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Lagos Bans Commercial Motorcycles To Reduce Crime. It Is Not The First Time

As the Lagos Okada ban crime reduction strategy kicks off on June 1, 2022, residents expressed diverse views on the total ban of commercial motorcycles.

Effective from Wednesday, June 1, 2022, operations of commercial motorcycles in six local government areas of Lagos State government, Southwest, would be suspended. 

It will be the fifth time the government has banned ‘okada’ in Lagos State. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, state governor, listed the affected areas to include Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Surulere, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, and Apapa.  

He directed security operatives to enforce the proscription order across the listed councils. 

He said the decision to ban commercial motorcyclists in Nigeria’s commercial hub was in line with the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 to immediately address the chaos and menace created by the operations of Okada in the listed areas.

The ban came after Nigerians expressed outrage after some commercial motorcyclists killed a young man in the Lekki area of Lagos following a disagreement over N100 balance.

The deceased, a sound engineer, was lynched and subsequently burnt.  

The State Government argued that criminality grew in the state because of the activities of Okada riders. But motorcyclists claimed such bans would jeopardise their livelihoods.

Previous bans in Lagos

At least the Lagos State Government has placed a partial or total ban on commercial motorcyclists in the state five times since 1999.

In 2007, former governor Bola Tinubu banned commercial motorcyclists and his successor, Babatunde Fashola, also banned them in March 2012.

Fashola, who raised concerns over the many avoidable injuries and deaths caused by okada riders, made a law barring them from operating on 475 routes in the state. 

Despite these bans by Tinubu and Fashola, who left office in 2015 after spending eight years in office, okada riders were still on Lagos roads.

Akinwunmi Ambode, who succeeded Fashola, placed a ban on commercial motorcycles in 2017. However, when Ambode left office in 2019, okada riders were still everywhere in Lagos.

Meanwhile, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the incumbent Governor of Lagos State, has banned commercial bike operators in the state-  first in Feb. 2020, then in May 2022. 

In 2019 and barely one year into his tenure, Sanwo-Olu stopped bike-hailing services like Opay, Gokada, and Max operations. At the time, independently-owned and unregulated commercial motorcycles were not affected. Still, many feared the government’s action would affect economic prosperity.

Arguments against operations of Okada in Lagos 

While the state government does not have a record of crimes associated with commercial motorcyclists, Gbenga Omotosho, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, said Lagos State recorded over 1,500 accidents involving tricycles, with over 70 people dead in 2020.

Hakeem Odumosu, a former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, said armed hoodlums who operated on motorcycles were responsible for a more significant percentage of crime in the state in 2021. Odumosu said 192 Okada riders had died from 280 accidents between Jan. and May 9, 2021.

The police chief, during a stakeholders’ meeting in 2021, said traffic robbery, carjacking, movement of arms, and cash-snatching from bank customers were traced to armed hoodlums who operate on Okada.

He attributed 60 per cent of robberies in Lagos in the past four years to commercial motorcycles.

According to the police, out of eight robberies that occurred in that period, seven involved using Okada. In addition, the penchant of Okada riders for disobeying traffic rules and regulations often leads to traffic snarls that give room for social miscreants to rob motorists of valuable items and other antisocial acts such as vandalisation of vehicles, police said.

Citing records over the last decade, Taiwo Salaam, the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, said motorcycles killed over 11,000 people in the state between 2011 and 2019. Corroborating this, Frederic Oladeinde, the Lagos State Commissioner for Transport, said at least 600 deaths between 2018 and 2019 were attributable to motorcycles.

Lagos residents speak

However, residents who spoke with HumAngle expressed diverse views on the total ban of commercial motorcycles.  

Segun Desire, a resident, said Lagos State does not need a total ban, arguing that “there are communities that one can’t visit without motorcycles.” 

“It is preferable to enact some regulations and have a law enforcement body enforce them than to outright prohibit motorcycles from all roads and laws. In some locations, the ban could lead to a riot.”

Another resident, Esther Kuhe, applauded the government’s decision to prohibit motorcycles. However, she said a comprehensive prohibition is required to reduce crime and disorder.

