From Subair Mohammed, 'Yomi Ayeleso and Hakeem Gbadamosi with Agency reports
Thousands of road users were stranded at various bus stations across Lagos State as the state Task Force, on Saturday, enforced the much-talked about ban on okada riders from plying major highways and bridges in the state.
Sunday Tribune gathered that many Lagos residents were stranded at Maryland bus-stop, Ikeja as okada riders were off the usually crowded Mobolaji Bank-Anthony/Oando filling station causing many of them to trek to their destinations.
A newspaper vendor at Maryland, Babatunde Lawal, told Sunday Tribune that Lagos State Task Force team was at Maryland to enforce the order and in the process, clamped down on some riders, including a policeman.
'As a result of the ban, people were at the bus stop for hours with no okada in sight. This was as a result of the raid carried out earlier in the day by officials of the Lagos State Task Force who came to the okada Park at Oando filling station and seized some motorcycles.
'They even seized an okada from a policeman. They ordered the policeman to get off the motorcycle with his passenger and took it away.
'If a weekend can be this bad as a result of the restriction, what would weekdays look like? Inasmuch as I hold that the ban is for the general good of Lagos residents, I think it is done in haste. For instance, what becomes of those that were affected by the ban?
'If Lagos State is not designed for motorcycles, what is the government doing to assure residents of a meaningful life? They cannot be subjecting us to hardship and impoverishing residents all in the name of turning the state into a mega city. People of Lagos deserve a better deal and not the anti-human policy,' said Lawal.
'They banned okada to impoverish us, create elitist state'
A commuter stranded at Maryland bus-stop, who simply identified himself as John, condemned the state government on what he described as its deliberate attempt to impoverish the people of Lagos.
He said with the ban, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was bent on getting rid of okada riders to create a state that is exclusively for the elite.
'I wonder why out of the multiple problems confronting Lagos, the government is more concerned about banning okada. Okada riding business is more of blessing to many families than the evil the government claims it is.
'I have been standing here in the sun for many hours to get an okada to my residence in Ikeja, but the task force did not allow them to operate. I am forced to face the Ikeja traffic.
'If Lagos State is truly for all of us, there is no reason for the ban. Why should the government stop some set of people from engaging in their lawful business? Why should they affect people's lives negatively in the name of adding aesthetic value to the state? The Lagos State government should consider the poor and the less privileged whose daily survival revolve around okada and keke.
Ban is justified - Okada union chairman
In spite of the reduction in his income occasioned by the ban, chairman of the Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State (MOALS) Musco Unit, Ile-Iwe, Ikotun-Igando LCDA, Ahmed Rasheed, said the ban by the state government was in order.
Rasheed told Sunday Tribune that the restriction was in good faith, noting that it was intended to protect both operators and passengers.
He said, 'although the number of our riders has depleted in the first day of enforcing the ban, the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is mindful of the havoc created on Lagos roads by okada riders. But it is unfortunate that operators are only concerned about earning a living and not about the well-being of other road users.
'Neither the children of Governor Sanwo-Olu nor President Muhammadu Buhari ride okada or keke. The ban does not affect any of them. It is for the protection of the masses. It is to ensure their safety on the road.
'So, now that the ban has taken effect, there is nothing we can do other than to comply. For us, we are concerned about earning a living and not considering other factors that could jeopardise the interest of other residents.
'As someone that has been a unionist collecting okada riders' toll for decades, I can tell you authoritatively, that okada riders are not trained in the art of riding.
Many of them found themselves in the riding business as a result of the pitiable economic situation in the country.'
Rasheed disclosed that the effect of the ban would only be felt for a short period of time by both riders and commuters, adding that it would have no negative implications, except on those that refuse to seek legitimate means of livelihood.
'The ban will have no negative impacts at all. For commuters, the BRT are there and for riders, many have gone back to their roots. The Northerners, among them have gone back to the North, while those that came from the neighbouring South-West states have also gone back.
'But for those of us that have nowhere to go, there is no alternative than to go back to our primary callings. I was into POP plastering, but when I discovered that the job was not yielding enough income as I expected, I dropped it to join okada union.'
We operate in fear, watchfulness -Okada rider
An okada rider, Odofin Sikiru, who shuttles between Ikotun and Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa and Isolo, one of the major roads affected by the ban, spoke with Sunday Tribune on the impact of the ban on his operation.
Sikiru said since the start of the day, he operated along the axis in fear and in watchfulness.
He said, 'I operate along this route being watchful of the Lagos Task Force Team to prevent my okada from being seized. Although they have not been here, I am sure the coming weeks promise to be tough for us.
'Considering the stress and level of unemployment that accompany the ban, the Lagos State government should reconsider its decision to ban okada and keke from operating in the state.
'Many residents in this axis rely on okada and keke to beat the traffic gridlock the LCDA is known for. But with the ban, how will they cope? Government said okada riders and keke operators are reckless on the road, but are the laws not there to sanction erring riders? How can they punish all of us for the misdeed of few?'
Meanwhile, efforts by Sunday Tribune to speak with the Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Task Force, Mr Taofeeq Adebayo, on the enforcement of the ban proved futile as he didn't respond to calls put through to his telephone.
