ORGANISE AND MOBILISE TO RESIST THE BAN OF OKADA AND TRICYCLES BY THE LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT
Only a Modern, Integrated and Democratically-Managed Mass Public Transit System and Gainful Employment Can Address the Twin Crises of Transportation and Insecurity in Lagos State
Once again, the anti-poor All Progressive Congress (APC)-led Lagos State government has re-enforced its attacks and restriction of Okada and tricycles on Lagos roads in 6 Local Government Areas and 9 Local Council Development Area (LCDA). The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) strongly condemns this ban/restriction as an anti-poor policy which will neither resolve the crisis of transportation nor that of insecurity and criminality in Lagos State. Rather this policy will cause more hardship for commuters while forcing many who have taken to Okada and tricycle riding to make ends meet into a life of crime.
This ban was first introduced in 2012 by the Babatunde Raji Fashola government and it was resisted by a series of mass struggles by Okada and tricycle riders, Civil Society Organisations, Socialists and other pro-working masses groups. Therefore to defeat this anti-poor policy today, we need a long-term consistent and relentless campaign involving mass meetings, media campaign, protests and demonstrations organised and mobilised for by okada and tricycle associations/unions in conjunction with Socialists, civil society organisations and pro-working masses groups.
BAD ROADS ARE ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR ACCIDENTS
The argument by the Lagos State government that Okada riders are often reckless and are responsible for hundreds and thousands of accidents annually is rather specious. According to statistics, bad roads and potholes are equally responsible for accidents as much as recklessness and other factors. Meanwhile, a majority of tarred roads in Lagos are filled with potholes while most inner-street roads are still untarred and are often time not motor able. This means that even if Okada and tricycles are successfully banned all across Lagos, it may not necessarily bring down the rate of accidents and other mishaps due to the state of the roads.
Secondly, large haulage vehicles, petrol tankers, trucks and trailers which ply the roads have equally been fingered to be responsible for fatal accidents and also traffic congestion. In fact, the perennial gridlock at Apapa is caused by hundreds of trucks and trailers parked carelessly by the road side due to parking space. When Governor Sanwo-Olu came into office, his first promise was to end the gridlock at Apapa within 60 days. It is now nearly a year since he came to power, yet the Apapa gridlock has not abated while the trailers are still parked recklessly. The same Governor Sanwo-Olu who could not resolve the Apapa gridlock is now coming hard on ordinary poor fellows riding okada and tricycles. The reason for this is simple: The trailers and petrol tankers at Apapa are owned by big companies, multinationals and conglomerates like that of Africa;s richest man, Aliko Dangote Whereas, Okada and tricycles are largely owned by poor fellows and working class people, some of whom are graduates who took to this job because of the lack of gainful employment.
THAT OKADA ARE USED FOR CRIMES IS NOT A COGENT REASON FOR THE BAN
In any case, for criminals’ intent on committing crimes, banning Okada and keke will not stop them. They will simply move on to use other means of transportation to continue to carry out their nefarious actions. Theft and robberies can happen in BRT buses and recently, we have read news of commuters being attacked and kidnapped at Kaduna train station. This means that it is simplistic to simply ban the use of something just because some people decide to use it for nefarious action.
FOR A MODERN, PUBLICLY-OWNED AND DEMOCRATICALLY-MANAGED MASS TRANSIT SYSTEM
For us in the SPN, Okada emerged as an improvised solution by the mass of the working people to the collapse of road networks, especially in the interior parts of Lagos State and the daily traffic gridlocks during rush hour, engendered by the failure and lack of foresight by the pro-rich political party in power in Lagos State. Hence, it is the failure of the bourgeois ruling elite in Nigeria to develop society that has foisted on the populace a more backward means of transportation (Okada, keke Marwa etc.), production and services.
