Mrs Edith Ajayi Chibuzor is a mother of two and chef in one of the big hotels in Oregun, Lagos State. She is one of the commuters in the state feeling the effects of the latest restriction on the operations of commercial motorcyclists (okada) and tricycles (keke) in some areas.
On February 1, the state government banned okada and keke in six local government areas, nine local council development areas, 10 major highways and 40 bridges, flyovers and causeways.
Before the restriction of the operations of okada and keke, Chibuzor, who lives in Ogba, used to resume at work by 8am and close by 5.30pm, and on her way home she would pick her last child from school without much stress. But since the implementation of the Traffic Law, things have changed; she has been facing challenges at work and at home.
The mother of two is now a perpetual latecomer. In addition, she has to daily go through many hassles to get home with her daughter.
Despite the stress of getting to work and going home, the cost of her transportation has become double for her. To her now, keeping her job and taking care of her family is a herculean task.
Chibuzor said: “This suffering is too much, going to work and coming back home has become a tug of war. Seventy per cent of people around Ogba, Ojodu/Berger, Ojota and the rest depend solely on okada and tricycles as their means of transportation. Now government has implemented the law restricting these operators without providing adequate alternatives for us; this is a punishment. This government is not sensitive to the plight of the masses; many people have lost their jobs, even some homes have already broken as a result of this. Keeping my job and taking care of my family is now like squeezing water out of stone. What I am paying now for transportation is double what I used to pay before the ban.
“It is not easy at all. The issue of my late-coming to work has caused serious misunderstanding between my employer and I, and, again, before now, my take-home pay, which was supposed to take me home, is not even taking me to the bus stop of my house. You can now imagine now that I am paying double for transportation. In order to reduce the stress, the cost, and have time to take care of my family, I do one day on, one day off at work, which means to work for 24 hours a day and off for the following day.”
There are many Lagos residents who are going through a similar situation or experiencing what is worse than what Chibuzor is going through as a result of the restrictions.
The common nightmare for every Lagos resident is gridlock, it has no respect for anyone, no matter who you are, you would experience it in moving from one place to another.
Besides, the roads are bad in most parts of the state, even in highbrow neighbourhoods. A little rainfall usually shuts down the city for the rest of the day. Almost every day, heavy traffic is the true symbol of Lagos, with people losing productive hours stranded on the road. These were some factors why Lagos was ranked as one of the most stressful cities in the world recently.
In assigning the ranking, some of the factors considered were traffic levels, infrastructure, pollution levels, finance, citizens’ wellbeing, public transport, percentage of green spaces, financial status of citizens, including debt levels, physical and mental health, and the hours of sunlight the city gets per year.
Though several administrations have attempted to create palliative measures to ease transportation problems, which include the creation of the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which has its dedicated lanes, but the problem persists.
Average Lagos residents, in keeping to time, appointment and to avoid as usual gridlock during the rush hours relied on okada and keke for easy movement from one place to another, despite the risk involved.
According to statistics provided by Lagos State government and the police, over 10,000 accidents between 2016 and 2019 at the general hospitals involving over 600 deaths were recorded as a result of okada and keke accidents.
The skyrocketing criminal activities within the metropolis were also attributed to the operations of okada and keke; also, government claimed the operators had no regard for traffic and road regulations and contributed in exacerbating the gridlocks.
In addressing the excesses of the operators of okada and keke, Lagos State government enacted the Traffic Law in 2012 and recharged it in 2018.
With this law, government believed that deaths that were being recorded on a daily basis as a result of the reckless nature of okada riders would be reduced.
It was believed that the law would equally help in tackling security challenges being faced by the state.
Besides recklessness, disorderliness and total disregard for traffic rules, these types of transporters were projected to become things of the past.
The law is not strange to many residents but lack of determination to faithfully implement it, perhaps due to political considerations and the weakness and corruption of law enforcement agencies, had always made people not to believe in it.
In spite of the restriction on okada and keke by the state government, the usual traffic congestion in the metropolis still continues unabated.
