The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, speaks with BOLA BADMUS on the okada ban controversy and the security implications.
Earlier in the week, stakeholders backed Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to ban okada operations in Lagos State. Is the ban going to be state-wide or it is just an extension of the running partial ban?
Well, first, it is not something that the government has pronounced. But yesterday (Monday), there was a stakeholders meeting on security and most of the people who came for that meeting came from all over the state, from as far as Epe, Ikorodu, Badagry, Ibeju and Alimoso. They came from all over. And the decision you must have heard was that okada should be banned and that the government should do something about abandoned buildings because they are being used by criminals as hideouts.
And the governor said we were going to introduce First Mile and Last Mile buses that could take the place of okada. Even then, there are those asking if we had alternatives to the riders. And to the question of what okada customers would do, the governor said these First and Last Mile buses would be the answer to those questions.
And now, talking about whether the ban would be all over the state or just a few places, the governor is going to make that pronouncement any moment from now. I think after Sallah, at the launching of the First Mile and Last Mile buses, the governor would make the pronouncement.
But what Lagosians want, as you must have seen from the interaction of yesterday (Monday), is that this mode of transportation should be banned because the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages.
And the shocking thing is that most of them are not registered, so they are being used for criminal activities. And considering what is going on in Nigeria now, Lagos does not want to be caught unawares so that the horrible tales that are coming from other states do not happen in Lagos. This is why the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is trying to take action on this. And before taking any action, he has demonstrated the fact that we are in a democracy; he has invited everybody.
Besides that, he has shown that security is a responsibility of all. That is why he convened that meeting yesterday and the consensus at the meeting was that okada should be banned and he is going to make a formal pronouncement on that any moment from now.
If okada is finally banned, how does the government want to enforce the decision, considering the fact that the partial ban has not been effectively implemented?
If you look at what happened yesterday, every concerned stakeholder was there. Even some okada riders were there. They were represented because they are under transport unions and the transport unions were there in their numbers, so were all giant law enforcement agencies. The GOCs were there. The police commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, was there, and he made a presentation.
So, everybody that has responsibility for law and order was there and because of that, you would know that this is what Lagosians want. If eventually Governor Sanwo-Olu pronounces a ban on okada, there would be no problem of enforcement. The Task Force is there for the enforcement. The police are there and the military chiefs, they came yesterday. There have been accusations that some of their men were the ones involved in the business of okada. They have heard that and since the society is saying it doesn’t want okada for so many reasons, especially for security reasons, these are custodians of our security machine, so they have no reason not to enforce such a ban if the governor eventually makes the pronouncement.
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