Kunle Adelabu & Wale Jagun
-Charge LASG to provide alternatives, call policemen to order on enforcement
For residents of lkorodu, moving around the town to carry out their respective daily activities has become an herculean task due to the current ban on the operations of the commercial motorcycles, popularly known as ‘Okadas’ by the Lagos State government as part of the measures to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus.
While operations of other means of transportation have been allowed to continue with some regulations, Okada riders have been banned from operating in the state.
Despite the ban, some commercial motorcycle riders have continued to operate and as a result, have had to either contend with seizure of their motorbikes without release or pay exorbitant sum of money for there release.
While the operators have been protesting and also appealing to the government to allow them to operate to enable them feed their families, the effects of their ban have been biting hard on the residents who have found it difficult to move around the six councils in Ikorodu Division area of Lagos State, Southwest, Nigeria.
Residents, who are used to moving around the town on commercial motorcycles which they considered fast and accessible, now have to stay longer than necessary at bus stops when going out and returning home from their outings every day.
Mostly affected are those residing in Ikorodu Local Government, Ikorodu West, Ikorodu North, Igbogbo/Bayeku and Ijede Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).
The situation of the residents was compounded by the government’s directive that commercial tricycles and small buses, popularly called ‘Keke Marwa’ and ‘Kurupe’ respectively, in the local parlance, should not carry full capacity.
While Keke Marwa are allowed to carry just two passengers at the back, ‘Kurupe’ are to carry two passengers per seat.
This development has also led to the increment in the transport fares between 300 and 500 percent, a situation which has attracted agitations from the residents.
Police and Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC) officers have been seen enforcing the government directives by arresting offenders within Ikorodu town, particularly drivers carrying more than the specified number of passengers.
It was, however, lamentation galore at the Ikorodu garage roundabout last Saturday where our reporter joined many stranded passengers heading to Ebute, Igbogbo and other parts of Ikorodu division. The situation was the same for others coming from Igbogbo and Ebute to Ikorodu.
A resident, who claimed to have been standing in front of the Access Bank building for over 3 hours without seeing any tricycle in sight and was walking down to Ojubode to continue the search when accosted by our reporter, angrily told THE IMPACT that :
“Abeg, leave me alone! Can’t you see other people standing around. We have been here for over three hours and there is no hope in sight that we are going to get Marwa to board soon”, she lamented.
“It was same experience in the morning at Igbogbo and now, we are back here and unable to find vehicle to get us home after hectic day at work. Government should consider helpless residents when making decision.
“These whole agonizing experiences that we are being made to go through on daily basis is due to the ban on ‘okada’ while the ‘marwa’ too cannot carry passengers to full capacity. This is really affecting and making life that is already unbearable more complicated for us in the state”.
Also, a young man who simply introduced himself as Kazeem and who was also heading to Igbogbo, also expressed same reaction and called on the government to find alternative for the people.
“We quite understand that government is trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus which has since attained community level of spreading but what we are going through on daily basis has been excruciating and could kill us as well”, he said.
“At times, we have had to trek from garage to Ota – Ona or Barracks with people carrying loads on their heads while others backed their young children. This is due to the ban on ‘Okada’ and the directive that both ‘Marwa’ and ‘Kurupe’ should not carry full passengers to full capacity. Many of these drivers don’t even work anymore because they have been complaining about police harassment.
“In this situation, we expect the state and local governments to come to our aid by providing more ‘marwa’ and ‘kurupe’ or better still, buses”, he suggested.
Taiwo Ayeni, an Information Technology (IT) expert who works in Ikeja, Lagos, while also speaking with our reporter at the Ikorodu garage, jokingly said that, “This is more than double wahala for the people (laughter).
“We were locked for many weeks without food and now that we are trying to start all over again, for some of us that have been adversely affected by the lockdown, these directives on motorcycles, tricycles and small buses are not making things easy for us at all.
“Government policies, though, are meant to safeguard the people, have done more harms that the deadly virus is doing to the common people and yet, the government is not seeing the need to intervene and cushion the effects on the people.
“How do we survive if we cannot move freely? We are now paying between 200% and 300% more for transportation since the beginning of the partial lockdown, yet, we suffered greatly before getting cab or ‘marwa’ to convey us to our work places and back to our various houses when returning in the evening. This is very sad”, he said shaking his head.
