Monday 3 February 2020

Okada/Keke Ban: Taking Restrictions Beyond Rhetoric

Lagos State Government’s latest ban on motorcycles and tricycles in 15 Local Government Areas and Council Development Areas, major highways, 40 bridges and flyovers advertises official laxity in law enforcement in the country. The said ban has been an integral part of an extant traffic law since 2012. It is, however, only now that the state is getting serious about enforcement. The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, said on Monday that the state would ramp up the enforcement with effect from February 1.

The decision was taken after a security council meeting. Premium on the security and safety of Lagosians, the government said, underpinned its action. Among the LGAs beyond the reach of the motorcycle and tricycle operators are Apapa, Lagos Island, Surulere, Ikeja, Victoria Island and Lagos Mainland.
Empirically, Omotoso added: “The figures are scary. From 2016 to 2019, there were over 10,000 accidents recorded at the General Hospitals alone. This number excludes unreported cases and those recorded by other hospitals. The total number of deaths from reported cases is over 600 as of date. Also, the rate of crimes aided by Okada and Keke keeps rising. They are also used as getaway means by criminals.” Their deployment in bombings, kidnappings and banditry was also why the Army banned the use of motorcycles in the states of Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger.” In Abia State, the time span for their operation has been limited for similar reasons.
Last week, two conflicting statements from the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, which the Ministry of Information countermanded, had raised not a few eyebrows on what would eventually be the fate of the Transport Sector Reform Law 2018. The transport ministry had drawn public attention to the installation of 2,000 tricycle and motorcycle signage in prohibited areas across major highways and bridges in the state as part of an awareness campaign. But shortly afterwards, Omotoso urged the public to disregard the information as government had yet to reach a definite position on the matter.

Now, that juncture has been reached. What is expected of the government is to design sustainable strategies for the enforcement. Therefore, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority and police will face a new litmus test. Though thousands of motorcycles had been seized before now and crushed, it was the tepid enforcement and some corrupt personnel who turned the arrest of offenders into an avenue for making illicit money that resulted in motorcycles and tricycles returning to the 475 routes from where they had been banished.

Motorcyclists claim that sometimes they cough up between N10,000 and N20,000 before the police would release each seized item. These tainted officials who undermine public safety and sanity on the roads should be monitored, arrested and made to face the wrath of the law. This will serve as a deterrent to others. For effective monitoring of the enforcement, the government should periodically demand fact sheets on confiscation of these motorcycles. If the seized ones are to be destroyed in this renewed enforcement, they should be publicly done, in the manner Kenya’s authorities incinerate illicit arms and ammunition.

For eight years, the Lagos State Traffic Law 2012 has been in operation, to tame indiscipline and recklessness displayed by errant motorcycle and tricycle riders; and drivers of commercial buses, tankers, trailers and cars on Lagos roads. Enacted under Babatunde Fashola as governor, it contains a raft of penalties, including fines and jail terms for offenders. Among the punishable offences are making or answering phone calls at the wheels, eating while driving and non-use of pedestrian bridges, while trailers’ movements are restricted to 9pm to 6am.

Besides fatalities and security concerns, the operators have aggravated the bedlam on Lagos roads: they ride against the traffic, disobey traffic lights, ignore road signs and make U-turns, regardless of the danger. Many of them have no licences to operate, the motorcyclists and their passengers use no helmets, except the newly, franchised operators like O Pay.

However, the seemingly riotous gyration of motorcycles and tricycles on Lagos roads is a savage indictment of the government. They are exploiting a void in public transport system in the city. Motorcyclists are known for easily manoeuvring their ways out of Lagos’ notorious gridlock that often condemns motorists and commuters to many hours of a journey that would ordinarily have taken a few minutes. Again, they also reach all the nooks and crannies of the city where commercial buses and taxis dare not go.

Lagos prides itself on being a mega-city, but it is bereft of a public transport system that befits its mega-status. Changing the status quo requires a systematic overhauling of the transport system and modern management ethos. As a result, investment in monorail and modernisation of water transport is now an urgent matter.

With Lagos population pressure and as the economic heartbeat of the country, road transport needs to be supported by a monorail system. It has become a solution to cities transport crisis in Asia and Latin America that face similar social pressure as Lagos. As of 1964, Tokyo had had its monorail; and in the wake of its success, four more in Hitachi, Osaka, Tama and Okinawa cities were constructed. Hauling of thousands of travellers in cities like Mumbai, Dubai and many others in monorails has become a model in urban transport management. Lagos should act fast on this to reduce the daily mayhem on its roads.

Improving the state’s road infrastructure is also imperative for this renewed onslaught on errant motorcycle and tricycle operators to be effective. It is the impassability of many Lagos roads that has made the modern Bus Rapid Transit scheme to be circumscribed to a few routes. This limits movement, especially for foreigners. It is a blight on a state that craves foreign direct investments. Outlaws exist and, worse still, act brazenly where the government has grossly failed in its responsibilities to the citizenry. This should not be allowed to be the case anymore with this reawakening in ending lawlessness on Lagos roads.

From Punch

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