June 23, 2024

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72 hours after ban, okada riders lose 7,548 bikes to crushing machine


AKIN ADEWAKUN, TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE, TOLA ADENUBI and SYLVESTER OKORUWA monitored the impact of the Lagos State government’s ban on okada. Their report:

ON Friday, the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Unit, commonly known as Task Force, invited the media to witness the crushing of commercial motorcycles seized from riders who refused to obey the ban on their operation in certain parts of the state.

The enforcement of the ban, which began on Wednesday, has so far recorded near-total compliance by the riders, although some still went against the law and had their bikes seized.

The Task Force chairman, Shola Jejeloye, said there was 85 per cent compliance with the commercial motorcycle ban in the last three days.

A total of 2,228 motorcycles were awaiting destruction as of Friday, according to the leadership of the Task Force. It was also learnt that even before the reintroduction of the ban by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the clampdown had been on since January but the coming of the ban is now seeing to the final destruction of the seized bikes as a proof to the affected riders that the government means business this time.

The director of public affairs of the task force, Gbadeyanka Raheem, told Saturday Tribune that between January and May, 5,320 bikes were impounded and destroyed. While about eight were crushed in the presence of newsmen to publicly demonstrate the fate befalling the bikes, he said all the 2,228 would go the way of the ones before them.

By the time they are completely crushed, the state will have destroyed 7,548 bikes in about five months.

It was also learnt that after the bikes are crushed, the mangled parts would be taken to where the mould would be melted. What happens to the melted parts is what the official refused to say. The secrecy is believed to be an attempt to keep scavengers away.

Saturday Tribune, however, noticed that some of the bikes on queue for crushing had some of their parts missing, suggesting that some people might have been vandalising them where they were kept after seizure.

Despite the commendable start to the enforcement exercise, an appeal has gone to the state government to set up a monitoring team that will curb the excesses of the security agents saddled with the enforcement responsibility.

A journalist, Mr Amaechi Obiakpu, berated some security agents for allegedly turning the exercise into a money-making venture.

He said: “I was at Area F on Wednesday to ‘bail’ a friend’s brother that was arrested for ‘flouting’ the ban. The guy was picked up along Agege Motor Road, curiously not on top of okada but on the suspicion that he must have taken okada for him to be trekking all the way from Cement Bus Stop to Ikeja Along.

“When I got to Area F, opposite Police College, Ikeja, what I saw shocked me. I met a crowd at the station. The people had also come to ‘bail’ their relations kept in custody for similar offence.

“What they do is allow the person arrested to make a call to any of his or her relations, after which the phone and other items on the person arrested are seized, put in a nylon bag and tagged.

“When I got there, I was asked to see a man holding some foolscap sheets where the names of those apprehended were written. After ascertaining that the name of the person I was looking for was on the list, we began to negotiate. He didn’t budge until I offered him the sum of N9,000. He insisted on collecting a minimum of N10,000.

“I was to pay another sum of money at the front desk where we were to retrieve the personal items collected from the guy. They refused to release the items until I paid the sum of N1,000, though they also insisted they were going to collect N2,000. Interestingly, I saw some people pay N2,000 to retrieve those items,” he stated.

What the media practitioner however found disturbing was the fact that the policemen perpetrating the act were not discreet about it.

“They told us they were doing that to raise money to fuel the vehicles that would move those apprehended to the Task Force office,” he stated.

Amaechi believes that if allowed to continue, the purpose of the ban would be defeated and the support and goodwill the government had been getting from the populace since the commencement of the enforcement would be lost.


We are on red alert –Agabdo Oke riders

As riders, whose hitherto regular routes were affected by the ban, withdraw into the inner city currently open to their operations, residents of the ‘free’ communities are apprehensive about what the influx could mean for them in terms of security and peace.

Although the inner streets of Aboru, a community in Agbado Oke Odo Local Council Development Area, are not affected by the ban, operators on these routes have literally been watching their back since June 1.

Some of them plying the highway that connects the community with Iyana Ipaja had also withdrawn into the inner streets when Saturday Tribune visited. Expectedly, some of the operators in the area who spoke with Saturday Tribune asked the state government to reconsider the decision, since the enforcement had started taking its toll on their individual economies. They also argued that the recalcitrant ones that triggered the ban were not really part of them.

“We are law-abiding here. Since starting this business here about five years ago, there was never a time we witnessed the type of incident that happened at Lekki,” Kazeem Orilowo, a commercial motorcyclist, stated.

When asked whether there had been influx of foreign faces into their parks, since the commencement of the enforcement, Kazeem said their ranks were yet to be infiltrated as being feared in some quarters.