While boarding a tricycle to Igbogbo, our reporter encountered a female passenger who, while venting her anger due to the government’s directives on tricycles and motorcycles, described those in government as “insensitive people who are serving themselves alone because they are not bothered about people’s plight”.
She stated that the government is adding to the hardship of the already burdened residents of the state and demanded that, “What have they (government) given us after taken virtually everything away from us? Nothing!”, she said.
The woman, who was furious throughout the journey, further lamented that, “Hope that they are learning from the deaths of their colleagues? Let them continue to wage ‘war’ against the people through their inhuman policies, they too will continue to incur our wraths and that of God”.
Another resident, Yinka who owns a shop in Aga but reside along Ijede road also complained about the stress in getting to her shop from and returning back.
“It has been crazy since the ban on Okada because we have not been finding it funny coming to shop and going back home after closing. We even find it difficult getting Marwa. The cost of moving around is another thing” she complained.
She also condemned the way and manner police officers are enforcing the ban on Okada. Just last week, they chased an okada man carrying a pregnant woman to California junction and hit the motorbike and threw the rider and her passengers on the floor with the woman sustaining injury” she said.
“Few days ago, police men again used their small van to hit another okada man into the drain and later went away with his motorbike. It was a very wrong and insane way of enforcing the law.
Also, THE IMPACT, through Whatsap chats, engaged some residents who are social media activists and who board public transport on daily basis, to share their experiences on the effects of the total ban on okada and the directive which is preventing ‘Keke Marwa’ and ‘Kurupe’ from carrying passengers to full capacity in an attempt to prevent spread of the ravaging COVID -19.
They also reacted to police enforcement of the ban on the Okada riders, calling on the government to call the law enforcement agents to order.
In his response, Mr Ohireimen Monday Obadan, one of the most engaging social media activists in Ikorodu Division and a community developer, said that government has good intention with the ban/directive but that it is hasty and not well thoughtout.
“Thank you for the great impact you are making towards grassroots awareness, sensitization and enlightenment for a greater and better community. Your reportage is top-notch, unbiased and well-balanced”, he stated while commending THE IMPACT for its community reportorial activities.
“Having said that, my opinion on the ban of okada has been publicly articulated on many platforms and I would still recap and reinforce it again since you have asked.
“First, as much as the government has a good intention to rid the state of the menace of Okada, I strongly believe that it is hasty and not well thought out.
“Hasty because about 60% of the operators of this informal sector of the economy of Lagos State constitutes the unemployable persons or those who lost their jobs in the formal sector and are using okada as a means to meet up daily live responsibilities instead of turning to crime. One may argue that criminals have also infiltrated the ranks of the riders.
“If that is the case, the issue of a well coordinated and regulated arrangement would suffice to checkmate these infiltrations. Secondly, the issue of incessant accidents could also be taken care of if it is regulated effectively”.
He said that the government should have made provisions for alternative means before the ban on okada, to cushion the effects of the ban and prevent people from facing hardship that they are presently encountering.
He also said that government should deploy moral persuasion to make residents of the state adhere to COVID – 19 protocols rather than force which is been presently experienced in every part of the state, especially Ikorodu where police officers have been alleged of constant harassment of Okada riders in their attempts to enforce government’s directive.
“If the ban is well thought out, alternative provisions should have been in place before the pronouncement. It could have been a phased ban.
“Now, as it relates to the spread of Covid-19, the truth of the matter is that whether we like it or not, the plague is here with us and it now depends on the capacity to curtail or control the spread. Since precautionary measures are already in place, the next step to take is encouraging the people to adhere to these measures rather than forcing them”, he said.
“Moral suasion and persuasion should be the order of the day. There is nobody on this earth that would not respond to the language of love and empathy”, Ohireimen suggested.
“Honestly, the issue is compounded and complicated because the people who the government intends to protect are also not taking the pandemic issue seriously, let alone adhering to the precautionary measures. This is quite understandable because everyone wants to develop a strategy of daily survival”.
He, therefore, said that government should work on the lessons learnt so far on the pandemic, its responses and people’s reactions to chat a way forward.
“There are a lot of lessons to draw out from this pandemic which the government or relevant authorities can learn from and synergized going forward: Gather statistics for development planning purpose; Engage the citizens effectively and transparently using multilayer media. Communication is Community”.
