Parents and pupils have decried the ban on commercial motorcyclists in Lagos State, claiming government’s decision has heightened their hardship.
As at 7.45am on Monday when most schools should have been ending their morning assembly parades, some pupils were seen stranded at bus stops. Our correspondent noticed that some parents, who couldn’t struggle to get seats for their children and themselves in buses, either begged commuters to lap their children or allowed their children to go ahead on their own. Despite the security risks involved, the parents said they had no choice.
A mother of two, Mrs. Fola Atata, who looked extremely angered by the traffic situation, said that Lagos State Governor, Mr. Raji Fashola, was being inconsiderate.
She said, “I’m so upset. Why would he just go ahead to ban Okada (commercial motorcyclie operators) without providing other means of transport? Even when there was no ban, traffic in Lagos is terrible, how much more when there is no Okada. There are no buses. I left my house since 6am. It’s some minutes to 8am and my child is late for school.
“After dropping my child off at school, I have to rush down to my shop. I have a baby on my back. How can I be struggling with people to board a bus with my baby. If there were taxis, it would have been much better. If you want to call a cab, be ready to spend money. And not everyone has such money.”
Another parent, Mrs. Sade Balogun, a food seller, said that banning Okada was a very unjust move. “Fashola did not take a good decision. I feel sorry for them. Most of them rely on their Okada business for survival. Most of them come to my shop to eat and go without paying. Fashola should have got Kekes (tricycle) for them at least.”
Our correspondent noticed that Mrs. Balogun was among the parents who left their children in the hands of strangers when they could not get them to school themselves due to the gridlock on the highways.
Mrs. Modupe Olansanusi, a mother of two, said that any revolution that occurs would affect some negatively and positively. “For some people, banning okada is a good decision and for some others like me, it’s not a good decision. This morning, I spent over 35 minutes at the bus stop. But if it were another day when okada was available, I would not stay that long at the bus stop. Jumping from one bus to another with two children is not easy. Not everyone has a car to move around. There are so people in this state living below poverty line. I wonder if Fashola thinks about the masses when he takes some decisions.”
A pupil of Vetland Grammar School, Lagos, Jacob Shittu, said the only reason why he would want the okada ban to be lifted is to prevent him from struggling with adults.
“Because there is no okada, adults are in a hurry to get to work. There is so much pushing. I’m not used to fighting my way into the bus. One can get injured. I’m not enjoying the situation here in Lagos. Fashola should please do something about it. There are times one would have to jump into the bus while it’s moving. This is risky.”
On several occasions, our correspondent noticed as people jumped into moving buses and kekes. A man, who was not fast enough to get a seat in one of the kekes, was almost knocked down by a moving vehicle when he jumped off.
For Mr. Adebayo Adesola, there is no use crying over spilt milk because Fashola wasn’t likely to change his decision.
He said, “I don’t like the fact that I have to walk long distances, but I have no choice. I better just enjoy the walk to make myself happy. Fashola has done what he wants to do and no one can reverse his decision. The earlier we get used to it, the better for us. He has nothing to lose. This is not to say that okada riders have not caused a lot of harm; but it would have been better if Fashola had a plan B before the ban, if he had done that, we wouldn’t have been complaining.”
A pupil of Lagos Baptist School, Johnson Olusola, pleaded with Fashola to get his school a bus. “We want Fashola to please buy our school a bus. Now that he has banned okada, riding in the school bus would save us a lot of stress and we would not be getting to school late. Sometimes, we have to trek to school and we get so tired by the time we arrive in school.”
A pupil of Community Junior High School, Miss Temitope Adesina, who said she was saddened by the traffic situation and hike in fuel price.
She said, “Bus drivers have increased transport fares; and the traffic situation is bad. I’m spending more on transport now. The only option for me is to walk. If there were cyclists, things would have been much better and cheaper because they would drop me right in front of my school. But now, I’m spending more money using buses and they would not even drop me at school, I still have to walk for some distance. I’m not happy with everything.”
Mrs. Gertrude Nwaezeigwe, a mother of two, urged Fashola to reconsider his decision majorly because most okada riders are family men.
“I just have sympathy for them. Most of them feed their families with the little money they make on a daily basis. You don’t just ban something without creating an alternative. I wish Fashola would come down to the level of the ordinary people and feel their pains.”
Meanwhile, a report by the state Traffic Management Authority revealed that no fewer than 619 people had either been killed or seriously injured in commercial motorcycle accidents across the state in the last two years.
It also added that police records show that 513 fatal accidents recorded in the state in the last two years were caused by okada operators.
“The record also revealed that of the 30 armed robbery incidents recorded in the state between the months of July and September this year, 22 of them allegedly involved the use of commercial motorcycles. Details, according to the record, show that of eight robberies that occurred in July, seven involved the use of okadas. Okadas were also used in 10 out of 14 robberies in September and in five out of eight robberies in August.”
Fashola in previous reports said that the okada ban was spurred by the number of people who had been victims of okada accidents.
He said, “They should visit the hospitals and emergency wards and see those who have lost limbs and arms, those who have lost children or those who have become orphans by the recklessness of the okada riders.’’