POLICE REPRESSION OF PROTEST CANNOT DETER US!
THE RESISTANCE MUST CONTINUE!!
Being Text of Press Conference by Joint Action Front (JAF) held at CCG, Lagos, Tuesday, January 29th 2013
We in the Joint Action Front (JAF) welcome you, dear media compatriots to this press conference, which is the second in the last three months on the anti-poor policy of the Lagos State Government in banning Okada operations in 475 roads and the continuing extra-judicial brutality by the Police in the guise of implementing a wuru-wuru law.
OUR INTERVENTION SO FAR
- The first act of intervention by JAF on the banning of Okada operators in 475 roads in Lagos was the series of consultative meetings we had with the various Okada groups in the State from mid-October – November 2012 in order to have a proper understanding of the Okada issue as it relates to the unjust New Lagos Road Traffic Law.
- This was followed by the media briefing we held on November 15th 2012 where we stated clearly that JAF recognises the SAFETY issues involved in regulating Okada operations on the use of roads, most especially in respect of plying the highways; but that we objected to the: fraudulent listing of 475 inner roads in Schedule II (that was not presented as part of the Traffic Bill during the Public Hearing), but emerged mysteriously in the New Lagos Road Traffic Law signed into law by Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola.
- Following the November 15th 2012 Media briefing, the Lagos State Government through its Commissioner, Mr. Kayode Opeifa requested for a meeting with the JAF leadership on the Okada issue. And because JAF, in principle, is not opposed to Dialogue, we alongside with the leadership of the Okada groups met with the Lagos State Government on 28th November 2012 to state clearly our positions (as restated in this document), which were not controverted. What the Lagos State team represented by Mr. Kayode Opeifa and Mr. Lateef Ibirogba said what that the State will take another look at the bad law with the intent to review it. And we replied, JAF will not sit by and allow a bad law to be used to exploit and repress the people.
- On December 10th and 19th 2012, JAF organised MASS PROTESTS, with six Okada groups (ANACOWA, NATOMORAS, MTUN, MOTOAN, ACOMORAN and the United Okada Riders Stakeholders’ Forum, which were on both occasions repressed by the Lagos State Police Command with threat of unleashing unprovoked violence.
- Following the MASS PROTEST of December 19th 2012, five (5) JAF leaders and members (Comrades Dr. Dipo Fashina, Abiodun Aremu, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, Segun Oladunni and Oyedele Usman) were abducted in the car by 5-bus load of armed police at the intersection of Olajuwon Street, Tejuoso-Yaba without any warrant of arrest and taken to the Lagos Headquarters of the Police Command in Ikeja, where they were detained for 5hours before being released on self-recognition bail. Their release was consequent to the intervention of teams of lawyers from National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mrs. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi from Women Advocate and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Bamidele Aturu Esq., Barristers Lekan Alabi and Femi Falana (SAN).
- On December 20th 2012, the leadership of JAF (Dr. Oladipo Fashina and Comrade Abiodun Aremu) with Barrister Lekan Alabi in attendance had a 2-hours meeting with the Lagos State Police Commissioner and his deputies. The summary of the meeting was that the Police authority threatened that it has a duty to repress future protests by JAF in the guise of maintaining law and order and that it will continue to implement the unjust New Lagos Road Traffic law so long it is in force. The leadership of JAF maintains the position that JAF has a responsibility to defend the weak and oppressed poor in our society and we are never going to be deterred by the threat of the Police to use force to curtail the fundamental rights of Nigerians to resist unjust, exploitative and oppressive policies of government at whatever level.
WHY THE RESISTANCE MUST CONTINUE?
1. We are opposed to the banning of Okada operations on the 475 inner roads in Lagos State, not just, because it is a wuru-wuru law, but because it is denying half a million Okada operators access to means of livelihood, with implications for growing unemployment and the escalating national insecurity. Also, the banning of operations on the 475 routes continues to have serious effect on millions of Lagos commuters who have been going through untold hardships because of the failure of the Lagos State Mass Transit and the lack of alternatives.
2. The Police have, with the sole aim of extortion and robbing Okada operators of their motorcycles and taking private possession, intensified its raiding and brutality of the Okada operators not only in the banned 475 routes but in local access roads across the State, all in the name of law enforcement.