He also added that government should “Encourage citizen participation in policies (Townhall and Stakeholders meetings). Let the people provide solutions while government articulates the information gathered from the people to draw up policies so that the people would freely and readily buy into such policies.
“Finally, there are areas that Okada ban may be effectively but in satellite and feeder towns where there are no roads or motorable roads, okada could be the only means of transportation to access these areas”, he said.
Olubode Oserinde, a social media influencer and entertainment promoter, in his own reaction, accused the government of acting hastily in implementing policies at the detriment of the people.
“Like I have stated in my recent twitter advocacy, the State Government ban on Okada Operations all over Lagos State is not well thought out at all. You don’t apply the same yardstick you use in determining the traffic situation in highbrow parts of Lagos like Ikeja, Victoria Island or even the fully developed cities like Somolu, Alimosho etc, on developing towns like Ikorodu, Epe, etc.
“I do not have any issue with the state government eradicating the operations of Okada in Lagos completely, but the issue is you don’t do outright eradication to the detriment of the people whose welfare you claimed you’re seeking to protect with the ban.
“What’s the welfare concern in banning Ọkada and people’s agony of using decrepit roads which gulleys have now been heightened by the rain? Everyday, using various roads in Ikorodu like Imota, Ijede, Igbogbo, Agric-Isawo roads is now hellish as commercial motorists whose vehicles are fast wearing out due to the bad roads, are now charging exorbitantly while commuters groan under the weight of the hike in bus fares”, Bode stated while recalling his daily experiences.
“Despite paying as much as ₦500 to ₦600 for a trip within Ikorodu which used to be between ₦150 to ₦200 and wouldn’t have lasted more than 15-25mins, commuters still spend hours sitting in vehicles as a result of traffic congestion caused by the bad roads”, he lamented.
“Let His Excellency leaves Alausa just for a day, disguise and tour round entire Ikorodu Division without any protocol or escort. No jeep at all! I bet, Her Excellency will spend the next day attending to his health. This is what hapless Nigerians, no, Lagosians face on daily basis in Ikorodu”, he said.
He also blamed government for the alleged police harassment on okada riders.
“As for the Police that see this challenge facing the people as a cash cow, I don’t blame them. I blame the Governor who cannot claim he’s unaware that men of the Police are taking undue advantage of the wicked policy to extort and harass law abiding citizens”.
Dr Abdulaziz Anjorin, a Virologist and lecturer with the Lagos State University, asked government to call police to order in enforcing the ban while also charging the government to provide alternative job for riders.
“The police must be called to order to be modest and professional. Any abuse of human right must be formally addressed. The government must also provide alternative jobs and palliatives for the riders”.
Ms. Adelabu Kenny, an educationist and social media commentator, also commenting, said that it is unfair on the part of the government to completely ban okada which, according to her, has been serving as means of transportation for many residents residing in the interior areas most of which are not accessible by vehicles.
“Although, okada has done more harm than good to commuters. However, I think it’s quite unfair for the government to place a complete ban on its operations without first providing an alternative means”, she said.
“For a community like Ikorodu, total ban of okada will be untenable because it is made up of different communities located in interiors and outskirts areas, most of which are not accessible by cars due to extremely bad roads which leaves okada as the only means of transportation for such communities”, she explained.
“Okada may be ban on major roads like Lagos road, Sagamu road and Beach road (because those roads have buses and cars plying them) but not on roads located within the environs”, she emphasized.
Comrade Sholanke Lateef Arizona, the Coordinator, Ikorodu Ambassadors Group, in his own submission, also condemned the total ban on okada operations because of the attendant effects on the riders who are dependent on it as a means of livelihood for themselves and their families and also on the huge populace that need to go about.
“The total ban on the operations of commercial motorcycles, popularly called ‘Okada’, in Ikorodu by the state government is totally wrong”, he said.
“Okada business constitutes 55% to 59% out of the transport businesses in Ikorodu, if I am not mistaken and to ban its operations will pose great hardship to the operators that depend on it as source of livelihood for themselves and their families and the populace of Ikorodu who have been experiencing hardship in moving around due to inadequate means of transportation since the ban was effected “, he emphasized.
“The question now is how do you want this set of people to survive with their families?”, he asked.
