A renowned activist, Comrade Razaq Olokoba, is the National President of Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG),that controls about 70 other rights organizations across Nigeria.
In a media interaction in Lagos, the youthful activist commended Lagos State Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu over his initiative on the restriction orders placed on the operations of Okada and Keke Marwa from major highways and bridges across across the state.
According to him, the step was long overdue since the law is not a new one, adding that in due course, the restrictions are likely to affect other rickety buses like Danfos and 18-seater buses because of the risk they constitute to the health and lives of the people.
Here are excerpts from the parley:
What is your take on some people in Lagos State condemning the restriction orders placed on the operations of both the popular Okada and Keke Marwa from some major highways and bridges in Lagos State?
Their complaints are misplaced as they are not necessary. The reason is that the restriction law is not a new law. It has been in existence since 2012 long before this government came on board. Sanwo-Olu’s administration just revived it. If you look at the peculiar nature of what Lagos is, you would know that the restriction would come sooner or later. If you look at the rating of Lagos economy, the state is on top of the list. And the standard of transportation system in the city must rise too to conform with the new status of the state.
How do you mean?
We all know that haulages and transportation sectors are key to the sector of world economy. It is either third or fourth contributor to the world economy. I am talking about transportation by air, through water ways, roads and the railway system. It contributes immensely to the world economy. So, there is no responsible and responsive government that would not take the sector serious. The social responsibility of government is to ensure law and order and to keep economy of the nation under moderation so that prosperity could be attained by the citizenry.
So, it means the government must put laws in place to regulate it to make the transportation system easy. It would allow the businessmen who engage in it to be able to do their work effectively and offer qualitative services to the people. So, the government needs to do what it has done to sanitise the system for the benefit of all.
Has it been just realised that the sector needs overhauling?
Now. The quality of transportation system in Lagos has required special attention for the past 20 years or even over 30 years. This is because during the Lateef Jakande administration, the Metro Line was initiated because it was believed that the transportation system we had been running could not accommodate the type of system we are running today. They saw the future and put in place the Metro Line system which was sadly truncated by the Buhari Military administration.
So, the next civilian government that came after Jakande was Bola Tinubu administration. Asiwaju also played a major role towards the Metro System by initiating the BRT that Fashola later put in place. It was still part of the Metro Line system. After Fashola, Akinwumi Ambode that came did not do much. All what he did was just mere palliative. It is not enough just to buy busses without the supportive ingredients to make the system work.
So, it is Sanwo-Olu who took significant step to carry on the way successive governments should carry on. So, that was what necessitated the restrictions placed on Okada and tricycles from some certain high ways and bridges. They are no longer fit to be on our road, aside the fact that, it is a security issue, anybody who rides okada the way it is been done in any part of Nigeria for two years would have cardiac problem later in life. Put these all together, the restriction is justified.
What do you think there was something the operators failed to do that warranted the shock they are experiencing over the restriction order?
Yes. The matter is that, when you don’t run your business properly, the government would run it for you. All the people engaging in haulage in Nigeria, particularly the land transportation sector, they are found wanting and not doing the needful. It is a universal thing that when the society grows, every other structure must also grow. You must change the security structure on ground. Economy must grow and the health sector must also grow. The same thing with transport system, it must also grow. You cannot be running a transport system that we have been running 30 years ago now in a state like Lagos. It is no longer acceptable.
So , the businessmen in in the system have been found wanting, the NRTW, the RETEAN, Car Hire Service, are not doing what they are supposed to be doing before now. They are supposed to have had robust engagement with the government to serve as collateral for them with the financial institutions so that they can procure loans for procurement of befitting vehicles. Looking at Danfo and other 18-seater buses, they constitute health risk. If there is major outbreak of epidemic in the state, God forbid, it is going to be disastrous.
In Africa, Nigeria controls 1/5 of the economy. And Lagos controls 52 per cent of the nation’s economy. So, what we are saying is that, the growth of Africa depends largely on Nigeria while the growth of Nigeria depends largely on Lagos. So, haulage business is a serious one and that is why the restrictions on okadaand tricycle could extend to danfo too and other means of transportation not befitting for the state.
So, they should brace up and if they don’t have money to run proper system, they should seek assistance from financial institutions while the government would serve as collateral for them. They should put proper structure and personnel in place that would run the sophistication required in Lagos. If they don’t do it, government would move in and run them out of business. It is a universal standard where government takes over sectors that are not run properly.
Are you therefore saying the measure taken by Sanwo-Olu administration is not punitive?
It is not at all punitive. Why should it be punitive?! Of course change is a very difficult thing because everybody wants to do his things the easiest way. And there is always a price for every change. So, the price for the change is what some people are misinterpreting to be punishment. It is not punishment in any way. If you go through the 15 reasons okada and tri-cycles were restricted, you would discover it was not punitive but in the interest of the generality of the people.
The health aspect, the crime aspect and the way people jettison artisanship for okada job is at an alarming rate. And again, one must attract quality to his life. If someone has been riding canoe for 30 years and somebody changes it to a speed boat, he would call it punitive. Likewise people riding okada would think it is the best form of transportation system when something better comes on board.
Perforation of ozone layers, emission of carbon dioxide from the okada that causes pollution has led to the depletion of the ozone layers which causes a lot of sicknesses. With all these combined, we would realise that the merit of the restriction outweighs the demerit.
So, while there is the need to praise Sanwo-Olu on the policy, we should also encourage other state governors to emulate him because the same danger it portends for Lagos is the same danger it would portend for any state. So, there is need to raise the bar in the quality of our people’s lives.
I however have to commend the cooperation of the operators for their compliance with the order. Also, our security personnel are also qualified for our pats on their backs for handling the enforcement with great sense of high professionalism.