In Lagos at the moment, there is a thick dose of apprehension in the air. There is palpable anxiety in the air over the ban on the operations of commercial motorcycles, popularly known as okada, and tricycles also known as Keke Marwa or Keke NAPEP in six local government areas (LGAs), nine local council development areas (LCDAs) in the state.
The restrictions on their operations take effect from tomorrow, Saturday, February 1.
But many residents are not finding the news funny. There have been mixed reactions since the announcement was made. The operators have been crying foul, saying that the government ought to have considered the economic roles they play instead of focusing on the hazard.
Residents of the affected areas, who depend on these tricycles and motorcycles without alternative means to get to their destination, are also calling on the government to reconsider its decision. They argued that if alternative transport means are not provided on the routes, the commuters would be the most affected at the end of the day.
But the government has said repeatedly that the prohibition is for the benefit of the people of the state, and explained that the high rate of criminal activities and accidents occasioned by the riders’ operations informed the decision.
The state government has directed security operatives to embark on a total enforcement of the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 to immediately address the chaos and disorderliness created by illegal operations of okada and tricycle riders in restricted areas.
The government has said that there would be no going back in commencing the total enforcement from tomorrow.
Reactions have kept pouring in as a result of the development. Those who don’t align with the policy feel that the government move was ill advised. Many of those with such views maintained that the government failed to take into consideration the frustrating gridlocks in different parts of Lagos before taking the decision.
Henceforth, operations of okada and Keke NAPEP would no longer be allowed in Apapa LGA, Apapa Iganmu LCDA, Lagos Mainland LGA, Yaba LCDA, Surulere LGA, Itire-Ikate LCDA, and Coker-Aguda LCDA. Others are Ikeja LGA, Onigbongbo LCDA, Ojodu LCDA, Eti-Osa LGA, Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA, Iru-Victoria Island LCDA, Lagos Island LGA and Lagos Island East LCDA.
Apart from the affected roads, the government also banned Okada and tricycles from plying 40 bridges, flyovers and ten major highways across the state.
Operators are angry
Max and Gokada, two of the private companies providing motorcycle services in Lagos have described the ban as insensitive. They said investments running into millions of dollars would be destroyed while thousands of people would be made jobless.
Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of MAX, Adetayo Bamiduro said at a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday: “This is essentially aimed at disenfranchising technology-based mobility startups and an open admission that the government is not ready for investment does not care about the livelihood of citizens and would instead of tackling the issues headlong, adopt a totalitarian approach.”
An operator who plies the Ikeja-Adeniyi Jones route in Ikeja LGA, Mr. Odinaka Chimezie, told the Daily Sun that the government was wicked to have taken such a decision. He said that thousands of people would be thrown into the saturated unemployment market.
He said: “I have been riding Keke in this Ikeja for more than six years. At our park alone, we are more than 100 riders. We pay different levies every day. Our members have always obeyed whatever rules laid down for us by the government. We have approved bus stops to pick and drop passengers, which has not been any issue to either of the parties.
“I am particularly pained because I just finished paying for a tricycle that I took on hire-purchase three years ago. After paying N1.2 million to the owner; the government is saying that I cannot use it anymore. This is when I am supposed to start enjoying the years that I laboured for but we have been sent packing.
“My wife gave birth four months ago, in addition to our two older children. How do I take care of all of them? They should have given us some more time or provide small buses for us to be plying the routes. I am begging them to consider our contribution to the economy.”
Another tricycle rider in Ikeja, who gave his name only as Dada, said it was not possible for him to relocate from his house to a new area with his tricycle, where the operation is not banned.
“Besides mastering the new route, one also has to register and pay heavily to any park that one wishes to work from.
“I have a degree in Education from Lagos State University. I accepted this job after searching for job for five years without a success. With this, I am able to feed my family and take care of other basic needs. The teaching job I did before I ventured into Keke riding was only paying me N18, 000 per a month. But I save the same amount in less than a week if officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) or policemen don’t give me problem,” he stated.
A teacher at a private school in Ikeja, Mr. Odeyemi Femi, told the correspondent that he has been using tricycle in the last seven years from his house at Abule-Egba to Ikeja Under Bridge to beat the usual traffic congestion during the rush hours in the mornings and evenings.
“In fact, the tricycle has been my saving grace in Lagos. I am sure this policy will not work out because they have tried it before and it failed. We have not forgotten how they restricted motorcycles from plying over 400 routes, but we are all witnesses that motorcycles have continued to ply those routes till now.
“I am against recklessness on the highways, but we must understand that Lagos is a peculiar state that is highly populated with a few roads.”
Another resident of the sate, who is a journalist with a national newspaper, Mr Idris Abdul, said: “I am afraid those officials attached to the task force team will turn out to begin to extort the riders as we have always witnessed in the past. This is not the first time we are having something like this, though this is outright ban in the affected areas.
