Ever since the Lagos State government exhibited the political will to regulate the operations of commercial motorcycles and tricycles, popularly called Okada and Keke, much has been said. Those who are against this decisive move say the restriction of the activities of these transporters has brought hardship to commuters. Those who support it believe strongly that the action is in the best interest of residents.
In banning the operations of Okada and Keke in some areas of Lagos, the state government said the action had become necessary owing to rise in accidents and crimes associated with them. The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, had said: “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 operations of Okada and Keke in six local government areas and nine local council development areas.”
Giving reasons for the ban, he said: “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 of date (January 2020). Also, the rate of crimes aided by Okada and Keke keeps rising. They are also used as getaway means by criminals.”
Commissioner Omotoso listed six local government areas and nine development area councils where commercial motorcycles and tricycles are banned as: Apapa LGA, Apapa Iganmu LCDA, Lagos Mainland LGA, Yaba LCDA, Surulere LGA, Itire-Ikate LCDA, Coker-Aguda LCDA, 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 banning the operations of Okada and Keke in these local government areas and development area councils, the Lagos State government also restricted their movement on 10 major highways, such as Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Oworonshoki-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos-Ikorodu Expressway, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Eti-Osa/Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Funsho Williams Avenue, Agege Motor Road and Eti-Osa Lekki.
Also Okada and Keke were barred from plying 40 coastal road bridges, like Iyana-Ipaja Bridge, Agege; Dopemu Bridge, Agege; Airport/Ikeja Bridge; Agege Motor road/Oshodi Loop, Oshodi; Mushin/Isolo Link Bridge; Dorman Long Bridge; Ojuelegba Bridge; National Stadium Flyover; Apapa-Iganmu Bridge; Apapa-Ijora Link Bridge; Liverpool Bridge, Apapa; Mile 2 Bridge-Loop, Amuwo-Odofin; Okota (Cele)/Ijesha Link Bridge; Apakun/Apapa-Oshodi Bridge Network; Ikorodu Road/Anthony Cloverleaf Bridge; Trade Fair Flyover Bridge; Festac/Amuwo-Odofin Link Bridge; two flyover bridges along Alhaji Masha Road; Ojota Cloverleaf Bridge; Ogudu Bridge and 3rd Mainland Bridge.
Other bridges affected include: Maryland Flyover; Ikeja General Hospital Flyover Bridge; Kodeso Bridge, Oba Akran Bridge, Ikeja; Opebi Link Bridge; Sheraton-Opebi Bridge; Jibowu/Yaba Flyover Bridge; Carter Bridge, Lagos; Bariga-Ifako Bridge; Apapa-Oshodi Expressway/Alapere Bridge; Bariga/Oworonsoki Bridge; Apapa-Oshodi Expressway/Gbagada U-Turn; Apapa-Oshodi Expressway; 3rd Mainland/Oworonsoki Bridge; Eko Bridge; Apongbon Flyover Bridge; Cowry Bridge (Officers Mess); Mcwen Bridge (Bonny Camp); Marina/Ikoyi Bridge and Ikoyi/Obalende Bridge.
Since the restriction of Okada and Keke took affect on February 1, 2020, those who have chosen not to see the good reasons for this have cried blue murder. They believe that the measure is targeted at “poor people” who do not have vehicles. They talk about the trekking people have had to embark owing to the ban, as there are many places buses do not get to. They do not want to reason with government. They don’t care about issues regarding high accident rate. However, no matter the criticism, one thing that is clear is that the Lagos State government is not reinventing the wheel on the restriction of the activities of Okada and Keke operators. The state government just decided to enforce an existing law. The law restricting Okada and Keke has been there, but past governments did not do much to enforce it. Now that the Babajide Sanwo-Olu government is emboldened to enforce the law, it deserves kudos. The government has done the right thing and should do everything possible to ensure that the ban or restriction subsists. No matter the gains those who support Okada and Keke may outline, what is obvious is that this mode of transportation is rather a curse than a blessing. The collateral damage caused by Okada and Keke to the nation is enormous. It runs in almost all families.
I know three people who lost their lives in Okada and Keke accidents. Their death saddens me. One of the victims was a production manager in The Sun, who decided to hike an Okada one evening, from the office to his house, a distance of about one kilometre. Between our Kirikiri office and his house in the same vicinity, the Okada conveying him had a kiss of death with an oncoming vehicle. And the man died. The second victim was the wife of a colleague, who took an Okada, in the early hours of the day, on her way to work. The Okada conveying her also ran into an oncoming vehicle and the woman died. The third person was a sales executive, who travelled to Nnewi and a truck crushed the Keke he rode in. He died a cruel death. There are many others, related to other people, who have also died in similar way.
It could be argued that accidents are not restricted to Okada and Keke operations. There could also be a ridiculous argument that since cars and vehicles also cause accidents, they should be banned too. This is simply begging the question. Okada and Keke operators are reckless, indisciplined and suicidal. They do not obey traffic laws. They do not believe others have the right of way. They see themselves as kings of the road who would never follow the normal queue when there is a gridlock. They would rather take the sidewalk or any available space whatsoever, run against traffic or run people out of the road. Nobody would dismiss the fact that crimes committed using Okada and Keke, like abduction, bag snatching, quick get-away after robbery attacks, illegal weapons ferrying etc are on the rise. Their nuisance value is greater than the gains.
I am convinced that the ban on Okada and Keke in Lagos State is a step in the right direction. A metro state or city should not have such modes of transportation. The state government should, therefore, not only insist on the ban but also do everything to enforce it. Already, some Okada and Keke operators have defied the order and resumed operating in the restricted places, expressways and bridges. It would be a shame if the state government cannot enforce its law or buckle in the face of flagrant disobedience. Stricter measures should be taken to enforce the law and ensure that Okada and Keke are restricted, as defined by government. The ultimate action should, in any case, be outright or total ban of their operation in the whole state.
However, the Lagos State government should take measures to make transport system in the state more efficient and vibrant. More city buses should be injected. Roads should be fixed. Commercial and microfinance banks should be made to introduce schemes to give loans to people displaced from Okada and Keke business, so they can own commercial buses. Decisive action should be taken on rail transport system, as the train, whether inter-city or intra-city, is the major mode of mass transit. On rail transportation, the state government should work hard to deliver the CMS-Orile-Mile 2-Badagry expressway train system. The state government should also take the window the Federal Government has provide in the Ibadan-Lagos train service by attaching intra-city regular trains to the Sango Ota-Agege-Oshodi-Yaba-Oyinglo-Iddo route, using the channel in place. In countries where government is proactive, the ongoing reconstruction of the Apapa-Oshodi-Gbagada expressway should have been a veritable opportunity to introduce a rail line on the route. It is something that should still be done. Government can invite private sector players or foreign companies to take up the rail transportation as a private venture. It could also be private-public partnership.
Lagos State should be working towards becoming a mega city or mega state. Okada and Keke have no place in a mega city architecture.