will take away over 200,000 jobs and place more economy burden on over a million families in the state. This clearly shows that the bosses do not have the interest of the popular masses in mind. That is evident in this half-thought policy of Mr. SanwoOlu to ban the activities of Okada and Keke without provision of alternatives for both the commuters and the riders who will lose their jobs.
On the 31 January the Okada riders protested again the ban and demanded a reversal of the anti-worker policy. It is important we sustain the protests, the mass of Lagosians and organised labour should join the protests and broaden the demands to include;
1) The roads should be fixed, expanded and more roads should be constructed to ease movement across the state.
2) State government should provide publicly driven mass transit which will equally reduce the traffic on the road.
3) Previous state governments from 1999 must be investigated, the processes and findings of the investigation must be made public and every one indicted must be duly prosecuted.
In one of Fela’s classics (He Miss Road Album) he said “Ojo Monday Eko oni gbagbakugba…” We should not be satisfied with these abnormalities by the Mr. SanwoOlu and his cohorts. We must fight back now!
by Lai BROWN