Deputy Governor gives reasons why state can’t ban ‘agbero’ in Lagos
The Lagos State Government banned commercial motorcycles from some roads recently and it threw many people out of work. Is the government considering re-permitting them to continue?
There was also a rumour that the state was trying to set up its own commercial motorcycle business. Can you shed light on these?
We are not trying to set up our own. If you recall, we have a traffic law of 2010 that actually restricted ‘okadas’ (commercial motorcycles) and ‘Keke Maruwa’ (commercial tricycles) from 475 roads in Lagos. All the major high roads, expressways like the Lagos-Badagry, Funsho Williams, Alfred Rewane, and the bridges: Third Mainland Bridge and so on and so forth.
So, that has always been there. What happened is that we went back to that, but we were as well noticing three things; the first is the usage of these tools by criminals, and secondly is even the rate of accidents.
We have 27 general hospitals and close to 2500 private hospitals. But, forget about the private hospitals; for public hospitals, we were seeing enormous deaths on the average of 20 in a month, because of ‘Okada’ accident, not just injury but death. So, the question was what should we do?
Also, a report by the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) stated that ‘Okada’ was being used for gang activities and that even primary school pupils were being used to carry drugs. So, no government will wait and say because people are making gain, the fact is you have to be alive to make money. If we had ignored the corruption of our children in primary school without doing anything, we would have been wrong.
So, the ban was more because of security and protection of the environment and you would have noticed that it was not even across the state; it was for areas we were seeing that surge. One of the things we did was the release of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses.
Very soon, small buses will come in and then, of course, taxis. So, in building the taxis, one of the things we are trying to do is, how do we make sure that we are actually having production in Nigeria? So, we are talking to two companies and very soon you will see activities.
How do we get vehicles that are made in Lagos and carrying Lagos’ name? The cars being produced here; we have our children working there, and we are also learning. So, it was more of building a bigger cake and stopping crime.
It is interesting you mentioned crime because one of the problems commercial motorists are confronted with daily is the issue of ‘agbero’. Drivers complain about their extortion and so on. No matter what the government does, it seems it has not been able to solve that problem. What are the current efforts towards that?
We have all agreed that we live by the constitution and laws. The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is actually a union recognised by law. I know some people say ban them, but the government must also be careful. When you just say arbitrarily ban them, what stops you from saying I want to ban Nigerian Medical Association (NMA)? Do you understand? There are times government and NMA have issues; does that mean they should be banned? They are expressing their opinion.
They might be wrong or right but they have the right to express those opinions. And then remember these people (NURTW) are Nigerians; they are our brothers and cousins. So, one of the things we have been telling them is that if you are the Chairman in Ajeromi and we see that there are all sorts of contraventions in Ajeromi, we will remove you as a Chairman. We are not banning your union but it means you are incompetent.
So, that is the outcome of one of the meetings we had with them, that if there’s an infraction in any of the areas due to the executive in that area, then it should be dissolved. And then you know we complain about our society, why people fight on the road; we have all gone around the world and it is only here we see people fighting on the road and tearing clothes off themselves, why? That has to change, but changing that does not mean banning them. It is to make sure we find the time and interact with them, and say, ‘look this is how it works’.
Remember during former (Governor Bola Ahmed) Tinubu’s administration when we started BRT; it was a tug of war, but we took the union to Colombia to see how the union there metamorphosed into owning the BRT and so a lot of those blue buses at that time were owned by the union. We said, ‘See you can send your children to school by this; this is a job you can say you are proud of.’ Surprisingly they paid back the loans for the buses quickly. The same thing is happening in the abattoir (business); people say they don’t want the machines, some of our brothers said it is un-Islamic that they want to kill the cow themselves.
So, we went to Kenya and Tanzania and we saw Muslims killing in an automated way, and so they agreed. So, it is a matter of engaging people and letting them see the reason they need to change their attitude. That is our way of doing things, not just say put them away.
The Apapa traffic congestion has been with us for decades now. What is the status of the efforts to decongest the area?
It is a huge issue. One is that we (governments) have ‘concessioned’ our ports and that is something that is a legacy issue. In ‘concessioning’, there were mistakes. If you fly over the port you will see huge spaces that some of these trucks can go to, but it is a concessioner and you can’t just come and park in my own space.
Those are the kinds of agreements that should have been part of the concessions that we did not do at that time as a people. Secondly, as an economy, we import a lot and don’t export much, so when these containers come in, let us say 3000 containers come in, probably only 200 go out.
What happened to the remaining 2800 other containers? That is the challenge. At a time they were also charging them for not bringing back the containers. I think it is N15, 000 per day; so if I have 100 trucks and you charge me N15, 000 per truck and then I can’t bring it back for 10 days, you know that will kill those businesses.
But also the Nigerian Ports Authority is a federal government institution, so we have to bring in the federal government. You can see that the governor and the Minister of Transportation recently came to Lagos.