- Mile 12 tragedy in Lagos highlights need to phase out ‘okada’ and foster ethnic peace and harmony
March 1, 2016 was a day many residents of the Agiliti area of Mile 12 in Lagos would continue to remember for a long time. It was a day that another senseless clash erupted there, after a commercial motorcyclist knocked down a woman. His refusal to take the woman to hospital led to the bloody clash in which lives were lost even as properties were destroyed. Policemen and soldiers eventually restored law and order while the state government promptly shut down the Mile 12 Market.
‘Okada’ riders knock down pedestrians daily, not only in Lagos, but in many other places where they are still tolerated. But the Agiliti incident was not seen as one of those impunities of the ubiquitous ‘okada’ riders obviously because of the ethnic dimension that it took. The ‘okada’ rider is Hausa while his victim is Yoruba. Still, so what? After all, Hausas and Yorubas are living harmoniously in other parts of the state.
The answer to the question of what was special in the Agiliti incident to warrant the clashes that followed could therefore be found in the fact that both ethnic groups had barely been tolerating one another. The clashes therefore would look more as opportunistic riots; a symptom of existing tensions among the two ethnic nationalities.
This puts the ball (of settlement) right in the court of the ethnic leaders in the area. The crisis is an indictment on their ability to foster cordial relations among the people. In any human relationships, there would always be disagreements. But these do not necessarily have to snowball into violent clashes. This is why we call on the various ethnic heads to initiate programmes that would foster unity among the tribes. They could arrange periodic meetings where they thrash out issues of mutual concern; organise get-together parties, cultural shows, etc. to let off some steam. If they had been doing things like these, the pent-up anger that led to the three-day clashes in Agiliti would have been avoided. This goes for all other places where we have such ethnic diversities in the state. The government must also take proactive measures to ensure that we do not have serious security issues in these areas.
But we cannot put the sad event behind us without returning to the remote cause. The incident has thrown up the continued desirability or otherwise of commercial motorcycle riders on Lagos roads. About four years ago, the immediate past administration in the state barred ‘okada’ from plying some roads. Crime rate in the state dropped significantly and the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, which used to have an ‘okada’ ward also confirmed that there was a decrease in the number of casualties of ‘okada’ accidents.
Because of their penchant for impunity, the ‘okada’ riders have returned to some of the roads where they are barred. It has become increasingly clear that most of them have no regard for the law; they ride against traffic as in the present case, disobey traffic lights, carry more than one passenger and hardly wear safety helmets, etc. If they have issues with other motorists on the road, they display an uncommon camaraderie, rally round their own, notwithstanding whether he is the one at fault. Crimes associated with ‘okada’ riders have continued on the upswing, not to talk of the security implications, especially given that many of those plying the trade are not Nigerians. Above all, it is not a fit and proper transportation mode befitting the status of a mega city like Lagos.
Perhaps it is high time the state government began to think of a complete ban on ‘okada’. A time there was when many Lagosians heard of ‘okada’ in other places but never imagined it would ever be an issue in Lagos. But now that it has, banning it would only lead to people trekking some reasonable distance, which is also good for their health.
It also would not be a bad idea if the Mile 12 Market is relocated. It has out- lived its usefulness in its present location even as it constitutes a major impediment to free flow of traffic.