As part of measure to ensure strict enforcement of the Lagos Road Traffic Law, about 3000 motorcycles, otherwise called "Okada," impounded for various traffic offences by the state taskforce on Environmental and Other Special Offences were crushed last week.
Governor Babatunde Fashola , had on August 2, 2012, signed into law the Lagos Road Traffic Law. The state House of Assembly had on July 12, 2012, passed the bill into law for the governor's assent.
Men of the state task-force had stormed major highways, particularly Ikeja and environs where the operation of Okada riders has been restricted under the new law, impounded okadas found to have violated the restriction order.
The motorcycles were impounded within the period of August to September, in the ongoing aggressive enforcement to ensure that okada riders comply with the dictates of the road traffic law.
Consequently, aggrieved okada riders who spoke with Vanguard, described the destruction of bikes by the state government as anti-masses and a way to systematically wipe them out of Lagos through the destruction of their legal means of livelihood.
According to Musa, an okada rider, under the umbrella of concerned riders, the crushing of the motorcycles, is a form of witch-hunting by the state government to force them out of business.
"It is unfair on the part of the government to go after us, we are not robbers, we work for our daily living. At least they can sell the bikes through public auction if truly they don't want us out of business."
Speaking on the destroyed bikes, Chairman of the Task Force, Superintendent of Police, SUPOL, Bayo Sulaimon, who supervised the crushing at the task force yard in Alausa, listed some of the offences to include riding on kerbs, driving against traffic and unauthorized places, operating at late hours, urging operators to either comply with the law or face its wrath.
Sulaimon said, "This is to n inform the operators that the law has started and there is no going back. The law has been passed, signed and gazetted and we are going to crush all the crush-ables at our plant in Oshodi to show our seriousness about enforcing the law.
"The ones that cannot be crushed will be auctioned, but not in the state, so that they don't constitute a nuisance again," he said.
He added that the taskforce has commenced gradual enforcement of the law, "we have not even enforced it fully. But this should serve as a warning to them because we won't hesitate to impound any okada that contravenes any aspect of the law".
According to him, the operators were not arrested for prosecution as most of the offenders abandoned their motorcycles on sighting law enforcers and ranaway.
Commenting on the protest staged by concerned motorcycle riders to the Office of the Governor recently, Sulaimon said, "They have the right to protest, but the government will be firm in what they do. It doesn't in any way stop our job, those who intend not to obey the law, we are coming after them. They will be arrested one after the other and we will be out there on a daily basis".
He reminded that the Road Traffic Law did not ban the operation of commercial motorcycles but only restricted them on highways, bridges and some selected 475 roads.
Sulaimon also said tricycles, also known as Keke Marwa are restricted from operating in certain areas, warning operators to comply or risk their vehicles being impounded.
All Nigerian Autobike Commercial Owners and Workers Association, ANACOWA, Chairman, Mr. Ade Ikuesan, had in a statement co-signed with his secretary, Mr. Mordi Elvis, expressed misgivings at what he described as the blanket ban on okada operations in Ikeja and its environs but stated his desire for dialogue.
MOALS chairman, Mr. Tijani Perkins, however, expressed support for the policy of the state government, explaining that it was meant to properly regulate okada operations in the state.
According to Perkins, "We are not interested in protests, which some minute associations are planning. We are not interested in the court actions. If our members operate on the route the state government asks them to operate, there will not be any issue."