Don't take food out of our mouths, okada/keke operators beg Sanwo-Olu
Some operators of commercial motorcycles and tricycles have said that the ban on their operations by Governor Sanwo-Olu would deprive them of their daily bread.
The operators said this while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews on Saturday in Lagos.
They added that the government's plan would also affect them and their families in negative ways.
They urged the government to be lenient with them and give them more time to think of other positive things they could engage to take care of their families.
They said operating commercial motorcycles and tricycles was their last resort to survive and stay away from crimes.
An okada operator, Mr Winner Daniel, urged the government to have a rethink on its order on the operation of the riders on some major highways and bridges in Lagos.
Daniel, who said he is a marine engineer, added that the government should give more time to the operators, maintaining that many of them took to okada business to survive 'for the main time.'
Daniel said: 'If this is what we get from the government that we stayed in the sun and rain to vote for, it is very bad. This is where we get our daily bread, feed our families and pay our children's school fees.
'Government is taking the bread out of our mouths. I am a graduate by the Grace of God, but I don't have a job. I trained and graduated as a marine engineer, but because there is no job, I have to use this to take care of my family for the main time, till when God will answer me.
'Nobody wants to do okada. It is just a matter of life and death. The government should give us time.'
According to him, there are about nine okada riders in his park that are graduates.
He said they were surviving on it, instead of being a nuisance to people and to stay away from crimes.
Another commercial motorcyclist, Mr Success Esi, said the ban would cause more damage to the society than good, urging the government to give the operators more time and provide alternative jobs.
'This is wrong, because since the new government came in, it has not provided any job for the people; instead, more people are going out of jobs. There are more jobless people now. So many people had been sacked by their employers.
'Such used their severance pay to buy okada or keke to survive. We must eat; our families must eat; we must pay school fees and house rents. So, banning okada is very wrong. We, our wives and children survive from it.
'This ban will cause much damage to the society than good. It will affect security more, because an idle hand is a devil's workshop,' Esi said.
Adding his voice to the discourse, a tricycle operator, Mr Ismael Abdullateef, said; 'this is our source of livelihood. We cater for our families through this work. If we are banned from major roads, it will badly affect our families.
'What I want to say is that the government should be lenient with us; it is not easy for us. If the reason for the ban is the rate of accidents, I think the government can get a task force to clampdown on some of us that ride roughly, instead of banning all of us and taking away our means of livelihood.'
According to him, as a private school teacher, he resigned because his salary was not paid as due, and he became a commercial tricycle operator.
Another tricycle operator, Mr Basir Jimoh, said: 'We are good Nigerians. We are not into crimes; rather, we work and struggle to make ends meet. If the government bans keke, does it want me to be snatching phones or stealing around?
'This is what I use to feed my family. My first child is above 20 years. I send them to school. This is not the best time for the governor to do this.
'If we are restricted from bridges, it is understandable, but if we are banned in some local governments and restricted in most of the roads, the government is invariably recruiting people into crimes and violence.'
Another keke rider, Mr Jimoh Suraju, said most riders collected the tricycles on hired purchased of up to N1.3 million, adding that if they were banned, paying back the money would be difficult and could make some of them to commit suicide.
'What does the government want us to do? Many of these roads from where we are banned from operating are the roads people use to go to offices and markets. Government should leave us to continue struggling for our survival,' he said.
The Lagos State government had, on Monday, announced that it would commence enforcement of the extant Transport Sector Reform Law 2018, which banned the operation of motorcycles and tricycles in some local government areas and local council development areas with effect from Saturday, February 1.
'We are yet to see influx of strange okada riders in Ekiti'
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Okada Riders Association in Ekiti State, Mr. Kunle Ashaolu, has told Sunday Tribune that he had not received any new request from intending members of the association.
He said while not ruling out the possibility of new persons in the okada business in the state, it would be too early for his association to detect new operators.
According to him, 'you know, officially, the ban takes effect from today (Saturday) and it will be difficult for us to know if there are new faces on our roads here in Ekiti at the moment.
'We don't have any request from people that want to join us, but let us just see what we happens in the next few weeks.'
'Ondo will monitor influx of foreign riders'
The Ondo State government said on Saturday that it had put in place measures to prevent influx of okada into the state from Lagos.
A Special Adviser to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Mr. Tobi Ogunleye, who disclosed this to Sunday Tribune, said the state government had established a Rider Institute in the state to register all commercial motorcycle riders in the state.
He said rather than proscribe activities of the riders outrightly, all the commercial riders would be registered to curb the rate of crime in the state.
He said any unregistered commercial motorcycle would not be allowed to operate in the state.
'Apart from this, the state government will soon introduce a tricycle scheme known as Keke Aketi in two of the estates in the capital city to prevent crimes in these estates.
'This scheme will be extended to other places, but any unregistered motorcycle will not be allowed to operate in the state. This registration will include all their data and their next of kin. This will allow us to monitor the activities of the commercial motorcycle operators,' he said.
Ogunleye added that new commercial motorcycle operators would not be allowed in the state.
© Pakistan Press International, source Asianet-Pakistan