Opinion: Governor Fashola and his futile anti-‘okada’ laws

by Demola Rewaju

 

It is however in the area of motorcycle transportation that Fashola strongly shows not only his elitist mentality but also a peculiar lack of understanding of how Lagos was built on the foundations of free enterprise.

Many actions of His Excellency the Governor of Lagos State have made me conclude before now that he is an elitist with very strong bias against the poor. His famed exploits in road construction in elite areas versus ‘poor’ areas is hugely slanted, his acquisition of markets and subsequent upgrade to highbrow shopping malls for the rich, his public-private partnership, his school fees hike in tertiary institutions and lack of any major pro-masses policy or agenda reinforce this notion in my mind.

It is however in the area of motorcycle transportation that Fashola strongly shows not only his elitist mentality but also a peculiar lack of understanding of how Lagos was built on the foundations of free enterprise.

I know fully well that Gov. Fashola has an abundance of admirers and I think that is where the problem starts from. There is rarely any opposition to his ideas and as every democrat knows, when one man feels that his and his advisers’ opinion is the smartest and brightest, it is difficult to entrench democratic values which thrive on robust debate.

The ‘okada’ business in Lagos provides employment in some way or the other to over a million people. Since there are no statistics, this figure is purely conjectural but when you break down the numbers by the 20 LGs and 37 LCDAs in Lagos, that’s about 17,543 motorcycles per locality and I know the figures are much higher if you consider high density areas like Iyana-Ipaja, Alimosho, Shomolu, Surulere and so on. By the time you think of the many house mai-guards, corporate security staff, teachers and civil servants who run their ‘okada’ business after official hours, a million may even sound too small but let’s work with that number for the sake of argument.

Motorcycle manufacturing companies from Asia have several ‘okada’ assembly plants in Lagos in response to this upsurge about a decade ago. Haojue, Bajaj, Boxer, Xinghoang and Jincheng are the more popular ones with plants from Apapa to Ilupeju. They even have an association called Motorcycle Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN). Those who sell ‘okada’ parts or repair the ‘okada’ also have their own businesses. Then you have the allied companies like Chongping that produce special motorcycle oil. I’m sure these companies contribute handsomely to the over NGN20bn the state government makes per month as IGR.

As for the ‘okada’ riders themselves, many of them suffer harassment from policemen under the guise of enforcing the Fashola laws, LG/LCDA enforcers, ACOMORAN and MOALS union levy enforcers and even traditional rulers in some areas like Ikotun, Isolo, Ijegun, Badagry and so on. Policemen collect NGN50-100 anytime they catch any ‘okada’ in some areas, LG/LCDA collect their dues daily which is between NGN100-200 per ‘okada’, traditional rulers tax the ‘okada’ men through their enforcers on Tuesday and Friday in most areas, Chairmen collect theirs on Friday or Sunday while the union dues are monthly but some choose to pay weekly.

‘Okada’ transportation is lucrative for most middle-class and low-class families because there is huge demand for it in a city like Lagos where everyone is in a rush to get to one place from the other. Admittedly, those who have had terrible accidents in ‘okada’ accidents or visited Igbobi Hospital may never ride on one again and I know many motorists do not like struggling for right of way with them.

In such situation, the wise approach to the ‘okada’ conundrum will be to lay down regulations that are pragmatic for the saving of lives of Lagos residents yet encouraging to aspiring business entrepreneurs. Many barbers, vulcanisers, generator repairers, supermarket owners and other small business people use earnings from ‘okada’ riding to augment whatever they make from their business.

From the day the foreigners set foot in Badagry and bought the first slave, Lagos has thrived on free enterprise and that is what makes Lagos work, not the ideas of any man. Lagos works because the people work. Every governor in Lagos state from Mobolaji Johnson to Jakande to Marwa and even Sir Michael Otedola has enjoyed relative success because Lagos has the highest number of literate and semi-literate people in the country which translates to valuable human resources.

