The Covid-19 pandemic is not a serious threat in Lagos that is the epicenter when compared to the menace of commercial motorcycle riders known as “Okada”. Some two weeks ago a car was set ablaze by irate okada riders at Mass Burial bus stop near Jakande gate on Ikotun road. The sin of the car owner was hitting an Okada rider who had ran into his vehicle. Barely three days after that incident, another driver was beaten to a pulp in that same location and his car almost set ablaze before some police men came to his rescue.
These Okada riders have “no joy” when it comes to their members. They are always right and see themselves as owners of the road. They ride without caution meandering in between cars with high speed that top bike racers will look like learners. During heavy traffics, they take one way on dualized roads. At this point, you are at a big risk when trying to cross the road and looking only the side of the oncoming vehicles. Ikotun road is the most deadly road to cross when there is heavy traffic especially at nights.
Who are the riders of these Okadas?
The riders are mostly youths from the north between the ages of 15 and 20. The elderly riders from other tribes have been relegated to the background because of the high number of youths. Every week, you see new faces of riders along with new bikes. It’s like there is a factory where they are manufactured. These youths are reckless and rude. They don’t care about their own lives not to talk of their passengers. They are always in a hurry.
They do not follow rules and don’t have licenses. They are a deadly cult and anytime one of them is involved in an argument with someone, they swarm like bees and if care is not taken they beat that person up and damage his/her property. Even when they get arrested immediately within an hour or two they back on the road. They know their way around the stations because they work-in-hand with the police officers.
The riders in Lagos alone have sent lots of people to their graves more than the number of deaths by Covid-19 in Nigeria. There was case early this month in one of the suburbs in Lagos, where an Okada rider with his passengers who had ram into a car while avoiding some union members because he didn’t want to pay some levy. In the process, the two passengers fell of his bike. He didn’t even wait to check on them but zoomed off. Both passengers suffered life threatening injuries.
Who are the Enforcers of the Ban?
Presently there is a ban on Okada riders in Lagos but who are those to enforce it? Late last year in some parts of Lagos, there were fights between Okada riders and the task forces. The police who are supposed to assist in ensuring that the ban is effective are also a part of the problem. They collect bribes on a daily basis from these riders and allow them to break traffic rules. The policemen stationed at Oke-afa junction on your way to Jakande gate are the most corrupt partners of these Okada riders alongside their colleagues at Okota roundabout in Okota. They allow these riders to go take one way for a fee. They work with Okada riders as if they are both employees of the Nigerian Police Force. There are cases where an Okada rider would slap a passenger in front of the police men and they would turn a blind eye especially if the rider is a regular subscriber to their network.
The only way to ensure that these bans become effective is for the Lagos State government to take a leaf from former governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi’s strategy. He gave them a period of 6 months to look for alternative source of income before the ban. The Lagos state government should do the same. Give them some time and when the ban takes effect, things will fall in place. In Benin City, Edo state there is no Okada anywhere. According to a medical doctor in University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) there has been a massive drop in Okada-related accidents.
The Lagos State government state needs to take drastic actions before these dare-devil Okada riders overrun the state that will cause other road users to abandon the roads for them.
The massive presence of these Okada riders in the state is a ticking time-bomb set to explode soon.