“We are waiting to see on the first day of the implementation if other means of transportation is provided. Whatever policy that is envisaged by the government, the ultimate priority should be on the people, especially the common man. Those who drive their vehicles to their places of work might feel unconcerned with this policy. But how many people own cars and drive to work?
“You will see how commuters would be stranded at the bus stops by Monday morning and evening if the ban actually takes off.”
A resident of Festac extension, Chibuike Albert, who worked in Apapa said he could not fathom how possible it is for the taskforce to enforce okada ban in Apapa.
For many years now, those living and doing businesses in Apapa and its environs have relied on motorcycle to connect areas such as Coconut, West Minister Warehouse, Tincan and Wharf. Many roads linking the wharf from Mile Two have not been motorable for some years due to potholes and over subscription by articulated trucks that stay up to a month while trying to access the ports and terminals in the areas.
A lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Morah Ekwunoh, described the ban as a sharp sword on the throat of poor masses. He insisted that the ban wouldn’t work.
Said he: “The recent blanket ban on the commercial motorcycles and tricycles appears intent in addressing more squarely the chaotic gross indiscipline and evil orientations of the riders, particularly in the areas of armed robberies, kidnapping-for-ransom, assassinations and related criminal afflictions.
“But l strongly share in the public and popular frenzy of seeing the ban as too harsh, if not draconian, such that it constitutes application of sharpest of swords on the throats of the poor, hungry and angry masses. This is because the government, in its conception or design of its policy leading to the ban, woefully failed to duly factor in, and distill, such numerous issues as clear understanding of the economic and social problems and crises arising from sudden
“Since the ban is truly harsh, draconian and, therefore, unpopular, its enforcement steam will go cold, soon after the initial hype, just as was the cases with such past unpopular laws and administrative actions, as witnessed during the okada’s initial ban by the Babatunde Fashola administration.”
Support for govt
There are also some people who have thrown their weight behind the government action, saying it was overdue. They said there was no way the state could have continued with the lawlessness of the operators.
These supporters submitted that the action by government would not only reduce accidents and other dangers associated with motorcycling, but that it would also eliminate other menace caused by the riders.
A car owner once queried if tricycle riders have their own lanes. He said the riders were fond of occupying a particular lane, thereby pushing other road users to contend with whatever space that was left on the road. He said that it was more annoying when the riders would become mad at any vehicle driver that drives on their assumed right of way.
A civil servant who works at Alausa Secretariat but would not want her name mentioned, described the move as a fantastic one.
“It is difficult to accept change, no matter how good the intention is. The government is not foolish to have taken this decision. Lagos cannot become a mega city with this kind of nuisance and embarrassment on the roads.
“Perhaps those attacking the government have not been dealt with by these riders, especially the okada riders. They don’t obey any traffic rules. No sane society and serious government accepts such public nuisance. It might be tough for the commuters at the beginning, but they will adjust later,” she said.
Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, has stated that that the measures were taken in response to the “scary figures” of fatal accidents recorded from operations of okada and tricycles in the state between 2016 and 2019.
He said: “After a robust assessment of the debate on what has been widely referred to as the motorcycle (okada) and tricycle (keke) menace, the Lagos State Government and the State Security Council have decided that the security and safety of lives of Lagosians are paramount. “The figures are scary. From 2016 to 2019, there were over 10,000 accidents recorded at the General Hospitals alone. This number excludes unreported cases and those recorded by other hospitals. The total number of deaths from reported cases is over 600 as at date.
“Also, the rate of crimes aided by okada and keke keeps rising. They are also used as getaway means by criminals. Therefore, after consultations with stakeholders, the State Security Council, in compliance with the extant Transport Sector Reform Law 2018, has decided to commence enforcement of the law which bans the operation of okada and keke in six local government areas and nine local council development areas (LCDAs).”
Putting some of the records straight, Omotoso said the Lagos State government has not given licence to any person or group to operate commercial services with motorcycles.
“As far as I am concerned, the government has not registered any company to come and be running okada. In fact, what the government was trying to look at is how to regulate these people so that their excesses can be curtailed.
“But as far as I know, nobody has been licensed to go and start running okada. It is unfortunate looking at the rate at which people are dying; the rates at which people are being robbed on the roads; the police are worried, everybody is worried.”
The commissioner has also said that a large number of those he called the poor people have asked the government to ban okada operations.
Omotoso, however, said that those who are doing courier services, without carrying passengers, would be allowed, because they don’t constitute so much danger.
He added: “The motorbikes have to be above 200cc and you have to have a box behind you that you are doing courier service and you don’t have to carry passengers. You also have to be well-kitted and wear your helmet.”