“Agreed that as a responsible government, the State government needs to look for a way to prevent the spread of the virus, but stopping Okada operations completely, knowing fully well that the same government cannot cater for their needs, is not justifiable at all”.
Sholanke, like Ohireime, advised that government should intensify campaign on preventive measures among the Okada riders and the populace.
“My advice for the government is to intensify its awareness on the preventive measures among the Okada riders and the populace”.
On the way and manner police officers have been enforcing the government’s directives, Sholanke cautioned policemen to apply human face in the enforcement of the ban.
“To me, most of our police officers are inhuman, because we, the Yorubas, used to say, “To ba ran e ni ise eru, afi ti omo je” (You are expected to apply wisdom whenever you are sent to deliver wrong message to the third party)”.
“Most of them are taking the enforcement like a do or die affair. They’re not doing the job to really assist the government to achieve its aim but to extort the bike owners”, he alleged.
Comrade Soyiga Samuel Adeshina, President, National Association of Ikorodu Division Students (NAIDS), in his own comment on the matter, said that government is not sincere in the management of COVID – 19 in the state.
He added that the state government should not make okada riders feel that they are victims of circumstances when others are going about their businesses without being disturbed while also adding that the directive suggests that the government is panicking.
“Personally, I think the government is not being sincere with this Covid-19 issue, but that does not translate to saying the Coronavirus Epidemic is not real”, he said.
“Many times, they have said we should take caution and not panic but recently, it seems the government itself is the one creating fear in people”, Soyiga emphasized.
“With the stoppage of the interstate movements, we thought the pandemic is coming to an end but with the recent caution applied, it shows the country is far from coming to the end of the deadly virus.
“I wholeheartedly supported the government in sending Okada off the major roads but the government should leave them to ply the inward roads”, he said.
“While trying to contain the disease, we should not also pay ignorance to the security effect. I have seen videos where private schools teachers are crying online for not getting paid and not being able to provide basic amenities like food and other petty things for themselves and their families. What has the government provided for these people as palliative?”, he asked.
“These Okada riders see hundred queuing at BRT terminal without physical distance. They see market filled without physical distance; buses filled, cars filled; other workers go to work and they see friends shaking hands and hugging with no one stopping them. Now, you are completely sending Okada off Ikorodu streets.
“To these riders, this may seems like government is sacrificing them alone for the fight against pandemic.
“If there is an order that Okada is completely banned in Lagos, I think that is understandable enough. But if the government wants them to stop working for a certainly period of time, they should specific duration to that effect and not just making it indefinite”, he said.
“What is the government’s plan for them if they stop riding their motorcycles? Will the government provide for their needs or expect them to get another job? I am sure if they have better offers, they won’t be riding Okada” , the NAIDS President said.
“Apart from the security effect of the ban which is very important, we also need to consider the fact that we are in rainy season and Okada may be needed to navigate many areas that are bad in Ikorodu which vehicles cannot access. Government needs to know that citizens’ welfare are very important too”, he said while reacting to the sufferings of the residents in moving around on daily basis.
Commenting on the enforcement of the ban by police officers, Soyiga said that police should not use the enforcement of the government’s directive as a means of extortion.
“If the police are given order, they should do total enforcement but should not use it as a means of extortion. I believe that if there is total enforcement, the people should have issues to resolve with the government and not police”.
He also condemned police officers that are arresting residents without facemasks, stating that they too are not complying with the COVID – 19 protocols by not wearing the protective equipment, thereby, exposing themselves to the virus.
“I am aware that the police are already arresting people without face masks. How insane is it for those who do not have face masks on their faces to arrest me because I don’t have a face mask on?”, he asked rhetorically.
“We are both offenders and should be arrested together. They should stop treating Nigerian citizens as criminals. The police need to be tutored on this.
“You don’t arrest people you suspect to have being infected by this disease without protecting yourself first. It makes you a suspect too.
“There is a need to address the people instead of arresting them and we need to start living with this reality by doubling our efforts in combating the virus and allowing people to return to their normal lives”, he said.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Gboyega Akosile, was yet to respond to messages sent to him on the residents’ complaints and alleged harassment on okada operators by police in Ikorodu.
Likewise, the Public Relations Officer of the Lagos Police Command, Mr Bala Elkana, also yet to respond to messages sent to him on the allegations against the police by the commercial motorcycle riders in Ikorodu.