In spite of the popularity of Okada transportation, there is no proper institute to train Okada riders or even provide them with periodic certification which is another means of revenue for the government, yet, to procure rider’s card and other permits to ride Okada in Lagos costs between NGN7,000 to 13,000 compared to NGN4,000 in Ogun state where many ‘okada’ riders prefer to register their bikes before bringing it to Lagos.

With the draconian laws imposed on ‘okada’ riders under Gov Fashola, many of these riders are turning or returning to a life of crime because they just must survive which they were barely doing even without the repressive laws. The cost of a brand new ‘okada’ is about NGN100,000 to NGN180,000. What these boys do is to get anyone who can afford it to buy one for them while they repay him or her with weekly or daily depending on agreement.

The Taskforce Chairman, Bayo Sulaiman, an Assistant Superintent of Police, earlier this week on behalf of the government gleefully commenced the destruction of this thriving business and had this to say:

    “These are ‘okadas’ impounded since the new traffic law was signed into law. There are 3, 000 of them. ‘Okada’ riders must obey our traffic law…We are dismantling the ‘okadas’ now to separate the parts that are crushable from the ones that are not crushable. After this, we will take the crushable parts to Oshodi crushing plant, where they will be crushed…”

In Akwa-Ibom, a state that cannot compare with Lagos in terms of population and number of ‘okada’ riders when a similar law was passed, the government gave each ‘okada’ rider NGN50,000 before collecting their bikes. In Lagos, the source of livelihood of some entire families was impounded without compensation and will be crushed even though I can swear that some of these enforcers will divert dozens of the seized motorcycles to personal use.

History is surely quite clear: No law made against the majority stands the test of time. The ‘okada’ means of transportation has come to stay with all its dangers. A pro-masses government will look for ways to regulate, enhance and harness it; not stifle it to death as His Excellency Governor Raji Fashola is trying to do.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (13)

  1. Xxxxn may God kill all ur family. Evil men does't last if u hate okada u hate ur dad and ur mum.

  2. plane crash victims dnt get to igbobi,cos like 200 people die at oncE,i think planes should be banned 2 abi?…….imbeciles,dis govt is making lagos beautiful at the expence of lagosians……..by the time he finishies his renovation and ostentatious touch…..low class and middle class lagosians will be dead and buried….imagine a rule that stops u 4rm eating gala iin traffic…….

  3. @Uy yes i read the article and i still came to this conclusion, to think that you haven't seen the hazard the okada riders cause on the streets of Lagos surprises me. the first the duty of a government is protection of the citizens, fashola took a step to reduce accidents on the major roads of Lagos. You are right saying 500,000 jobs or more and crime rate will increase, but they are steps to be taking to create sanitation. there will never be a right time to ban okada. we need to discourage people from taking or riding okada. In due time alternatives will appear such as tricycle and others.

  4. this quite funny,you need to go back to school, i said okada constitute a nuisance, i never said all were bad. i still stand by my statement. okada riding is not the only job for a poor man…. its myopic saying people are unemployed and okada is a way out. i can understand peoples anger commuting, but coming here and insulting not opposing my opinion is pure buffoonery.

  5. @ Al Hakiu let us check your statements

    1.Poser: This effectively means the okada cannot ply 475 out of the 1980 roads in Lagos state

    Fact :Okadas are banned on 475 rods in Lagos state yet police are arresting them every where!

    2. Poser : Go to Igbobi and take the statistics; 99% of the okada accidents happened on the major highways

    Fact: Your stats are grossly flawed. It was released by government to serve thier own purposes. Let us commission an independent study and another fact will come out.

    3. Poser: It is interesting that 98% of the people shouting loudest on this okada matter are not the okada riders themselves

    Fact: It is obvious you are not in Lagos or you are one of the elitist who dont have anything to do on the streets. There was serious commotion by the riders themselves on Monday and Tuesday and now the state hous is considering total ban as a result of what they call "criminal tendencies of the the riders complaining over thier ban" need we say more??