3. JAF is committed to the REPEAL of this bad law, hence our clearly spelt out position on the controversial Schedule II as reproduced below:
THE CONTENTIOUS SECTION 3 [Control of Motorcycles and Tricycles]
- 3.—(1) No person shall ride, drive or propel a cart, wheel barrow, motorcycle or tricycle on any of the routes specified in Schedule II to this Law. [UNACCEPTABLE]
- (2) No person shall operate a motorcycle or tricycle without a Rider’s Card issued by the Lagos State Motor Vehicle Administration Agency. [ACCEPTABLE]
- (3) No person shall operate a motorcycle or tricycle either as a rider or a passenger without wearing a standard protective crash helmet as may be prescribed under the Regulations to this Law. [ACCEPTABLE]
- (4) No motorcycle operator shall carry more than one (1) passenger at a time, provided that a pregnant woman, a child below the age of twelve (12) years, or an adult with a baby or heavy/large load placed on the head or which obstruct normal sitting on the motorcycle shall not be carried as passenger. [ACCEPTABLE]
- (5) Any person who fails to comply with any of the provisions of this Section commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to- (i) imprisonment for a term of three (3) years or render community service in accordance with the provisions of Section 347 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State; [UNACCEPTABLE] and (ii) have his vehicle forfeited to the State. [UNACCEPTABLE].
- (6) Where a rider is convicted of an offence under subsections (1), (3) and (4) of this Section, the passenger shall also be liable to the same penalty, provided the passenger is not a child. [UNACCEPTABLE]
- (7) Subject to Section 38 of this Law, the Commissioner may make Regulations providing for any matter necessary for the purpose of controlling the use of motorcycles and tricycles in the State. [UNACCEPTABLE]
- (8) As from the Commencement of this Law commercial motorcycles shall only operate between the hours of 6.00a.m-8.00p.m within the State. [UNACCEPTABLE]
OUR DEMAND ON THE LAGOS OKADA ISSUE
1. For any meaningful Dialogue, the Lagos State Government should return back to status-quo if it believes in the ‘rule of law’ and stop its reckless public statements and sponsored publications in the media. JAF is ready to engage on this contentious New Lagos Road Traffic Law as it affects Okada operations based on five main parameters:
· Faulty process in arriving at the law;
· Schedule 11;
· The Penalties (traffic offences are misdemeanour);
· The Implementation
· Human Rights violations and the case for Redress
2. We demand the abrogation of the obnoxious new Lagos Road Traffic law.
3. We demand that A LANE should be dedicated to the Okada operators.
4. Immediate End to arbitrary arrests, shooting and extra judicial killings of violators of traffic laws by the Police, Army and LASG officials and their agents.
5. The return of all the unjustly confiscated motorcycles because there was no judicial pronouncement on such acts of lawlessness.
6. Full compensation to the individuals, families and dependants of all victims of the current repression and extra judicial excesses on the account of the obnoxious and inhuman traffic law.
7. That the National Human Rights Commission should investigate the continuing repression being perpetrated by the Police in collaboration with the Lagos State Government.
THE ACHABA IN KANO
As we stated in the November 15th 2012 press conference, JAF is opposed to the banning of Okadas anywhere in Nigeria as long as the state abdicates its responsibility to the citizenry. We are committed to urging Nigerians any where they are to RESIST any exploitative and oppressive policies targeted at their survival, and security of life and property.
Towards this end, JAF structure in Kano has been mandated to join forces with other civil society groups in Kano State and beyond that are committed to RESISTING the anti-talakawas’ policy of the Kano State Government. As we hold this press briefing the groups in Kano are meeting to determine the line of Action. In the meeting held yesterday, the groups in Kano resolved on:
1. Total opposition to the ban on Achaba (Okada).
2. Registration of Achaba should not interfere with the daily operations of Achabas.
3. Demand a STOP to the abuse of human rights by the JTF in Kano in the guise of hounding the Boko Haram.
FORWARD EVER, BACKWARD NEVER!
Dr. Oladipo Fashina Comrade Abiodun Aremu
JAF Chairperson JAF Secretary