The restriction Lagos State Government imposed on commercial motorcycles and tricycles operators came into effect on Saturday, February 1, 2020. As expected, the ban has been hard-hitting, causing many residents in Lagos to lament their woes in trekking for long distances to access commercial buses or taxis.
Mr Gbenga Omotosho, Lagos State Commissioner for Information, explained that the ban became imperative in order to curtail deaths, accidents and disorderliness caused by motorbike taxis. He said, “They (motorcycle-hailing startups) have been discovered to be part of the problem they set out to solve. Their riders are involved in accidents and breaking road rules.”
Data circulated by the state’s Commissioner for Transport, Mr Frederick Oladeinde, showed that from 2016 to 2019, Lagos State recorded an approximately 10,000 road accidents involving motorcycles and tricycles. Out of the 10,000, over 600 deaths were recorded. The state government argued further that “The truth is that Okada, no matter what fanciful name it is called, is not part of the Greater Lagos which we have embarked. Our youths no longer learn the trades we used to be proud of – tailoring, bricklaying, printing, painting, and others. Now we get artisans from neighbouring countries. Okada is not enduring trade.”
Another argument put forward by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration was that “Okada has been used by criminals to rob and terrorize innocent citizens. Police figures are scary. When it was banned in Kano and Edo, for instance, crime rates dropped. The law enforcement agencies are ready to fix anybody who wants to take to crime because he has lost his Okada job.”
The reasons adduced by government for the restriction are genuine, but without alternative means of transportation in a heavily populated state like Lagos, movement can be very tedious. Two days into the implementation of the policy, Lagosians have cried out over the difficulty they encounter in moving from residential areas which lack motorable roads to highways where they board buses. Many civil servants interviewed in the media blamed the sudden ban on commercial motorcycles and tricycles for reporting late to work on Monday and Tuesday. For the sick and elderly who may not be able to trek for a long distance, the situation has been difficult and unbearable.
In no small measure, the ban would contribute to the burgeoning unemployment market in Nigeria. Though it is not a dignifying job, many unemployed youths and some retrenched from companies, saw Okada and Keke-Napep cadre of transportation business as low-hanging and delved into it. Thousands of these Nigerians, and thousands of family members who depended upon what they earned from the street on a daily basis, have been thrown into difficulty by this policy.
It is good that Lagos State has promised to cushion the effects of this drastic measure by boosting the transport sector with more vehicles. However, we believe government should have experimented with the model it is coming up with before banning Okada and Keke-Napep. If the strategy being put in place fails as an effective substitute for Okada and Keke-Napep, the essence of the policy change would be lost. That would be unfortunate.
The two major reasons for the ban are frequent fatal accidents and insecurity, which may be attributed to the failure of regulatory and security agencies in Lagos State to properly carry out their responsibilities. Nigeria is not the only country where motorcycles and tricycles are used as means of transportation. Developing countries like India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and many more allow these means of transportation. The difference is that in other countries, such operations are well-guided and security agencies monitor the activities of those involved in the trade. With good security and intelligence network, operators are made to obey rules governing the sector, while criminal infiltrators are detected and quickly flushed out. We recommend such measures to governments in Nigeria instead of the total ban which could create further social problems.