Meanwhile, the number of unemployed people has increased because many people who took up okada and keke riding as a means of escaping unemployment have returned to the labour market.
Since February 1, the day the law became effective, several commuters have been trekking long distances, as there are no buses, okada or keke to take them to their respective destinations in the restricted areas.
Mr. Atoyebi Atoyegbe, an interior designer-cum-architect who lives in the Okota area, expressed displeasure over the restriction, and noted that government did not provide alternative modes of transport but wanted to enforce an order that would make the masses suffer so much.
According to him, what government would gain with enforcement of the law could not be compared to what commuters were going through.
“The pain is too much; it is unbearable. Government should do something to reduce the suffering; government needs to review the law in order to accommodate these transporters in some areas,” he said.
Mr. Paul Sanusi, a journalist and publisher of online newspaper, Newsdish, said it hasn’t been easy moving around since the restriction of okada and keke.
Sanusi said he was among the people who clamoured for the ban of okada as a mode of transportation due to the grievous loss it has caused many families. But he was surprised that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered the restriction of both motorcycles and tricycles in some parts of the state.
“Since the restrictions, as the government called it, it has not been easy moving around the state, especially within the affected LGAs and LCDAs.
“Prior to the banning, or restrictions, I usually left my residence in Shomolu to Ikoyi or Victoria Island by 7am and got there between 8.30am and 9:00am, but, since the implementation of the order, it has not been like that, even if I leave my residence by 6am or 6.30am, the earliest time I usually get there is about 10am.
“I suggest that the Lagos State government should have a rethink about the banning or restrictions. If the total banning is to be on okada, I’ll support it to the letter, but there should be reversal for keke.
“My reasons for pleading for keke reversal is basically because there are some roads in Lekki, Ikoyi and Victoria Island that are not accessible to public buses, but with the operations of keke workers or residents of the areas are relieved.
“I am appealing to the state government to bring tricycles back into operation, so as to relieve us of stress of accessing areas that are not being accessed by buses,” he said.
Balikis Adebowale, an operator of a business centre around the State High Court, who lives on Lagos Island, also shared similar experience like others.
She lamented the number productive hours being spent to wait for commercial vehicles from Adeniji Adele, where she lives, to Igbosere, her workplace.
“It is not easy moving around Lagos Island again. Most of the time, I have to trek from my bus stop to my workplace after waiting endlessly for vehicles sometimes when I am going home. Government should, please, review this law, the suffering is too much,” she said.
Rev. Daramola Oladapo Emmanuel, director of media and public relations for the Methodist Church of Nigeria, who lives in Boet Estate, along Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, also shared his experience on what he has been going through as a result of restriction of okada and keke in his area.
He faulted the government on the policy, noting that, instead of a blanket ban or restriction of the operators, government should have formed a policy to regulate their activities.
“Do we have a government that is out to punish the ordinary people? We know that the law has been there for a while but previous governments have been able to manage the situation properly, like Babatunde Fashola’s administration.
“This current one is pure punishment for the people, and I have said it from day one, when they announced its implementation. The first thing government gave as reason for the law was insecurity, saying non-Nigerians were invading the state on a daily basis and constituting security threats. And my position was that, are you telling me that security threat will no longer be there with ban or restriction of the operators?
“Where is the role of regulation? Why is the policy not talking about regulation but only on blanket ban? Is the government punishing Nigerians because of non-Nigerians? It is the function of government to provide employment, but there is none. Most of these operators are graduates. Some of these operators depend on this to earn a living. A simple regulation would have helped the situation; many people are suffering as a result of this wicked policy.
“Many people’s health is in danger. The demerits of this policy are more than its merits. Today, I sent my driver out and, shortly after sending him out, I got a call from home to come over, my office is in Opebi, do you know that I trekked from Allen Avenue Roundabout to Adeniyi Jones. What about somebody going to Ogba, Ojodu/Berger? Many people are trekking; the punishment is too much. Since the policy was implemented, traffic in the state has been worse. Nothing has been achieved with this draconian, senseless and ineffective policy,” Emmanuel said.