The government of BabaTunde Raju Fashola of Lagos State crafted some traffic Laws which are still in force under his successor Akinwunmi Ambode. What interests me here are the ones affecting the motorcycle (Okada) riders, where some routes (mostly highways) were outlawed from being plied by these Okada riders. That is a good move, given the high rate of broken limbs and heads, suffered by Okada riders and their passengers. Since this outlaw, the orthopaedic hospitals have witnessed drastically reduced rates of mangled bodies occasioned by motorcycle accidents.
However, the other aspect of the law that bars the Okada Operators from operating between 6am to 10pm seems ill thought out. The rationale is that, Okadas are often used to rob people very early in the mornings, and also at night. The reasoning is flawed because cabs (whether painted or not) and buses operate at night too, and are often used to rob hapless unsuspecting passengers, but they have not been outlawed.
In a place like Lagos, it is a fact of life that many people live far from where they work, and have to leave their house very very early to beat the mad metropolitan traffic. They also return late from work, because of the same unconscionable traffic. This is an open secret. For someone who lives in areas where commercial vehicles do not ply, the only means of movement is to patronising the Okada. The alternative would be to trek long distances, which is simply impracticable.
Supposing you leave in an inner Street in Abuse Elba and work in Lekki, you have no choice but to leave early and come back late. And you have to patronize the Okadas if you do not own a vehicle. No alternative exists.
The enforcement officers have then capitalized on this situation to wait stealthily and patiently to catch any Okada driver that operates earlier than 6 am , or after 10pm. These policemen would then seize the Okada, and of course, fleece these hapless Okada riders who are simply providing essential service and trying to make a honest living in these hard times. If a policeman needs some quick money, all he would do is get a colleague, take an Okada and go fishing. He is sure to catch some hapless Okada rider breaking the law’, and his day is made.
Why would we not have increasing rates of criminality?
Lots of the times, depending on the greed of the policemen, they actually seize these Okadas from the operators permanently. What this has caused is that, workers living in certain areas that commercial vehicles do not ply, and do not own a private car, go through hell getting to, and coming back from, work. And the irony is that, the same policemen now use (the same seized) Okadas to carry passengers during the banned period, unmolested by anybody.!
As is often the case, the people who craft some of these laws do not see, or refuse to see the big picture, and since only the downtrodden is affected, the situation persists.
A similar situation exists in a place like Abuja where commercial motorcycles and painted buses have been banned in some areas. How then do workers who live in the suburbs and do not own personal vehicles get to, and from work in these areas? Does anybody care? This situation is compounded by their inability to afford cabs. The result. Trekking unlimited, affecting productivity.
I believe those who make some of these anti people laws need to do their homework better, have a broader view of things, and examine the possible impact of some of these laws on citizens.
This rant is a result of a situation I witnessed this morning where two policemen on Okada double crossed an Okada that has just dropped a passenger. The time? 5.45am. In attempting to make N50, he has found himself in this nasty situation of being asked to go and bring N15k. The Okada man tried his best to get away, but luck was not on his side. Clearly, his day is ruined. If he manages to ‘settle’ generously , he may be let off. If he can’t ‘shake body’ vigorously, he may have kissed his means of livelihood bye bye.
I felt bad, really bad, and sad for the poor guy, but what could I do?
C’est la vie!