You are here: HomeNews2021 10 17Article 487309

General News of Sunday, 17 October 2021


Lagos urged to enforce traffic law to regulate okada business, curb accidents

Okada operators Okada operators

With over 20 million population compounded by the daily influx of motorists into the coastal city’s overstretched road network, perennial traffic jams have become a hard nut for both the government and the residents to crack.

Amid this chaotic traffic situation, commercial motorcycle operators, well known as okada riders, have a field day.

They pick stranded passengers and meander through hectic gridlock recklessly on highways and expressways, risking life and limb to make as much money as possible from the brisk business.

Beyond hundreds of lives and body parts lost to recurring motorcycle accidents, bike operation has constituted a major security threat in Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, and other major cities across the country.

Several traffic robberies had been carried out using motorcycles as the means of operation.

To check this growing menace worsened by the emergence of the tricycle transport system in recent years, state governments have come up with road traffic laws to maintain sanity.

For instance, the Lagos State Government restricted the movement of motorcycles on 475 roads, including highways and bridges across the state.

Justifying the restriction the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, in January 2020 claimed that over 1,500 accidents involving motorcycles and tricycles were reported in the state from 2015 to 2019 with 689 victims dead and over 250 injured.

Notably, motorcycle riders, the majority of whom came from other parts of the country and even neighbouring nations such as the Niger Republic, have engaged security agents in bloody clashes in an attempt to resist enforcement of the ban.

Recent among such numerous encounters was the Ajao Estate incident where a police officer attached to the Lagos State Police Command, CSP Kazeem Abonde, was lynched nine months to his retirement during a raid.

However, apart from operating on restricted routes, there are many traffic rules flouted by the riders and the passengers even though the latter usually go unpunished for the offence.

In Lagos, motorcycles are required by law to obtain a rider’s card, wear safety helmets and carry only one adult passenger on the bike but the regulations are flagrantly disobeyed.

In this regard, Section 3 of the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, 2012, said, “No person shall ride, drive or propel a cart, wheelbarrow, motorcycle on any of the routes specified in Schedule II to this Law. No person shall operate a motorcycle or tricycle without a Rider’s Card issued by the Lagos State Motor Vehicle Administration Agency.

“No person shall operate a motorcycle or tricycle either as a rider or a passenger without wearing a standard protective crash helmet as may be prescribed under the Regulations to this Law.”

The law stated that no motorcycle operator should carry more than one passenger at a time, “provided that a pregnant woman, a child below the age of 12 years, or an adult with a baby or heavy/large load places on the head or which obstruct normal sitting on the motorcycle shall not be carried as passenger.”

It added, “Any person who fails to comply with any of the provisions of this Section commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to three months imprisonment or render community service in accordance with the provisions of Section 347 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, and have his vehicle forfeited to the state.”

The law further stated that where a rider was convicted of an offence under subsections (1) (3) and (4) of this Section, the passenger would also be liable to the same penalty, provided the passenger is not a child.

“As from the commencement of this law commercial motorcycles shall only operate between the hours of 6 am-8 pm within the state,” the law further submitted.

In view of the crisis caused by motorcyclists, experts advised that the commercial motorcycle operation required an overhaul.

A Professor of Transportation Geography at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Anambra State, Patience Onokala, said the riders must be properly trained before beginning operation, noting that the majority of them were ill-trained, endangering lives and property.

She said, “Most of them didn’t learn how to ride properly before they started carrying people, thereby endangering their lives and the lives of their passengers. Many of them are only after the money they would collect, not the safety of the passengers.

“The government needs to engage them and train them in the aspects of safety for themselves and passengers. They need to be compelled to provide safety helmets for themselves and their passengers so that if there is an accident, nobody would crash their head.”

Also, a Professor of Criminology and Security Studies, Obadina Smah, said regulations of motorcycle operations should be taken seriously, describing it as a key factor contributing to terrorism, kidnapping and other violent crimes across the country.

He said, “The public space within which motorcycle operators operate is a security space and anything that happens there can be of immense security challenge to the government and the citizens. The phenomenon of motorcycle operation, especially the commercial one, has been there for years.“From 1990 to date, particularly with the exponential growth in population and gradual collapse in public service by the government, this phenomenon has become an important part of our lives. They enter every nook and cranny of major cities and villages where cars can’t go. This is why they take advantage of overloading and engage in excessive speeding. The government has a right to regulate this particularly when you look at the security implications.”

The criminologist said law enforcement agencies were overwhelmed to enforce the regulations due to a collapse in the effective transportation system, maintaining that they were also beneficiaries of the riders’ service.

Smah stated that regulations bordering on overloading, use of safety helmets by both the cyclist and the passenger, among others were clearly defined but flouted.

He said, “In the case of Lagos scenario, it is more disturbing particularly when you add the tricycle phenomenon to it. Cars can hardly move and the operators too can hardly operate smoothly without having to log into each other, thereby resulting in severe traffic jams.

“People have taken it as a big business and since it has become such, the government needs to enforce regulations to ensure safety. There should be regulations on the speed limit and carriage. A crucial aspect in reducing the carnage on the highways is to ensure that the speed limit is regulated.

“Manufacturers can intervene by installing speed limits in bikes. The government needs to be serious about it by engaging the manufacturers. In the 70s, whether you were a passenger or a rider, you had to wear a safety helmet. This has been completely ignored today. Insisting on wearing helmets, including wearing elbow pad, knee pad is an important regulation the government should enforce to minimise the impacts of accidents especially on tarred roads which could be so terrible.”

The security expert said both the riders and the passengers need proper education to value safety, calling for the use of technology to detect motorcyclists who abuse substances.

He added, “You don’t see this phenomenon of speeding in developed countries. Depending on the gravity of the offence, they can seize your bike and impound it. You will keep paying for the space where they are keeping your bike.

“Community service is another effective way that can be employed to enforce the regulations. Two hours of cleaning the streets, two days of coming out at every 7’0clock to clean up till 9 am can be effective.”

In his comment on the issue, a lawyer and social commentator, Liborous Oshoma, said activities of okada riders across the country had resulted in “a complete breakdown of law and order” with many of the operators ill-trained and unlicensed.

He said the government must take a holistic approach to restore sanity on the road by adopting short and long-term approaches.

Oshoma stated, “Poverty is not an excuse for endangering the lives of others. The immediate solution is to stop donation of motorcycles for political campaigns. Second, for every action, there must be consequences. The same way you have vehicle registration departments, the motorcycle registration offices should be located in every area. And for anyone to become a commercial rider there should be stringent conditions that must be met.

“If those conditions are not met, the motorcycles should be withheld until those conditions are met. There should be strong regulation. The riders should be able to provide headgears for themselves and their passengers. As a long-term approach, we need to invest in more education, reclaim farmlands and make the environment secure for farmers turned okada riders.”

Join our Newsletter!