A logistic consultant, Steve Johnson, weighing the pros and cons of the motorcyclists, said the ban would bring more hardship on the ordinary person because “it is a fast means of moving from the suburbs to the main area. “There will be a vacuum if the ban is effective,” he said.

He added that Nigeria has a terrible road network where users can’t access some areas due to the deplorable state of the road.

“To be sincere, when we look at the safety aspect of the ban, it is a great move. However, it’s alarming to see the numbers of motorcyclists, especially those not from the Southwest.

“These okada riders also sell hard drugs. Instead, the government should repair bad roads for easy commute and invest in suburban tricycles.”

Gbolahan Olojede, a public analyst, said it appears the recent announcement on the motorcyclist ban was a knee-jerk reaction.

“Considering Okada’s menace in Lagos, the government must do something. But whatever it will do must not be a knee-jerk reaction. Instead, it must be robust and well thought-through and executed with discipline.”

Okada ban as a national issue  

Lagos State is not the only Nigerian state banning the operations of Okada. States in northern Nigeria have also enacted motorbike bans to combat insecurity and other crimes. These states are Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara. For example, the FCT Administration prohibited motorcycles and tricycles from operating in the city centre of Abuja, except for satellite towns and some big estates. 

In 2019, the Nigerian Army banned the use of motorcycles in seven states of the country: Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi in Northwest Nigeria and Niger State in North-central Nigeria, citing “the use of motorcycles by armed bandits, kidnappers, criminal elements and their collaborators as enablers to perpetrate their heinous crimes, especially in the states within the north-west geopolitical zone of the country”.

Following persistent security threats in Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria, where Boko Haram was using motorbikes to wreak havoc, the state also restricted Okada. 

The state government banned operations of commercial motorcycles in Zaria, Kafanchan towns, and other suburbs of the state, citing insecurity as the main reason. 

On Sept. 29, 2021, Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna, again banned the use of motorcycles and restricted the mobility of tricycles. 

The Kaduna State Government extended the ban on commercial motorbikes and other security measures in the state indefinitely in Jan. 2022, following the death of 14 people in different parts of the state by suspected terrorists in just four days.

Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano state, Northwest Nigeria, outlawed using motorcycles as commercial transportation in 2011 during his second tenure. Kano imposed the ban to address the state’s security concerns at the time. 

The state law prohibiting Okada allows only one person to ride a motorcycle simultaneously. 

The prohibition was prompted by the belief that the usage of motorcycles was assisting rebels’ actions. 

The government of Katsina State, Northwest Nigeria, banned using motorcycles for commercial purposes between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. 

The governor, Aminu Bello Masari, signed the decree.

The decree went into force on Jan. 20, 2020, affecting everyone except paramilitary and police officers.

Masari called on the Nigerian Air Force to utilise their surveillance cameras to arrest anyone seen riding motorcycles in rural areas at night as part of steps to implement the restriction nationally. 

He continued that motorcyclists encountered in the woods at night must be shot because many of them are bandits. 

Kidnappings and banditry have decreased in the state, according to the governor, since the executive order went into effect.

Following an increase in security threats in Plateau State, North-central Nigeria, as a result of various crimes in significant cities allegedly committed by some commercial motorcycle operators, Jonah Jang, a former governor of the state, signed a bill prohibiting the operation of commercial motorcycles within the Jos/Bukuru metropolis into law in 2010. 

The operators initially opposed the law, but complaints by commercial motorcycle riders did not deter the former governor from putting it into effect.

In the wake of cattle rustling, banditry, and kidnapping, previous administrations in Zamfara State, Northwest Nigeria, enacted legislation prohibiting the activity of okada riders.

The current administration in the state eased the limitation when relative peace set in as a consequence of reconciliation measures. As a result, the operators can now work at any time.

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Azeezat Adedigba

Azeezat Adedigba is an Assistant Editor/ Lagos Bureau Chief for HumAngle. She is also an investigative journalist and the winner of the 2019 Female Reporters Leadership Program (FRLP) organised by Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ). Azeezat is passionate about gender and children advocacy. She has a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Jos.

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