The Appeal Court sitting in Benin on Wednesday quashed the ban on operation of commercial motorcycles popularly called Okada in the Benin metropolis and environs, raising fresh fear and apprehension amongst the citizenry of likely surge in criminal activities, accidents, and chaotic traffic hitherto associated with the operators, which necessitated the ban by immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole.
Oshiomhole had on June 13, 2013, pronounced a ban on the use of motorcycles for commercial purpose in Oredo, Egor, Ikpoba Okha local government areas, as well as in Oluku and Ekosodin areas of Ovia North East local government areas, and Eyaen in Uhunmwonde local government area, with an order to law enforcement agents to arrest, confiscate, and also prosecute anyone who violated the order.
However, annulling the order in a judgment delivered by Georgewill Biobele Brown, Justice of the Court of Appeal, JCA, in respect of Appeal No. CA/B/341/2014 between Charles Apiloko James and another, and Edo State Government and five others, the court upheld the arguments of counsel for the Appellants, Dele Igbinedion, that the then governor of Edo State lacked the legal powers to ban the use of motorcycles in any part of the state by mere verbal pronouncement.
According to the appellate court, “It is hereby declared that the Governor’s verbal ban of the use of motorcycles was unconstitutional, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever. An order is issued forthwith setting aside the Governor’s verbal ban on the use of motorcycles”. It awarded N301, 000 as compensation and cost in favour of the Appellants.
Recall that the Appellants, represented by their lawyer, Dele Igbinedion, had approached the Federal High Court, Benin City, to challenge the verbal ban on their operations by the then governor but lost. Dismissing the suit, the lower court held that the Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement was not infringed because if security agents stopped them from using motorcycles, they could have used other means of transportation to move around. But dissatisfied with the judgment, they went on appeal.
Speaking on the implication of the judgment, Igbinedion said: “The effect of this judgment is far-reaching. It means that Edo People are now free to ride their motorcycles in the whole of Edo State without fear of molestation. Edo people can now ride their motorcycles anywhere in Oredo, Ikpoba Okha, Egor local government council areas. Edo people can ride their Motorcycles in Oluku and Ekosodin axis of Ovia North East Local Government Council. Edo people can ride their Motorcycles in Eyaen axis of Uhunmwonde Local Government Council area.
“In fact, anyone can now ride motorcycles in any part of Edo State. Any security agent who molests anyone riding a motorcycle in any part of Edo State does so in contempt of the order of the Court of Appeal”.