The Lagos State government’s ban on motorcycles, popularly called Okada, and tricycles, also known as Keke Marwa or Keke NAPEP, in some parts of the state is already biting hard on commuters.
During rush hour, morning and evening, office workers, traders and students in the affected areas are stranded at various bus stops. Some people have resorted to trekking in order to get to their various destinations.
But many residents and other keen followers of the ban have been asking why the state government would begin the implementation of such a policy without providing alternative means for the people to get to their destinations.
Many Lagos residents are certainly unhappy with the situation and have been bemoaning their fate since the restrictions kicked off on Saturday, February 1. They are calling on the government to liaise with all stakeholders in the transportation sector to find a quick solution to mitigate commuters’ sufferings. Some are also asking the government to review the ban.
The areas that are affected by the ban are Apapa Local Government Area (LGA), Apapa Iganmu Local Council Development Authority (LCDA), Lagos Mainland LGA, Yaba LCDA, Surulere LGA, Itire-Ikate LCDA, and Coker-Aguda LCDA. Others areas 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, government also banned Okada and Keke operators from plying 40 bridges, flyovers and 10 major highways across the state.
A visit to some areas revealed nothing but chaos. Commuters had to embark on arguments before they could board a bus.
It was gathered that the buses came irregularly, indicating that they were not enough to meet commuters’ demand.
As the ban took full effect from February 1, some commercial vehicles have been taking advantage of the long queues at various bus stops to hike transport fares. For instance, at Ikeja Under Bridge bus stop, some drivers who said that the axis was not their regular route were charging N200 to Adeniyi Jones/Ogba, against the normal N100 that tricycles and buses had been charging for the same trip.
A commuter who spoke to Daily Sun at PWD Bus Stop on February 4, Mr. Daniels Enuma, said: “I was going to Ogba yesterday but after staying at the Ikeja Under Bridge bus stop for over one hour, a bus came from nowhere. At that point, we were not after whatever amount the driver was going to charge; we were already tired.
“When the driver said we would pay N200, some of the passengers protested but nobody was ready to alight from the vehicle to rejoin the over 100 people at the bus stop. Some of us who wanted to just get out from the place by any means were ready to pay more. Let’s not forget that it is not everyone that can afford the extra charge in a situation like that.
“Government is to be blamed in all of this. I think it is wickedness not to consider the effect of the ban on the people. This can only happen in this part of the world. I’m not against the ban, since they said it was for security reasons and for safety of lives. But they cannot make life unbearable for the same people they are trying to protect.
“In fact, I have never liked Okada riders any day because they are just too reckless and lawless for my liking. But this is not the best way to ease them off the road.”
Another commuter fumed: “This is an insensitive move to further cause pains to the poor masses. Must the people always suffer because the government is making a change? It shouldn’t be like this all the time, for goodness’ sake.
“If the people have got to their various bus stops and met buses to take them to where they are going, I doubt if people would be complaining. The most important thing is for people to get to their places of work or homes as timely as possible. A situation whereby someone has to wait for as much as two hours at a bus stop is totally unacceptable.”
Also lamenting the hardship the ban has brought on Lagos residents, a senior journalist with a national newspaper said it would have been nice seeing government unleashing similar energy on trailers and tankers that have caused the residents untold pain in the Apapa axis in the last few years.
“The government will not descend on those trucks and tankers because they are owned by powerful people in the society. But the Okada and Keke riders are easy to deal with, so they won’t hesitate to do so. It is unfortunate that the common man will continue to suffer oppression in the hands of the government that they are supposed to be looking up to for succour,” he said.
For those who have to report at their offices or keep appointments, there is no other option than to walk several kilometres. In some areas, commuters were said to be using horses as a new means of transportation to get to their various workplaces.
Many people have also argued that the ban would have negative effects on the economy by throwing so many people out of their jobs.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, had said that government placed the ban due to the havoc the riders caused in those council areas.
The state government has, however, urged residents to remain calm. It has promised to release 65 buses as a palliative to make movement easy for the people of the state.
In a chat with Daily Sun, a resident of the state, Mrs. Adewale Lydia, said that her experience was a harrowing one on Monday and Tuesday morning while going to Oregun from Ikeja. She also said that the ban has led to an increase in bus fares in many of the routes in the affected areas.
It was also observed that the ban has resulted in more traffic congestion in many areas. The situation has pushed many residents to put their cars on the road.
Students are not left out in the hardship since the ban commenced. To get to their school, they also have to join long queues and wait for their turn.
Another commuter who was in front of the reporter in a queue at Ikeja said: “Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has returned Lagos to the ancient times, when people were daily trekking several kilometres to the farm and other places. The governor and his advisers have failed to understand the peculiar nature of certain areas in Lagos. It is Keke and Okada that can ply those areas. When it is time for election, they will pretend as if there is no such law and allow the riders to be plying everywhere.
“I will say that government at all levels has failed us in Nigeria. We are not enjoying the dividend of democracy in this country. If the law was going to affect the rich, they won’t come up with it. We are the ones suffering. How many rich men are using Okada or Keke in Lagos?”
A teacher with a private school in Ikeja GRA, Mr. Joseph Adepoju, told the reporter on the telephone that there have been similar bans in other states in the past, but they immediately provided alternatives. He also noted that the population in Lagos could not be compared with other states where the outright ban worked perfectly.
“If you were in Ikeja Monday morning and evening, it appeared that there was another fuel scarcity. The way people were walking long distances, you would think that they were Israelites crossing the Red Sea again,” he said.
However, on Tuesday, some level of sanity returned to most of the bus stops that the reporter visited. At PWD Bus Stop, it was easy for commuters to board mini buses to Ikeja GRA. The two separate queues were not long, and, within five minutes, the passenger was sure of leaving.
Though the queue at Ikeja Under Bridge Bus Stop for commuters going to Ogba via Adeniyi Jones was very long, there was orderliness. A passenger would have to spend between 20 and 25 minutes on the queue before boarding a bus.
Some residents have also raised the alarm that security officers were capitalising on the situation to extort money from innocent Keke and and Okada riders, even in the areas that were not included in the restriction.
It was gathered that, on Governor’s Road in Ikotun, security officials were seizing tricycles and collecting as much as N7,000 from them as fine. A Keke rider in Agege also complained that security operatives have been harassing motorbike and tricycle operators since February 1. He also alleged that, before they could be released, police forced each tricycle operator to cough out N5,000.