"There are no federal trunk roads," Lagos Judge says, legalizing okada ban.
The judge said that the riders’ argument that they are being discriminated against because of their financial status is not acceptable. A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, Thursday, struck out a suit brought by commercial motorcyclists in the state seeking to reverse their restriction on federals highways in the state.
The motorcyclists, under the aegis of Incorporated Trustees of All Nigerians Autobike Commercial Owners and Workers Association, had also urged the court to hold that the new Lagos Traffic Law is discriminatory.
After taking an "exhaustive and deliberately long, cautious road," Aishat Opesanwo, the judge, held that the motorcyclists’ claim that the traffic law is a violation of their rights does not hold water.
"The originating summons is lacking in merit. The action is hereby dismissed and struck out," Ms. Opesanwo said.
Taking on the state
The commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada riders, had gone to court, on September 3, to seek a declaration that the law prohibiting them from plying in the state is unconstitutional.
Joined in the suit, as defendants, are the Lagos State Government, the State’s Attorney General, and the House of Assembly.
The Okada riders felt particularly hard done by Schedule 2 of the new traffic law which listed 495 roads in the state where their activities are prohibited.
"The defendants have no power whatsoever to make any law to regulate traffic on any of the federal trunk or highway roads listed in Schedule II to the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, No 4 of 2012 and in the Federal Highways Act, cap F13, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004," the motorcyclists had argued in their court argument.
Ms. Opesanwo stated that the prerogative of designating federal trunk roads is "undeniably" that of the National Assembly. "Every trunk road is a highway, although every highway may not necessarily be a trunk road,"- the judge said. "I have neither been provided with nor directed to a provision where the National Assembly designates any road as a trunk road…. I hold that there are no federal trunk roads,"- said Ms. Opesanwo.
"Claimants also submitted that the roads are federal highways under the Federal Highway Act. It is a misconception and misrepresentation of the Act,"- she added.
Discriminating against the poor
The motorcyclists had also argued that the traffic law discriminated against them due to their low financial status. Ms. Opesanwo listed the bodies outlined in Section 42 on the basis of which individuals must not be discriminated against to include communities, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion, and political affiliation.
"Financial status does not qualify as a basis for invoking Section 42,"- said the judge.
"If the claimants had presented themselves as a community of motorcyclists, their relief would still be a mirage,"- she added.
“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes that the State House of Assembly has the power to make laws for the peace, order, and good governance of the state,"- said the judge.
On claims that the law is a violation of the fundamental right of free movement, the judge said that the provision is only applicable to human beings, and not their mode of movement.
"The only consideration that can be given to the object of movement is where it is indispensable, not merely convenient for movement to be achieved by the individual."
:The complaints of the claimants fall outside the ambit of the constitution,"- the judge said.
At the end of the judge’s 85 minutes judgment; the commercial motorcyclists, some of whom sat on the bare floor during proceedings, walked silently out of the court room.
"The court is the government and so they will support the government,"- a disappointed motorcyclist told his colleagues.