Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN on Tuesday, 26th August, 2014, met with leaders of commercial motorcycle riders associations and Community Development Committees in the state over the implementation of the state Traffic Law as it affect operators of motorbikes, maintaining that the law is a good policy which the state will not reverse.
The Governor who spoke at the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House, Ikeja at a meeting attended by the Police High Command in the state said the issue of the implementation of the state Traffic Law is not a political issue but that of safety.
He added that like every good policy it can indeed be improved on but that the motorcycle operators must obey the law and reduce the excesses associated with some of them.
He however, also charged the senior law enforcement officers to ensure that their men who engage in illegalities are controlled.
The Governor reiterated that even in the approved routes, the motorcycle operators cannot carry more than one passenger and cannot drive against traffic or ride the motor bikes without wearing a crash helmet because it is all about being alive.
“Even in the approved places, the traffic law is still there, you cannot carry more than one passenger, you can’t drive against traffic and you can’t ride without a helmet because I want you all to be alive. Those of you who cannot afford helmets, I would provide helmets for you but I want you to be safe.
“You should know that in those places where you are allowed to operate, you must operate safely. Have you ever travelled before by air and you tell the cabin crew of an aircraft that you will not use the seat belt in the plane because you have travelled severally? Even people who ride power bikes still have accidents but are saved sometime by the usage of crash helmets”, he stressed.
According to Governor Fashola, the people can also monitor and participate in the enforcement process by ensuring that in the various local government areas and local council development areas where there are problems, the people can work together with the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and area commanders through the Police Community Relations Committees (PCRCs) to address such issues.
He reiterated that the Police Commissioner or the Assistant Inspector General cannot be everywhere at all times but that the motorcycle operators also owe it a duty to take the necessary steps about the identities of policemen who engage in such infractions, adding that such officers would be fished out.
Fashola also called for the setting up of contact committees across the various police area commands, which should be decentralized by the local government chairmen down the line so that the face of those monitoring and supervising is well known to the people.
“All of you representing the various constituencies will pick who would be your local government chairmen and local governments would pick area commanders and when you come back, you tie it back to the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs). At least the DPO support the local governments here so there should be that interface at the grassroots where there is a reporting and a solution.
“If it cannot be resolved at the DPO level, then we escalate it to the area commander, if we can’t solve it there, we will bring it to the Commissioner of Police level and it will get to us at the monthly Security Council meeting and we if we can’t solve it there it will get to the AIG”, he added.
He expressed the hope that the operators of commercial motorcycles would organise themselves better and utilize the open door policy of the present administration to reach it, adding: “Let us know what the problems are and if people are impersonating you, use the open door policy to reach us. Let us know if they are people impersonating, you let us work together to get them out of the business. So that we know who we are dealing with”.
He recalled the scorecard presented by the state Police Commissioner at the last State Security Trust Fund town hall meeting where he intimated the public that since the introduction of the state Traffic Law, crime rate has dropped by about 80 percent, maintaining that no serious minded government would want to trade away the safety of life and property of its citizenry for whatever reasons.
He stressed that the residents of Lagos have experienced the positive sides of the state Traffic Law and that while it is possible to replace or rebuild a damaged school or vehicle, it is absolutely impossible to replace a lost life due to avoidable accidents.
He said from statistics available, from over 600 Okada induced road accidents that was being witnessed in the state on a monthly basis before the commencement of the Traffic Law, it has reduced very considerably while deaths recorded in general hospitals in the state from Okada related accidents has reduced from 15 monthly to just one incidence and outright nil in following months.
Governor Fashola stated that the state government appreciates the support of the commercial motorcycle operators for the ruling party in the State and values it but that the level of responsibility expected of them is bigger in terms of supporting the government to protect life and property.
The Governor said if complaints would be raised by the commercial motorcycle operators against the implementation of the law, it is only after they have complied with its provisions that government can take feedbacks and possibly review some part of it.
He reiterated that it is about coming to a middle point between the majority of the residents and the operators of the motorcycles in order to make the shoe very comfortable for everyone in terms of those who want to do business and those who want to be safe.
While underscoring the importance which the present administration attaches to dialogue, the Governor urged the Okada riders associations not to take the relationship it has with the State for granted as it has no problem with their type of business because it contributes to the economy.
“When we construct new roads, don’t you gain from it? What do we gain from that development? Should it be broken limbs, shoulders or dead bodies? When many members of the society complain to me that your business is injuring them, should I keep quiet over it? We are for everybody”, the Governor said.
Assuring that the state government meant well for the Okada operators and owners, the Governor said in other places the level of rapport established was absent.
“How can we be your enemies? In those places where they banned Okadas, were meetings held with them? Why didn’t your members protest in those places where they banned it? We also produced several road signs for those who said they did not know the roads that were affected by the restrictions. If we have had voluntary compliance with the law, the Police would have had no role to play”, he said.
Speaking earlier, the state Commissioner for Transportation, Mr Kayode Opeifa said the State Traffic Law 2012 has assisted the government to get a high level of compliance which has come with a lot of media advocacy.
He stressed that the Traffic Law came into being not only to improve the responsibility of preservation of life and property, improve security, traffic situation but also to improve traffic management and control in the State.
Opeifa added that violation trends have gone down with less people committing offences and the issue of driving against traffic also reducing considerably.
The Lagos State Chairman of the Association of All Nigerian Autobike Commercial Owners and Workers Association (ANACOWA), Mr Ade Ikuesan while speaking had described the State Traffic Law as a good law that has prevented riders from having accidents on the roads.
He pleaded with the state to assist in stopping the harassment of Okada riders by some people who are taking advantage of the implementation of the law because they are law abiding citizens who would not violate any law of the state.
Also speaking, Chairman of the Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State (MOALS), Mr Tijani Pekins pleaded with the Governor to ensure that he does everything possible to make sure that Okadas exist in Lagos State, adding that many of the Okadas that ply restricted routes belong to non-members of the recognized unions of Okada riders in the State.
The event was attended by the state Deputy Governor, Hon (Mrs) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji; members of the State Executive Council including the state Commissioner for Rural Development, Hon Cornelius Ojelabi; the Assistant Inspector of General of Police for Zone 2, Mr Umaru Manko; and senior police officers from all the formations in the state.