  6. Before banning the okada riders, did fashola provide any job opportunity? the problem will only give rise to more criminals. *word*

  7. Why are you spreading ignorance?

    Fashola did NOT 'ban' okada. The LASG has simply restricted the operations of two-wheeled vehicles, including bicycles and motorcycles – to the side roads away from the major highways. This is as stipulated in the Highway Code since 1973! This effectively means the okada cannot ply 475 out of the 1980 roads in Lagos state. Do the Maths. Why all these noise over nothing?

    Go to Igbobi and take the statistics; 99% of the okada accidents happened on the major highways where the okada do not have right of way and when they are hit by cars or buses, the drivers of those buses or cars cannot be prosecuted because by law the okada was not supposed to be there in the first place!

    Fashola has a duty to protect the lives of every Lagosian – including the okada rider – even against his will.

    It is interesting that 98% of the people shouting loudest on this okada matter are not the okada riders themselves. Neither the okada union ACCOMORAN nor the okada manufacturers association MOMAN have come out to say they are opposed to the rule because they know the law. Nobody has banned okada so their business continues.

    It is also interesting that you make the connection between okada and slavery.

    When the Abolitionists first tried to stop slavery, their first shock was to find out that most of the white folks who owned slaves were genteel, christian folks who were not racists, did not hate black people but they just considered the ability to own slaves as a privilege – nay, a right – that they deserved because of the prevailing economic conditions of their time. It was their right to own slaves, so they said.

    The people complaining loudest are those who have come to see okada as a privilege they enjoy. The Lagos middle class are the privilege class and they consider any restriction on okada as an affront on their privilege. They will never ride okada themselves or even allow their children to become okada riders but they want okadas to be available every time they need them.

    Like the slave owners of old…

  8. We fail to realize that small businesses like Okada are the ones that drive the economy. Lagos as an emerging mega city can still thrive with or without Okada but banning Okada at such a time when the economy is not favourable and considering that most people depend on dis business for livelihood makes the decision not just harsh, insensitive and downright inhumane. Alternatives should preceede such decisions to mitigate effects.

  9. Dear xxxx, to think that you read this article and still arrived at such a hasty, if not ignorant conclusion is quite depressing.

    It beats me that you will compare other mega cities in Nigeria with Lagos knowing that it is the most populated.

    Asides from this ban making over 500,000 people unemployed, it will reduce productivity. People whose job description involve moving around to meet targets cannot do so with as much ease as before due to the unavailabilty of the an alternative mode of transportation to avoid heavy traffic. This in turn will produce low work output and in the big picture, eventually, lower tax turnout. This is just a little example of the downsides of this ban.

    You cannot spend more money on building tolls, planting flowers, further developing already developed areas and expect the masses to support your bad decisions.

    If you want to ban bikes, give the people alternatives; Create new roads, expand old roads, repair bad roads, give the riders at least 6months prior notice before the ban.

    No good government wakes up & makes thousands of people jobless overnight.

    If you support this, then you support the worst increase in crime rate ever recorded in Lagos.

    Remember, Fashola is fully protected, who will protect us against thousands of hungry, angry, unemployed men? Be wise.

    1. @Uy You have spoken my mind and I will not banter words with people like xxxxx who are clearly myopic and do not understand governance or societal policies and their impacts.

      @Demola I was gonna write a piece on this issue, but you seem to have handled the job quite well. Kudos and here's hoping the government comes to its senses and realize the after-effects of such a ill-devised policy.

  10. Please….. Okada should be banned…. they constitute a nuisance, everybody doesn't have to stay in Lagos they can go back to their individual villages. I have seen mega cities survive without okadas why not Lagos…

    1. I bet you,u are a mad man!!! 4 saying fashola should banned okada in Lagos.did u think everybody was born with silver spoon?y am I replying dis msg self,,,,,,,,,,,cos u are a mad man !!!!!!!!!!with small sense. Okada should stay.

      1. That is a good one, u dont need to reply him. You can not say all Okada riders are bad. So Mr. xxxxxx watch ur tongue

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail