Clampdown on commercial motorcyclists (okada) takes its toll on Lagosians

The renewed restriction on the movement of commercial motorcycles, popularly called okada, within Lagos is taking its toll on residents.

Largely enforced by the police, the clampdown on some of the activities of okada riders is in line with the new traffic law in the state. However, since the enforcement was intensified last week, residents have had to trek long distances to their destinations.

This was due to the ban placed on okada along major routes, bridges and some areas in the state.

Meanwhile, the patronage for keke marwa has shot up considerably, owing to the misfortune of okada riders.

A passenger who requested anonymity urged the state government to reconsider its stance on the new traffic law. He admitted that the state government might have good intentions, but added that the law was premature.

"The cost of taking a taxi in Lagos is very expensive. The government should allow okada within the streets of GRA as not everybody has a car or can afford taxi," he said.

Police and other security officers who ride on motorbikes are also not spared. Some of them claimed to have been challenged by their colleagues in enforcing the new traffic law.

A corporal attached to the Police headquarters at Ikeja, said he was recently riding on his bike to work when he was stopped by other police officers.

"I identified myself as a policeman but they ignored me. I had to plead with the leader of the team, but he said I had to park my bike somewhere as they have directive not to allow any motorcycle whether that of officers or civilian to ply within Ikeja," he said.

In his reaction, the State Police Commissioner, Umar Manko, stated that the state traffic law was "no respecter of persons".

"As it is now, if I ride on a motorcycle in restricted areas, I will be arrested. That is what the law says and we are enforcing it to the letter," he said.

Just last week, the State Task Force on the Environment and Special Offences Unit announced that it had crushed over 3000 motorcycles, to serve as a deterrent to commercial motorcyclists, who were arrested for plying restricted routes in the state.