CORPS Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Boboye Oyeyemi, has said commercial motorcycle operators popularly called okada riders have frustrated the enforcement of protective helmets meant to reduce the impact of accidents on riders and their passengers. The corps marshal had in 2015 said the agency would begin a nationwide clampdown on motorcyclists found not using the helmet, noting that the decline in helmet usage was causing untold hazards.
Accidents involving okada riders on the highways are usually fatal and have been on the increase across the country. A total of 689 people were killed in 1,500 road crashes involving motorcycles and tricycles between 2015 and 2019 on Lagos roads alone, according to the state government.
In 2020, some angry commercial motorcyclists in Minna, Niger State capital, burnt down the office of the FRSC and attacked some road marshals in protest over the death of an okada rider in an accident while being chased by some FRSC marshals for allegedly riding against the traffic.
Speaking on the crash helmet enforcement in a recent interview with some journalists, Oyeyemi said the FRSC had to slow down due to the ferocious attacks on its men by okada riders, among other reasons.
He said: “We have to slow down a bit. When implementing, we met a brick wall in terms of religious and cultural issues. Many of our staff members were physically assaulted and some were killed. So, we have to review the situation and be strategic in our implementation. You don’t expose your personnel to such danger.”
He, however, insisted that it remained suicidal to ride on a motorcycle without wearing the protecting helmet, stressing: “Riding a motorcycle without wearing the helmet is like the rider has signed a death warrant. The majority of the injuries from the accidents are head injuries. When the government of Lagos State, for instance, banned okada on major roads, the crash rate dropped drastically.”
The corps marshal insisted that okada riders’ nuisance value had become high and worrisome, adding that the riders “are violent and aggressive. And you can’t blame them. They are mostly graduates who are bottled up. They are unemployed people who saw okada as a means of sustaining their families.”
Oyeyemi said the FRSC has, however, not given up on the campaign, adding that it was working on a new enforcement strategy to ensure compliance. “Now, the United Nations is calling for the wearing of safety helmets. It is an approach that we must be tactical about. We will start reaching the unions again. And they have different factions. It requires a tactical approach today because of this cultural issue. It is normal, when you see things that can threaten the peace of the country in implementing a programme, you slow down and review the strategy.”
He also said many states had banned them from the urban areas and restricted them to the fringes, noting that the Highway Code/traffic regulations forbid motorcycles and tricycles on the expressway.