Lagos State Government attacks Okada riders’ livelihoods
Lagos State Government attacks Okada riders’ livelihoods
The protests by commercial motorcyclists popularly called Okada riders have broken out in different parts of Lagos since last week when the enforcement of the state’s new traffic law started. Several thousands of the motorcycles have been impounded while about 3,000 of them have been cruelly reduced to shards by the state government.
Though, the traffic law also has provisions that regulate the use of vehicles and conducts of drivers, the Okada riders are the worst hit. The law, among other things, bans the operation of Okada in about 475 roads and restricts their movement to between 6am to 8pm. They are also not allowed to carry children of school age and pregnant women. Some of the roads where the Okada operation has been banned are not plied by the commercial vehicles as a result of their poor conditions. Hence, commuters are forced, in some cases, to trek long distances.
The law is essentially part of the anti-poor policies and conducts of the ACN government in Lagos state. Most of the provisions of the law were already in the existing traffic rules and regulations. What are newly added to the law are mostly attacks on economic and social rights of the poor working people.
On Wednesday October 24, 2012, hundreds of Okada riders stormed the Lagos High Court where their matter challenging the Lagos Traffic Law came up for hearing.
Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) were at the court hearing in solidarity with the Okada riders and circulate the leaflet below which does not only condemn the action of the ACN government but also argue the best way the use of motorcycle as a means of mass transportation can become history in a mega city like Lagos.
DSM AND SPN SOLIDARISE WITH OKADA RIDERS
Fashola Must End Attacks on Okada Riders and Commuters Now!
The Fashola-led ACN government in Lagos has unleashed policies that are anti-poor and pro-rich, be it the attack on Okada riders, the demolition of Makoko, demolition of several markets, the hike in fees at the Lagos State University, sacking of 788 doctors in May 2012 etc. The Democratic Socialist Movement and Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemn in strong terms the attacks on Okada riders, commuters and the working masses.
The Lagos Traffic Law as claimed by Fashola, is to regulate the road transport sector, but the chaotic state of the transport sector is as a result of poor state of roads and other infrastructure. This makes it impossible for the problems to be resolved by law alone. Though, the Law cut across different aspects of the road transport sector, but from all indication, it is largely targeted at making it practically impossible for the motorbike transportation popularly known as Okada to exist. For instance, the law bans Okada from operating in about 475 roads across the state, making it impossible for the riders to earn a living. The inner streets the riders are restricted to are usually linked by these 475 roads. Essentially, the restriction is a calculated attempt to outright ban the operation of commercial motorcycles in Lagos State because movement mostly from one point to another are connected via these 475 roads.
The argument of Lagos government that the ban of Okada on most roads is imperative because some accidents occur through motorcycling is to say the least pedestrian and absurd. The measure to reduce accident is not the ban but ensuring strict compliance to traffic rules and regulations by Okada riders. Indeed, many people are on daily basis are aided out of crisis situation by Okada. For instance, many sick poor people or those who required quick medical attention and who may have died are usually rushed to the hospital on bike; many school children from working poor background can only get to school on bike.
The major roads are also littered with potholes and bad portions which slow down the traffic movement and thereby force many people to opt for Okada, which can easily maneuver bad portions to get to their destination on time. Instead of addressing the underlying problems, the law for instance, bans Okada from carrying pregnant women or children of school ages. How does the government expect expectant mothers living in the communities not plied by commercial vehicles as a result of the deplorable conditions of the road or don’t have cars of their own get to hospital or transport children to school? Also outlandish is the provision that bans operation of Okada after 8pm in a state where many communities can only be accessed by okada. A responsible government would create enabling conditions that make violation of traffic laws extremely difficult and unnecessary.
There are two major factors that led to the Okada phenomenon; firstly, more communities springing up in the last 30 years with roads that are not motorable, secondly, roads built decades ago degenerated without any maintenance. This is compounded by growing population and weak transport system. Contrary to this objective situation, the ruling class tries to make it look like an isolated issue. The mere fact that commercial biking is patronized by millions of Nigerians makes it a socio-economic issue that could not be wished away by fiat. Yes, commercial motorcycling is not ideal means of public transportation, in fact, it is a crude and backward means of public transportation, but it has emerged as a means of mass transit in most part of the country. Addressing this backwardness can only be possible through rebuilding of infrastructure, creating mass employment, upgrading the skill of the workforce etc.
To make the attacks real, over 3000 seized Okada were destroyed recently. The attacks have been intensified as thousands of motorcycles have been forcefully seized across Lagos since October 16, 2012.
THE REAL ISSUES
What is required to holistically phase out the use of Okada as a means of mass transportation in a mega state of about 18 million people is an integrated public transportation system that ensure that all major roads between the local governments and within the communities are properly paved with suitable drainage. In addition to reliance on road transportation is the urgent need to develop a master plan for mass rail and water ways transportation. This is the only practical way to develop needed infrastructure and generate employment for the teeming population of hapless Okada riders. Instead of having this kind of vision, the ACN politicians only set out for making life more difficult for the poor. Just imagine, to ride Okada without helmet attracts a fine of N20,000! This, for a state government that has not fully implemented the paltry N18,000 stipulated minimum wage for a worker, is a graphic pointer of how anti-poor the ACN is.
Using public works with massive government investment and democratic control by workers, relevant professionals and communities would eradicate corrupt practices, inefficiencies and ensure cost efficient construction and qualitative maintenance of roads including in the communities. This method of building and maintaining all roads will give gainful employment to many including some Okada riders. Aside road construction, a public funded and democratically managed mass transport scheme would also guarantee much gainful employment. But this is not an option for the ACN government which, like other big business, profit-first political parties (PDP, ANPP etc), employs contract system designed to deploy public resources to gratify the self-serving interests of politicians and their business associates.
The Fashola-led ACN government is anti-poor and deceptive. The party which is today hurling Okada riders out of the roads, just in 2011 distributed thousands of free helmets and other gift items to Okada riders ahead of the general election in order to woo votes. Fashola never made it a campaign issue that he would ban Okada operation if voted in power. This, we all know is aimed at deceiving the masses! In the usual ‘use and dump’ tactics of the ACN like other pro-rich political parties (PDP, ANPP, APGA etc), the people do not count but only needed to climb to power
We demand the release of all motorcycles seized by the Nigeria Police and adequate compensation to be paid for the ones destroyed.
This attack also affects the majority of the Lagos populace who commute daily around Lagos through commercial motorcycles. We call on workers, youths and the poor to join the Okada riders in the struggle to defeat this anti-poor policy. It is time the masses stand as a united force against Fashola’s onslaught. We call on all genuine Okada associations to unite for joint action and mobilize their ranks and commuters for mass meetings, rallies, protests demonstrations as a means of defeating this government and its anti-poor policies.
JOIN THE STRUGGLE TO LIBERATE THE MASSES FROM FASHOLA AND ACN
CONTACT US; JOIN US
This leaflet is issued by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). Tel: 08098284000, 08053045953. E-mail: [email protected]