Shalaman was a popular commercial motorcyclist at Obalende who took pleasure in flouting traffic rules until nemesis caught up with him. He was coming from the Bar Beach side of the road one day when the traffic light at Ajose Adeogun junction turned red. Rather than obeying the light by stopping, he continued moving It was a terrible mistake as he rammed his bike into an incoming vehicle, seriously injuring himself and his passengers, and damaging his bike beyond repair.
Shalaman’s case is a familiar one as most motorcyclists in Lagos are notorious for disobeying the traffic lights at strategic locations in the city. However, if recent feelers from the state government is anything to go by, erring motorcyclists will no longer go scot-free following the decision to institute and enforce punishable offences for motorcyclists in Lagos State.
The regulation which comes into effect from Thursday July 1, 2010, will be enforced under the auspices of the Road Traffic Laws and Regulations. Its main aim is to check the excesses of motorcyclists, especially those operating on the expressways and major roads, as well as disobedience of traffic lights and reckless driving.
*How safe? A motorcyclist carrying four school children at a time.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Prof. Bamidele Badejo told Vanguard Metro that there was nothing new about the regulations but explained that government is presently trying to enforce them to the letter in order to minimise the rate of accidents on Lagos roads.
“There is nothing restrictive to the legal and safe operations by commercial motorcyclists. What the government has done is to encourage proper, safe operations. Those things they do that pose a threat to the well-being of Lagosians are prohibited,” Badejo said.
He said the the specific restrictions would be displayed through traffic road signs on some Lagos roads and intersections. The regulations also require that the rider and the passenger must wear crash helmets, the motorcyclist must possess a rider’s card and can only carry one passenger at a time. Also, motorcyclists will not be allowed to carry load.
Badejo said the riders would not be allowed to carry visibly pregnant women, school-age children or women with babies strapped to their backs. “Nobody below 18 years should ride a motorcycle and no horn except that for motorcycles should be fixed on the motorcycle. They would also be punished if they disobey traffic rules and regulations or ride against the flow of traffic. Also motorcycle operators within Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Ikeja should not operate beyond 8.00pm while those operating elsewhere should end their operations by 10.pm,” he informed.
Sequel to this development, there have been consultations between representatives of the Ministry of Transportation and Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State (MOALS) and All Nigerian Auto Bike Commercial Owners and Workers Association (ANACOWA) .
Prof. Badejo also advised Lagosians to cultivate the habit of planning their movement to suit their schedule to avoid having to start rushing on the highways in order to meet up with their appointments.
According to him: “The high rate of accidents with the attendant injuries sustained by people is getting out of hand and any responsible government would not fold its arms and allow such to continue without addressing it”.
He therefore urged Lagosians to join the government in the crusade to control the danger commercial motorcycle operators constitute to human lives. “Stop patronising Okada on the high way; it is not appropriate to back a baby and still board Okada or situation where school children now turn to commercial motorcycles as easy means of transportation,” he warned
But a commercial motorcyclist at Jakande Estate, Rilwan Aremu, said rather than cracking down on Okada operators government should endeavour to rehabilitate Lagos roads. “If the roads are good, this will minimise traffic jam. Government should also wage against poverty because this is the major thing that drove many of us to Okada business; we don’t want to carry guns and many of us are married with children.When I read that from July, commercial motorcycles would be placed under strict regulations, it became clear to me that the fundamental issues that have forced many able-bodied Nigerians to take to Okada business have not been addressed,” he said.
“All these restrictions would only make life more difficult for those of us who are already suffering. Now, policemen and LASTMA officials will feed fat on us,” said another motorcyclist by name Awodele Gbeleyi.
A public servant who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard Metro thus: “Government should really address the issue of traffic. The present administration has done a lot in road construction and rehabilitations but has failed to combat traffic. I feel these are issues that should be considered because it is the masses that would eventually suffer the consequences,” She said.