Former Lagos State Transport Commissioner and All Progresives Congress (APC) Governors’ Advisory Committee (GAC) member Chief Lanre Rasak spoke with EMMANUEL OLADESU on national security, state police, constitutional amendment, and ban on okada and tricycles in Lagos State.
Recently, the PDP Senate Leader Eyinnaya Abaribe called for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari because of security challenges. What do you think is the way forward for us as a nation, in terms of security?
Well, the issue of security is not meant for Mr. President and the Service Chiefs alone. All Nigerians should be security conscious; those causing insecurity in the country are our people; they are Nigerians; they are not masquerades and we can’t claim we don’t know where they live. I think we need seriously and urgently the state police. The necessary constitutional amendment should be made for governors to establish state police because once we have that, we will be able to deal with most of the security challenges nationwide. The state police will enhance local policing, community policing, and policemen in every community will know those who stay among the people living there and how they earn their living. It will not be difficult for operatives of Community Police to identify who stays in the community and how they operate in the community. These criminals are living within the community. I call on the National Assembly to quickly amend the constitution to enable states to establish their own Police. The claim that the governor is the chief security officer of his state is not totally correct. The state governors know what it takes them to get the commissioner of police, CP, in their respective states to tackle security challenges because they don’t have absolute control over them. Whatever the governor tells the CP in his state is still subject to approval of the Inspector-General of Police. What we need to do is to have a security architecture that is functional and effective enough to provide security for lives and property in Nigeria. Governors should be allowed to establish state police. Government may categorise the offenses they will handle but there are several offenses that the Nigeria Police Force cannot handle now because of the level of poverty in the land. There is also the issue of inadequate funding and poor remuneration for policemen. Currently, a constable may not be earning more than N50,000 monthly so government should improve the standard of living of policemen to further motivate officers and men of the force. There should be free education for their children and other welfare packages should be given to the police so that they can be more committed, more patriotic in their service to fatherland. I support the establishment of Operation ‘Amotekun’ by the Southwest governors because they can’t fold their arms and allow their people to be dealt with by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbery and ritualists. The case of a female student of Lagos State University (LASU), who travelled to meet a friend in Osun State only to end up being killed and eaten. Who is that governor that will be happy over such incident? Don’t we have police in these states? Don’t we have police in a community where somebody established a church and there is a shrine there? The structure of the Nigeria Police Force today is not strong enough and properly equipped to be able to meet 50percent of the security needs of Nigeria and Nigerians. My appeal is that the National Assembly has a vital role, a duty, and a commitment to ensure that we have a law that allows state governors to establish their own state police.
Afenifere chieftain Chief Ayo Adebanjo has asked the president to resign over his claim that 90 percent of those killed by Boko Haram are Muslims contrary to allegation by Christian Association of Nigerians…
Is such call not laughable? The president was trying to explain certain things and he used that analogy, as a Muslim and reacting to claim by CAN leadership that Boko Haram insurgents are concentrating on killing Christians. And from all records, which is not available to Adebanjo, on the number of people killed and the religion they profess, and the president is saying what he knows, and the position he occupies places him to know that than Adebanjo. He is trivialising the issue of insecurity and we don’t have to introduce religion to this serious matter. We are all Nigerians. Boko Haram don’t differentiate between Christian or Muslim when they attack. They just want to cause disaster, disaffection, destruction and destabilise the country and we all know this. In the Northeast and Northwest zones where they operate, the percentage of Muslims living in those areas is higher than Christians. Is Adebanjo saying that the Christian population in Borno is more that the Muslims? That the Christian population in Yobe is higher than that of the Muslims? Is he claiming that there are more Christians in Adamawa, Kano and Kaduna states than the Muslims? Boko Haram targets mosques, churches and markets to kill people.They don’t target Muslim or Christian and because of the percentage of Muslims in those states, definitely the victims will be more Muslims than the Christians. So we don’t have to trivialize serious matters because of politics. I agree that the president should improve the security situation in the country because the primary responsibility of any good government is the safety of lives and property of citizens. Adebanjo is not an expert on security issues and we don’t have to politicize everything. I respect him. He is older than me, and our culture does not allow some of us to talk ills about elders, I give that respect to him. But, on this security matter, he is politicking what should not be a subject of politics. This is a matter of life and death, and should the president just resigns, what happens? Has he considered the security implication of Mr. President resigning? And you think he will resign and the vice president takes over and we will have peace in this country? We will have crisis of unimaginable magnitude should that happen. Maybe, he didn’t give it a serious thought, the end result of his call for the resignation of Mr. President. President Buhari cannot alone handle security alone, as a country we should go consult security experts to advise Nigeria on the way forward for us to do the needful. Citizens should pass relevant information on the activities of criminals to the security agencies for them to act on, so that Nigerians can be defended and protected. That is the proper step to take rather than asking Mr. President to resign and create crisis in the country.
The claim that the governor is the chief security officer of his state is not totally correct… My appeal is that the National Assembly has a vital role, a duty, and a commitment to ensure that we have a law that allows state governors to establish their own state police
What is your position on the ban on Okada and tricycles in Lagos State?
