What is the essence of the ongoing registration programme that is being overseen by your office?
The aim of the programme is to register all residents of Oyo State, regardless of your nationality or tribe; as long as you are a resident and you live here. It is a means for more effective policy making and resource allocation. We are registering everybody, even Okada riders. As far as Okada riders are concerned, His Excellency, the Governor, was very concerned; he felt that as opposed to banning them outright as we have seen in other states, how about we just carry out an identity management and regulate their activities, you know, have their biometrics; knowing who own the okada, give them jackets and then weed out the bad eggs from the good ones? We are still in the registration phase but we do have a deadline that has been communicated to the Okada riders’ associations. If you have not registered by then, you would no longer be allowed to operate in Oyo State. If you are using our roads, if you are making money in the state, we should know who you are. So, if you are not willing to let us identify you, then you should not be riding in Oyo State.
Is there any countermeasure being put in place by the government to prevent any security fallout from Okada operation in the state?
This measure that we are taking is in a bid to prevent any of this fallout from happening. A huge deterrent to crime in any country, in any society, is the knowledge that there is a system in place to catch you if you commit a crime. Sometimes if you go to a place and you see a camera, if you wanted to commit a crime before, for the simple fact that a camera is there, sometimes even fake, it stops you from going ahead with your plan. It is the same way where, after we identify these people, after we carry out the mandate where you have to wear a jacket, and we know that every jacket number with the identity card can be tied to the rider, or the owner (of the okada). That will serve as a huge deterrent, because then if you are carrying out a crime while wearing a jacket, you know you will be caught. And if you are not wearing a jacket, you will not be allowed to ride.
How do you intend to cope with the continuous influx of these riders into the state?
The registration is a continuous process, regardless of any sector. Apart from okada riders, even other citizens emigrate and immigrate into the state. So, it is not a programme that would be done for a few months. There are already resources which His Excellency has put in place, agencies which His Excellency is planning to put in place to make sure that this is an ongoing, continuous process moving forward.
Many of these Okada riders are even known to not have number plates. Are you working with other agencies, including security agencies, to make sure that your effort is worthwhile?
We are not working alone. Although the registration programme is carried out by the ICT Department, we are definitely working with all relevant agencies, from the Ministry of Works, Transport and Housing to [the Oyo State Road Traffic Management Authority] OYRTMA, to security agencies and even down to residents’ associations. We make sure that all stakeholders involved have a voice and can lend their suggestions and opinions so that the programme can be holistic. As I mentioned earlier, we are also working with the okada riders’ associations. So, everybody who is affected is involved. If an okada man does not have a number plate, it is at the point of registration that you enforce that the number plate is done, even before registration. That way, the course of registration has also helped us to identify and solve loads of other problems that are not even tied to this.
What measures are you taking to ensure that the riders are not able to circumvent the law by, for example, cloning the identity cards and jackets that you are going to give them?
We have thought about that and put measures in place. Of course, it is very important that there is an enforcement drive. We are going to have the relevant agencies – OYRTMA, Amotekun – equipped with the materials that will help them to enforce the law. Not to give away the secret but there are little markers that will make everything unique, from the identity cards to the jackets, to make sure that when the verification exercises are taking place, and they can take place at any time, you can be stopped as an okada rider and then we check for the markers to see if you are carrying the original ID card and wearing the original jacket. I think this will go a long way in helping us to curb these types of issues.
This is a project that covers all citizens in all the nooks and crannies of Oyo State. How are you going about the manpower required to deliver this kind of project?
We are aware of the economic climate and we have had to be very creative so as not to break the bank. There has been a mixture of a lot of what you have said that we have used to achieve this. For example, there are some civil servants in some ministries that have been assigned to this programme. We do have some volunteers. We are actually in all local government secretariats in Oyo State, all the OYRTMA offices, as well as some schools. We do have some volunteers. We do have some ad hoc staff that the contractor in charge has hired. Some of the local government secretariats have even offered people from the respective communities who have also volunteered. So, we have a mixture of all of these to make sure that the programme is successful. We realsied that you have to involve the stakeholders, you have to involve the people. If we decided to hire people by ourselves, we may not have that local touch. When got to certain areas, we realised that it was important to absorb some of the people from those areas to serve as champions. I think that has really helped because, aside from okada riders, we have reached over 300,000 in just a few months.
The commencement of this registration programme was actually announced in 2021 and not much was heard about it afterwards. What happened?
It is very important for a project of this magnitude that the right steps are taken. First of all, there was a huge training exercise that took place. It was basically internal. We had a lot of staff to train. Like I said, some civil servants were co-opted. Some OYRTMA staff members as well as some ad hoc staff that were also hired were involved and. We also have a lot of equipment, some of which needed to be imported. Putting all these together and other things that were taking place behind the scenes, it did actually take a while to kick off in earnest.God willing and all things being equal, a year is a good time to have a good spread, cover a lot of people and we could have a very scientific answer.
Does it not seem curious that Oyo State is just trying to determine its population and develop a database?
As opposed to blaming anyone for whatever has not been done in the past, I think it is very important that we are forward-looking. We have tried to identify a solution and His Excellency has empowered us to go ahead with that solution. I think that we should be happy that regardless of what has been done in the past, now we have a young, energetic governor who is technology-focused and forward-looking. We can be guaranteed that the next couple of years are not going to be like the past couple of years. The people that come after this administration will be happy that we left good data, we left good resources and we did things how they should be done.
We live in a time when technology sits at the core of every sector, be it finance, agriculture, works, due process, you name it. I don’t think there is any sector this day whose processes cannot be made more efficient with the use of technology. That is why you will find that I am actually the first SA (Special Assistant) to be named SA, ICT and e-Governance. His Excellency found it fit to add ‘e-governance’ to my title because effective governance right now is digital. So, we are thinking that by the time this administration is over, of course, in the next five years, God willing, we would have left our mark. We would have left a lot of well-trained civil servants; we would have left well-trained students in ICT. We would have had processes that flow so easily and we can boast of having recruitments that are transparent; we can boast of having contracts and projects that are transparent; we can boast of having a robust HR system; we can boast that we have accurate database; we can boast of project management software; we can boast of using technology in agriculture; we can boast of robust, vibrant infrastructure. I am very confident that we would have laid the foundation for a lot of great technologically-driven government activities.