The Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, dropped the hint in Lagos on Wednesday, stressing that the move was meant to give only the registered operators a new lease of life.
Many of the okada riders, as the commercial motorcycle operators are called, have had to abandon the business, as the new law prohibits them from plying major roads and bridges in the state. According to the new traffic law, only those with 200cc engine capacity can operate in the permitted areas.
Some aggrieved operators have been protesting against the new policy and a few people sympathetic to their cause have urged the state government to rescind its decision in view of the multitude that will be affected.
But Opeifa, who spoke at the 11th Business Forum of the Lagos State University’s MBA Heritage held on Lagos Island on Wednesday, said that there was no going back on the decision.
He said, “We are resolute about the Road Traffic Law; there is no going back on it. But we are going to re-certify the okada operators resident in Lagos.
“We are going to start a registration process, and in the process, if we discover those who have skills, we will send them to the skill acquisition centres established by the state government to hone these skills.”
Opeifa, who spoke on the theme, ‘Effect of Transportation on Nigeria’s Economy,’ stressed that okada could not be regarded as a means of transportation, as nobody wished to bequeath it as an inheritance to their children.
The commissioner, therefore, said the state government would re-register the operators with a view to providing the genuine ones adversely affected by the policy other job opportunities.
“Some of them could be absorbed into the LAGBUS as conductors and drivers. We also have agriculture, where some of them can also be useful. Apart from our farms in Lagos, we have bought landed property in Ogun State and Abuja, and we are going to buy more in Benue for agriculture. So, the options are there for them,” he said.
According to him, the state government plans to assist some of the okada riders with the acquisition of skills to make them employable or to become self-employed.
Opeifa also said some of them would be assisted to own bakeries after undertaking the needed training.
But the Managing Director, Megavons West Africa Limited, Dr. Rotimi Oladele, expressed the view that the okada business could be reorganised, and urged the state government to re-brand it as a community transport system.
Although Oladele, who was a keynote speaker at the forum, commended the state government for its efforts in transforming Lagos, he said there was still a need for a truly masses-oriented means of transport, which the okada business represented.
“Let us re-brand them as community transport system, license them and restrict them to their domiciliary local government areas,” he said.
Opeifa said there was a need for the development of multi-modal transportation system for the economy to grow.
“The groundnut pyramids were moved from the North down to Lagos by the railway; likewise, cocoa and some other farm produce. The system worked then, and all that seems to have died now,” he said.
Opeifa advised that the review of the Constitution currently going on should whittle down some powers of the government at the centre, so that states and local governments could develop the modes of transportation that suited them.