Buttressing Kazeem’s point on the ability of the community to ward off foreign elements who might want to relocate to the area in a bid to run away from the ‘heat’, the chairman of Olorunto Landlords, Landladies Association, Mr Emmanuel Ajala, stated that the community had continued to keep tabs on developments since the enforcement began.

“We have not noticed any infiltration into the ranks of the operators that we have here. What we are doing for now is to continue to study the situation and events relating to this as they unfold.

“But one thing that is sure is that we will be meeting on this very soon. There is actually the need for us to be security-conscious and ensure that our ranks are not infiltrated,” he added.


We don’t know our fate –Ifako-Ijaiye, Agege operators

Riders in Ifako-Ijaiye and Agege local government areas are also living in fear of possible ban.

On Friday, a rider who operates between Ijaiye Bus Stop and Agbado Railway Crossing, Ogun State, said he, like others, was in the business to feed his family.

Those who spoke to Saturday Tribune said even though they were envisaging riders from areas affected by the ban to relocate to other local government areas to possibly continue with the okada business, they were yet to see new faces around them.

Meanwhile, Saturday Tribune observed in the two local government areas that most of the okada riders, who used to ply highways and major roads such as the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway from Sango Toll Gate to Abule- Egba, Iyana Ipaja up to Dopemu Under Bridge or from Abule-Egba\Oja Oba Bus Stop to Agege Total Underbridge, Capito Road and Iju-Ishaga to Agege Pen Cinema or to College Road and Ogba among others, have shunned those routes and restricted their operations to inner routes.

Only very few of them are still taking the risk of operating on the restricted routes. They said they make more money plying those routes but now would need to be more careful to avoid being arrested by the police.

They noted that at the moment, it appeared that the government would not be lenient with any okada rider arrested for flouting the ban, so they have resolved to tread softly.

For residents in the two council areas, opinions differ. While some, including Madam Mariochukwu Tata, said it would be in order for the government to activate a total ban in the remaining 15 local government areas as the reasons for the ban is general to every part of the state, others argued that if the government would ban at all, it should be restricted to the highways and major roads.

The latter category said apart from okada serving as a major source of transportation in the local communities due to bad roads and for their reliability in emergencies, taking them off the road completely could worsen the security situation.

Mr Fatai Raheem, a former chairman of the League of Muslim School Proprietors (LEAMSP), Lagos State chapter, opined that while the government truly meant well for the residents by banning okada operators, caution should be applied for the move not to be counter-productive.


Ban taking huge toll on us –Residents

Mrs Dolapo Akin, a beautician who works around the Toyin-Allen area of Ikeja, said banning okada within communities in Ikeja was unnecessary.

Narrating her experience in the first two days of the ban, she said days ahead would be difficult unless a miracle happens.

Akin said: “I went to Lagos Island on Wednesday to buy some materials and I was dropped off as usual by the bus at the end of the Unity Road along Bank Anthony Way. Normally, I am supposed to ask okada rider to convey me with my goods from there to my shop but there is no okada again. I have to trek to my shop with heavy load and that took me between 25 and 30 minutes sweating profusely under the sun.

“Going home (Agege) with my children after the day’s work is another harrowing experience. I have to trek again with them to Ikeja Underbridge to take bus home. I got home worn out that day.

“The experience continued the second day as I now had to trek long distance from Ikeja Inside Bus Stop to and from my shop and whenever I have heavy load to carry, it becomes more stressful.”

Although she acknowledged the security threat posed by okada riders, noting that her friend’s handbag with valuable items like cell phone and money was recently snatched by two thieves operating on okada, Mrs Akin said living in a city like Lagos required residents to be security conscious at all times whether okada is banned or not.


Apapa, Tin-Can badly hit, bicycles to the rescue

For port workers, the ban on commercial motorcyclists in Apapa and Tin-Can has come with a price. Many now walk long distances before getting to their workplaces while others have brought out their bicycles to help ease the stress of walking long distances.

Speaking to Saturday Tribune, a worker inside Port and Cargo Handling Services (P&CHS), located inside Tin-Can Island Port, Mr Bashiru Akindele, explained that since the ban took off, he had been trekking to Tin-Can Island Port from Coconut and sometimes from Kirikiri.

Akindele said: “You know that the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is being repaired. There is an ongoing road repair along that route. Again, the section of the road that is good has been taken over by articulated vehicles and this causes a serious traffic. So, driving to the office from Kirikiri where I live is out of it.

