By FLORENCE ONUEGBU
LAGOS- The Defend Lagos Coalition, has declared support for Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, on the ban of commercial motorcycles, popularly known as Okada.
The spokesperson for the coalition, Mr Declan Ihekaire, made the disclosure on Wednesday, during a news conference on the ‘Total Clampdown on Commercial Motorcycle (Okada) Operation in Lagos State.’
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the coalition is an amalgamation of Civil Society Organisations, Faith and Community- based organisations in the state.
Ihekaire called on Lagos residents to join in demanding a total clampdown on commercial motorcycles, as a means of transport in the state.
He said residents had, on a daily basis, experienced several threats to lives and property, flagrant disobedience of the laws of the land, by the army of undocumented commercial motorcycle operators, who had laid siege on Lagos State.
He said that the sense of insecurity convened by the dare-devil riders should not be allowed to continue.
According to him, independent surveys conducted by the coalition reveal that majority of the motorcycle riders are foreigners from Republic of Chad, Niger Republic and other neighbouring countries.
”We were also able to establish that they constitute a very potent risk to lives and properties of the people of Lagos. They must be stopped before it is too late.
”In the past few months, we have recorded cases of violent crimes and civil disturbances directly linked to the motorcycle operators, with some leading to the destruction of assets, loss of lives of innocent citizens and security agents.
”We commend Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu for the bold step of announcing the ban on Okada operations in six local government council areas and LCDAS.
”Once again, Mr Governor has shown without any doubt that he is a dutiful servant of the people, who is ever ready to listen and carry out the people’s desires, in line with his constitutional mandate,” he said.
Ihekaire said that it was worrisome and unfortunate that residents were responsible for the menace that Okada had become in the land, due to complicity.
He said that residents no longer walked, so as to enjoy the health benefits that came with it, but would prefer to jump on Okada at any slightest opportunity.
Ihekaire said that artisans and able-bodied youths had abandoned their trained jobs to become emergency Okada riders.
”Our youths are no longer interested in vocational training to earn a decent and enduring living, rather, they have taken to riding okada to make ”quick” money, with the attendant risk to their lives.
”In fact, over 45 per cent of the 767 Okada accidents that have happened this year involved people whose ages range between 36 and 39 years.
“This is incredible, yet it happened right before our eyes. This is too much a price to pay for whatever advantage motorcycle riders may have.
”Therefore, as responsible citizens, we can no longer continue to feign ignorance of the threat to our existence, which the continued activities of commercial motorcycle operators portend.
”We have, therefore, come together today to ask Lagosians to join us in demanding from the Lagos State Government a total clampdown on motorcycles (okada) as a means of transportation in every nook and cranny of the state.
”There is no doubt, that as often said in the past, that there will be some discomfort created by the clampdown, as being demanded by us.
“The security implication of not enforcing the clampdown will be a major threat to peace, public safety and continued survival of law abiding citizens of Lagos State.
”We have gotten to a stage, as citizens of Lagos State, where we should know that motorcycles could not be the preferred choice of transportation in a ‘Centre of Excellence’,” he said.
Ihekaire said that a collective action was required by residents, to eradicate the menace of Okada in Lagos, as it had shown that motorcycle operation had been identified as the favourite of criminals, who torment people on traffic and various communities.
He called on the Gov. Sanwo-Olu-led administration to immediately work toward the restoration of law and order in public transportation, in order to ease the inconveniences that would likely arise, as a result of the inevitable demand.
”We remain conscious of the concerns that are going to be raised on the other side, but a price must be paid. It’s a trade-off between our inconvenience and our existence.
”It is important to let you know, that as of today, the operations of these undocumented immigrants mostly operating these motorcycles have been banned in Rivers State, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Kano, Nasarawa, Delta, and Abia. The case of Lagos State should not be different.
”Again, let us remind the Governor of Lagos State, that he has a constitutional obligation to protect the lives and properties of Lagosians, and any form of action, which seeks to make this impossible must be confronted, in the overall interest of the people.
”Finally and very important, our independent survey has revealed that the actions of transportation unions, local governments, some community development association encourage the commercial motorcycle operations.
”They issue tickets to these operators for money. This should be checkmate by the state government with all the seriousness it deserves.
”Besides, law enforcement agents are expected to join forces with the government in implementing this ban, without any compromise,” Ihekaire said. (NAN)