The recent ban on commercial motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (Keke) by the Lagos State Government took effect from February 1, 2020, in 15 Local Government Areas and Council Development Areas. It also affected 40 bridges and flyovers in the state. The ban, the government explained, is part of an extant Traffic Law, which had been in existence since 2012. According to the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, the restriction was to save life and property. He decried the rate of accidents involving commercial motorcycles and tricycles on roads across the state.
About 10,000 accidents were reported between 2016 and 2019 at the state General Hospitals, the statement claimed. The number, it added, excluded unreported cases recorded in other hospitals. Besides, the most recent number of reported deaths was put at over 600. Moreover, the number of crimes aided by commercial motorcycles and tricycles is rising, while criminals have used these modes of transportation to escape.
The government took the decision after consultations with stakeholders and the State Security Council in compliance with the extant Transportation Sector Reform Law 2018. The measure is reportedly the first stage of government’s plan to sanitise the roads and protect the people the “negative effects of these illegal modes of transportation” in the state.
There is no doubt that operators of commercial motorcycles and tricycles have helped to ease transport challenges in Lagos and other cities across the country. At the same time, that mode of transportation has led to increase in crimes such as banditry, kidnapping and others. Considering that Okada and Keke operators have allegedly been aiding some of these crimes, many states have banned them. Arising from this ugly development, Kano, Zamfara, Bauchi, Adamawa, Yobe, Kaduna, Bauchi, Plateau states and some states in the South have banned commercial motorcycles and tricycles in their domains.
Apart from loss of lives due to motorcycle accidents, most of the Okada operators are not Nigerians. Having so many undocumented foreigners as Okada operators in Lagos and other Nigerian cities poses serious security challenge. In fact, the recklessness of Okada and Keke operators has worsened the traffic gridlock in Lagos. Many of them who come from neighbouring countries do not have valid licence and helmets to operate.
While we welcome the ban, there are some salient issues the state government should consider. Government should come up with an alternative means of transport that can fill the gap created by Okada ban. The government should further develop the rail and water means of transportation. With over 20 million people, Lagos needs a mass transport system. Unfortunately, the number of government-owned public transport buses known as BRT is grossly inadequate to cope with the population of the emerging mega city. Lagos needs mass, cheap and affordable transportation system. The state government should reconsider the fate of professional motorcycle operators such as the Gokada and Max who are trained and certified to operate in some parts of the state. Many of them are graduates who resorted to be commercial motorcyclists due to unemployment. For this category of motorcycle operators, the state government should regulate their operations rather than the outright ban.
We say this knowing full well that insisting on total ban on all categories of Okada and Keke operators without providing alternative modes of transportation is likely to worsen the unemployment rate in the country, which is projected to reach 33.5 per cent this year. It could escalate the security problem and the poverty level in the country. Government should also come out with measures that will make the ban effective. The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority and the police should effectively implement the ban. In the past, the enforcement of the ban was ineffective because some of the security personnel charged with bringing offenders to book were found to be exhorting money from them.
Despite the fact that the Lagos Traffic Law 2012 had been in operation for eight years, it has not effectively checked the recklessness of Okada operators. Since it is the duty of government to protect lives and property of the citizens; it must ensure effective and efficient implementation of the Okada ban.