We believe it is unacceptable that a state as rich as Lagos does not have a modern public transportation system. If it were a country, Lagos state would be the fifth largest economy in Africa. In 2017 alone, Lagos State government revenue totalled N334 billion. With this kind of enormous resources, it should be possible not only to have better and functional public education in Lagos state but also a modern, publicly-owned and democratically-managed transit system consisting of light rails, water transportation, buses and well-built road network.
FOR A MASS STRUGGLE AGAINST THE BAN AND FOR A SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE
We call for a serious campaign involving mass struggles against the ban. The SPN is ready to collaborate with okada and tricycle unions and associations as well as all pro-working masses organisations to prosecute such a struggle. We urge okada and keke riders to elect joint action committee at every local government that will meet weekly and coordinate the legitimate struggles against the ban/restriction. We also call on NURTW and other transport workers unions as well as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to support okada and keke riders with solidarity actions including a 24-hour strike and mass protest in the first instance. We strongly believe that through struggle, the Lagos State government can be defeated.
While struggling against the anti-poor ban, the working and toiling people of Lagos State also need to draw the appropriate conclusion from this attack and it is that the APC is not a party of the masses. It is a party of the rich! We need to end the rule of the APC in Lagos State and bring in a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies. Over 20 years under the APC, everything is in shambles including public education, public healthcare, public transportation etc. There are equally no jobs! Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other bourgeois parties are no alternative either given the examples of bad governance and anti-poor policies in their own states. We need a different and alternative programme of developing society and that can only be Socialism.
For us in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), development is first and foremost about the comfort, progress and livelihood of the mass majority. Under a workers and poor people’s government run on the basis of a socialist programme, the huge resources of Lagos State would be mobilised to build an integrated, public mass transit system under workers democratic-management. Also, every okada and tricycle riders, molue drivers, mechanics, etc who could lose their means of livelihood as a result of this necessary modernisation would be provided alternative gainful employment by the government. Those not able to get any alternative job in the immediate will be supported by the State until such a time they are able to. The key sectors of the economy will also be placed under public democratic control and management in order to ensure that resources that are needed to build society does not end up in private hands.
A campaign that stops this attempt to ban okada and tricycles could be a springboard for movements to fight for immediate concrete gains for Lagosians while preparing the way to sweep aside the self-seeking leaders whether they are from APC, PDP or other similar pro-capitalist parties, setting a striking example for the rest of the country.
FOR MASS ACTIONS TO FIGHT FOR THE FOLLOWING:
(1) Reversal of the ban/restriction of okada and tricycles in the 15 LGA and LCDAs. Return of all seized okada and tricycles to their owners.
(2) Release of all those arrested for protesting the ban/restriction.
(3) For the setting up of a democratic committee composed of government officials and elected representatives of okada and tricycle associations/unions to ensure regular and proper regulation of okada and tricycle operations through documentation, allocation of identification marks and provision of training, helmets, reflective uniforms, gloves and other safety materials to the riders.
(4) Reduction in the multiple exploitative levies often charged on okada and tricycle riders as well as bus drivers by State government, LGAs and LCDAs. For a uniform and affordable levy chargeable by either the state or local government and monthly dues payable to the unions through established channels the same way workers’ pay check off dues on a monthly basis.
(5) For the democratization of the transport unions to ensure the right of their members to have a say in the running of the unions and a leadership able to defend their members interests.
(6) Immediate public works programme to massively invest public resources in the building of a modern, efficient and integrated mass transit system complete with light rails, water transportation, buses and improved road networks all under workers democratic control.
(7) Reversal of the Public Private Partnership in the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) business. For government to take over the BRT and run it fully as a public institution with workers democratic control and management.
(8) Public ownership of the key sectors of the economy under democratic workers control in order to free resources to fund public infrastructures and genuine needs of the working people.
(9) For a mass workers’ party to lay the basis for the coming to power of a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies in Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole.
Join the SPN today to struggle against the okada and tricycle ban/restriction and also to liberate Lagos state and Nigeria