“Sometimes when I enter a bus from Kirikiri, if I am lucky, the bus will get to just before the bridge between Coconut and Tin-Can before it gets stuck in traffic induced by the presence of articulated vehicles along that road. At that point, everybody comes down from the vehicle and starts trekking. If it is a busy day like Monday, the bus will hit a traffic brickwall even before Coconut and trekking will start from that point to Tin-Can Island port.

“It is not a case of ‘I have a vehicle’ because you cannot carry your car on your head. A vehicle needs a road to move on but the roads at the Tin-Can port axis have been blocked by articulated vehicles trying to enter the port or leave the port.

“Before the okada ban, the easiest and available option was to just pick a bike from Kirikiri to Tin-Can port. It was due to the issues of the articulated vehicles on the road plus the ongoing road repair that brought about thousands of commercial motorcyclists along that Mile 2 to Tin-Can port stretch of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. They (okada riders) were a necessity because without them, you would probably be stuck on one spot for hours and end up getting to work very late.

“Again, there are so many checkpoints along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway where trucks are stopped and this worsens the traffic situation on that road, thus allowing okada patronage to thrive. Now that they (okada) have been banned, going to work every day has been hell for me. Sometimes I feel like sleeping over at work because I know the problems associated with going home and returning for work the next day.”

Boniface Nnjoku, who works at the Tin-Can Island Container Terminal (TICT) and lives in Ajegunle, explained that since the ban, he had been trekking to the Liverpool jetty to take boats to and fro his workplace.

“I am lucky because I live in Ajegunle. Before the okada ban, I usually take okada from my area in Ajegunle to First Gate bus stop at Tin-Can. But now, I walk down to a jetty not far from my house and take a boat to Liverpool. From Liverpool, I just walk down to TICT. It’s not as far for me compared, to people who live farther from the port,” Nnjoku explained.

The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Apapa port command is also not left out in the post-okada ban drama.

Spokesperson of the command, Augustus Maisor, explained that sometimes, when vessels berth and are due for inspection, officers struggle to arrive in time for such official engagements.

“The okada ban has really affected us individually but not our operations. Giving the nature of Apapa and its traffic issues, coming to work early by our officers has always been down to them plying commercial motorcycles. Even if they drive, you know the peculiar nature of Apapa traffic. You can be stuck in a spot for an hour in your car due to the activities of these articulated vehicles.

“So, to beat these challenges, our officers have relied on okada riders for years, to come to work early. However, since its ban, we have had instances where officers sometimes arrive late for vessel inspection. Some have had to trek long distances to get to work when the roads get blocked. It has affected us in that aspect and we hope that going forward, the issue of free flow of traffic in Apapa will become more consistent to allow people come and leave their work places inside the port without missing the okada riders.”

Kelechi Amadi has taken to riding bicycle to ameliorate the effect of the ban. He said: “I have a bicycle which I ride for leisure at home. I nearly gave it out to a cousin of mine because I was not always using it. But since the okada ban began some days ago, it has been my saving grace as I have had to ride it from my house in Surulere to the port and back home every day.

“Before the okada ban, with N500, I would take a commercial motorcycle from Surulere to Apapa in less than 30 minutes. Nowadays, because I don’t want to trek from Barracks Bus Stop or Airways Bus Stop to Apapa or Liverpool if the roads are blocked, I prefer riding on my bicycle as it saves me the cost of using commercial buses and saves me the stress of walking down to Liverpool or Tin-Can Island port.”


We’ve recorded 85% compliance –Govt

The Task Force chairman, Shola Jejeloye, while speaking with newsmen on Friday during the crushing of the commercial motorcycles which were confiscated during enforcement, disclosed that there was 85 per cent compliance with the commercial motorcycle ban in the last three days.

Jejeloye said that the enforcement of the ban would continue so as to ensure the sanity of the environment.

According to him, the enforcement of the ban did just begin on Wednesday but had been in force since February 1, 2020.

He said: “Since then, we have been on it. It is just that people believe in violating the law, which I don’t think is good enough in a cosmopolitan city like this. But since June 1, there have been more than 85 per cent compliance; eighty-five per cent compliance in the sense that we don’t see okada on the roads on the expressways any longer. The number has drastically reduced.

“They might be of the belief that the first one week of the enforcement will be thorough and after one week we are going to relax. Anyway, we will watch and see.

“I am passing this message to them that from next week, we will do more intense enforcement. Even those areas we cannot get to this week, we are going to extend. So, another phase will start on Monday.

“These three first days of enforcement is just to test-run it, to check the number of compliance, then the sustainability plan is the next phase, which we are going to enter on Monday.” he said.

Jejeloye said there was no going back on enforcement of the Okada ban as the government does not make a mockery of its policies and decisions.


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