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One Week After Okada Ban, Lagosians Groan, LASG Must Provide Alternatives

By Muyiwa Olayinka

Enforcements and total clamp down on Okada and Keke Marwa riders, commuters stranded at Lagos bus stops, heavy traffic and gridlocks, feeble street protests, government adamant not ready to budge………..

In a rare and bold move, Lagos State Government (LASG) announced the total ban of motorcycles popularly called Okada and tricycles Keke Marwa in major designated area of Lagos state and the enforcement of the law has been enforced on February 1, 2020. This is not the first time LASG is making effort to curtail these riders on major Lagos roads.

Former Governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Raji Fashola through a law titled ‘Lagos State Road Traffic Bill 2012’ had a comprehensive policy on regulation of transport activities. A section of the comprehensive law affected trailers, with the exemption of fuel tankers and long passenger trucks were prohibited from entering into or travelling within the metropolis from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Another salient provision of the law is the prohibition of eating, counting money, making phone calls and engaging in other dangerous activities while driving, prescribing a fine of N30,000 for violators.

Other highlights included the ban on operations of commercial motorcycles and tricycles on major bridges, Ikorodu Road, Funsho Williams Avenue, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway and Lekki-Epe Expressway, to keep off the 475 roads specifically highlighted.

It was religiously enforced before his government handed over to his successor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who hitherto abandoned the policy midway. Many political analysts laid the blame of this intractable and perennial problem of Okada riders at the doorstep of Ambode.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration relying on the state’s transport sector reform law of 2018, once again wielded the big stick against the menace of commercial motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (Keke NAPEP), proscribing their operations in six Local Government Areas (LGAs), nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and 10 major highways across the State. Besides, LASG also banned Okada and tricycles from plying 40 bridges and flyovers across the State. In comparison this law covers a wider area of Lagos state more than Fashola’s version.

However the Sanwoolu led LASG said among the reasons for imposing this ban was the rising spate of insecurity in the state. The government argued that criminality in the state was facilitated by the use of motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, as a getaway means by hoodlums. Also the resultant high rates of Okada related deaths and accidents were taken into consideration before the enforcement of this law. 

It is quite difficult to dismiss the position of the government over this policy, but the timing, and lack of alternatives to the ban has made life so difficult for average Lagosians this past one week.

One week after the ban, Lagosians have been going through harrowing and difficult conditions in getting to various destinations. Many are stranded at bus stops for hours, waiting endlessly for elusive and scarce buses that are few on Lagos roads. The law of demand and supply has made transport fares to hit the roof, making bus owners to exploit and cash in on the helpless situation.

In addition, the excuse given by LASG that Okada and Marwa riders contributed largely to the traffic situation flies in its face, as the traffic situations have worsened after the ban. The reason is not farfetched. Many Lagosians that were patronizing the services of Okada as a quick getaway had resorted to using their private cars.

Coupled with the fact that Lagos witnessed population explosion in recent times, because Lagos offers more job and business opportunities to Nigerians, lack of efficient means of transportation has made the city more chaotic. The only viable mode of transportation in Lagos, road transportation, and in the absence of a perfect transportation system, Okada and Marwa were filling the void before the ban.

Lagos state a coastal city surrounded by water, has not tapped to her comparative advantage to deliver maximally on water transportation. To add to the raging confusion, Lagos had been so unlucky in the past, to have perfect rail transportation due to policy somersaults.

For example, the first metro rail project enunciated and conceptualized by the Lateef Jakande led government in the early 80s was abruptly terminated by the military junta of Buhari led Federal Government that forcefully took over from the democratic government through a military coup. To add insult to injury, the ongoing blue and red light rail projects that was designed and financed by Fashola led government was deliberately abandoned by his successor, Akinwunmi Ambode based on a whimsical and flimsy political excuse.

Unable to bear the suffering associated to the ban, a socio political and a pressure group took to the street to protest the policy last week. The protest coincided with the International Marathon race that was sponsored by Access Bank.

Lagos state government must bear in mind these salient points

  1. It must bear in mind the rate of unemployment will increase, hence the crime rates. Before the ban, these Okada riders were employed using the proceeds to feed their families and dependents.
  2. These operators were contributing to the economy of Lagos state due to taxes, levies and rates collected from them. Investors who backed motorcycle-based ride-hailing startups in the state like Gokada, Max.ng, Opay that have invested millions of dollars will lose their investments in one fell swoop. This will be sending wrong signals to other would be foreign investors in the nearest future 

In a nut shell, the LASG needs to be able to look at this policy again, to address some honest concerns and be careful in handling the backlash of this policy.

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