That is a very good question; we must have an in-depth research and knowledge of how okada and tricycles (keke) became an issue of public transportation in Lagos State and Nigeria. Maybe, you want to attribute it to the economic recession or the non-chalant attitude of those in charge of public transportation. We had the Lagos State Transportation Corporation, which was running the transport system even during the era of the Lagos City Hall and suddenly we don’t have it and some people thought maybe okada will be the substitute or replacement for these bus services so okada was brought in. But, there are two major issues I want us to consider. If you visit the National Orthopedic Hospital in Igbobi, Yaba, Lagos, there is a ward dedicated to victims of okada riders and you will be amazed on the number of people with fractured legs and limbs as a result of okada accidents. The casualty rate too has been very high with hundreds of passengers and riders dead. Secondly we should also consider the involvement of okada and keke riders in criminality including armed robbery. If you see okada carrying two or more passengers or you see many motorcyclists heading for a direction, then be wary that trouble is brewing somewhere. It is either they are going to commit robbery, cause trouble, or they are going for kidnapping. Okada is an easy means for them to commit these crimes. When you compare the merits of the restriction and the demerits, it is clear to everyone that the demerits outweigh the merits. So, it is good we do away with okada because it is not helping anybody. Sometimes we compare Nigeria with advance countries such as the United State and the United Kingdom, U.K. So, my question is: do they use okada in those countries? I believe that the state government should improve all modes of public transportation; train, the road and water transportation, which the administration of Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu is doing already. He is working seriously on the train services; the government is not just focusing on the blue rail from CMS to Okokomaiko, but plans to extend train services to Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry and even Alimosho area in the near future. The people of these areas are also going to enjoy train services. A few days ago, the governor launched commercial operations in water transportation by the Lagos Ferry Services at an event held at Badore Ferry Terminal in Ajah. About 24 boats are involved. Similarly, more buses are being deployed to alleviate the suffering of commuters. Lagos State has about 820 new buses and the government will release about 500 BRT buses to be on the road. For me, it is better for the people to use the buses and ferries than patronising okada and keke, which expose them to grave danger. The state government is working very hard to synchronise the three modes transportation in the state, which I believe will meet the needs of Lagosians as far as transportation is concerned. Some people have argued that the reason they want okada is that they cannot trek from their house to the bus stop; they want okada to come and pick them at their door step, take them away and return them. I think such argument does not hold water. That is laziness, if you ask me. Therefore, Lagosians should be told the bitter truth. There is a Yoruba adage, which translated states that “they are saving the small chicken from the owl and it is saying that they did not allow it to go outside to pick food to eat”, whereas going there will be the end of its life. Riding okada is a very big risk and we should thank the governor for restricting okada from moving in very high risk areas. Hundreds of okada riders and some of their passengers have been crushed to death by heavy duty trucks and even commercial buses (danfos) in Lagos highway, which are prone to accident. Government has not totaling banned okada in the state; the restriction covers only six local governments and nine local council development areas. Riders are allowed to ply their trade in the remaining councils and LCDAs.
The Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, cautioned against the ban of okada, saying that it will lead to unemployment and Lagos will lose a lot of revenue from the ban because the riders pay taxes…
Well, as a Nigerian and as a minister, he has the right to express his opinion, but I never heard him say so. But if he ever said so, maybe, he did not consider the quantum of people killed or crippled by okada. I will advise him to visit the National Orthopedic Hospital at Igbobi, Lagos to see the condition of both passengers and riders. I am sure after seeing them he will have a change of heart. He should also visit Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH to see the victims of okada accidents. Again I ask: must we earn money from the death, sadness, sorrow, destruction of humanity? Lagosians and Lagos state will be too willing to look for other sources of internally generated revenue to run the affairs of this government rather than insisting that okada must be. I want to plead with the man, if he ever said so, to take another look at the good and the bad side of okada riding in Lagos before he speaks to Lagosians on the issue again. We that have a deep knowledge of happenings in okada business will let him know that okada is not the best for our state and Nigeria.
The Lagos State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2019 election, Jimi Agbaje, has said the ban was abruptly done, although he noted the reasons given for the ban. What is your reaction?
The man always crosses rivers on the map, he is not part of Lagos State government and he doesn’t know how prepared the government is before taking that decision. I am sure the state government must have thought out the ban of okada over time, if not they will not have the buses that are readily available to deploy, the ferries that are readily available. Government weighed the pros and cons before taking the decision so Agbaje don’t have such statistics at his disposal and therefore not qualify to criticize the decision. I sympathise with such politicians who want to become popular by trying to rundown the government of the day in order for them to become popular. Agbaje is a pharmacist of note, I appreciate that and I sympathize with him but he is a man who cannot develop his own business beyond the one pharmacy shop he has been running for years and he wonders how Lagos state is progressing. He is amased how successive administrations in Lagos State were able to increase the internally generated, IGR from just N600 million in 1999 to over N20billion a month currently without imposing additional hardship on Lagosians and without introducing additional taxes. All that the government did was to adopt an effective and scientific financial management system and prudent management of resources to achieve the goals we are getting in Lagos. So Agbaje is not competent and does not have what it takes to have made that statement.