The Lagos State Government on Monday, January 27, 2020 wielded the big stick against the menace of commercial motorcycles popularly called Okada and tricycles, a.k.a Keke NAPEP, proscribing their operations in six Local Government Areas (LGAs), nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and 10 major highways across the State.
The proscription came into effect on February 1. The security operatives have embarked on a total enforcement of the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 on the directive of the State Government.
The Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu led administration anchored the decision on addressing the chaos and disorderliness created by illegal operations of the Okada and tricycle riders in the State. Besides, the Government also banned Okada and tricycles from plying 40 bridges and flyovers across the State.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, who made the announcement at the State House in Alausa, said the measures were taken by the Government in response to “scary figures” of fatal accidents recorded from operations of Okada and tricycles in the State between 2016 and 2019.
The fatality figures
“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”, the Commissioner quoted.
Okada riders actually constituted a nuisance in the streets of Lagos. Thus, the ban became expedient. But there is another angle to this. The mobility technology startups like Gokada, ORide and Max.ng were caught in the web of the Government’s fuse against Okada in the State.
This is where we believe the State Government would have been more circumspect. These startups should have been exempted from the ban or given an extended deadline as means to minimise the loss of investments they currently face.
Come to think of it, we do not believe that they pose high security risks. At least the State government have not told us neither did the law enforcement agents gave any damning report against them. Today, Lagosians are ‘OTrekking’ because of a ‘rash’ decision by the Government to restrict even these startups that were self-regulated and willing to be licensed by the government even after investment in the region of $200m into Lagos economy.
We sincerely think there are alternatives to the ban (of the startups in particular) or if you like, the Government would have handled some things differently. If you pay a visit to Lagos Island, Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Ikeja, you will see things for yourself. Before the okada ban, many people who work in those locations usually parked their cars and used the services of Keke and Okada-hailing startups mentioned above to move around for businesses and appointments. Now, that is no longer possible.
Now, the Governor has come out to say the decision cannot be reversed. Some measures such as the release of more BRT busses; enhancement of the ferry transport system; induction of more officers into the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) have to being in order to manage the traffic backlash.
In spite of these measures, residents seem not satisfied and their complaints are not far-fetched. First, Government would have staggered the ban, introducing new routes to it on a quarterly basis over the next two years. That way, people will naturally align themselves to the alternatives been provided by the Government. Even the riders would have found alternative employment.
Secondly, regulating the mobility technology companies like Max.ng, Gokada and ORide would have proved better management of the situation.
Thirdly, Lagos population is growing. A visit to Ojota from 3pm will show you how people are moving to the State daily! The population, according to a CNN report, is set to double by 2050. How prepared is the government to manage this? Assuming the State has ventured into massive railway network, the presently ‘disengaged’ Okada riders (who have lost their livelihood), would have become the workforce to deliver the project. Lagos should be ambitious with regards to urban metros.
Now, it is not every route where Okadas are banned that a BRT bus service has been deployed. There is need for immediate introduction to save people the stress of trekking. Walking is good and healthy for the body, endurance trekking on the other hand should be reserved for professional athletes.
Fourthly, how about giving Uber some grants to expand the existing Lagos Uber boat taxi service? Okada riders who have lost their jobs will be retrained and engaged as boat drivers and maintenance crew! Jobs lost, but gained!
Moreover, the long term vision for Lagos transport should involve urban railway networks such as an underground network, a passenger light railway service and an overground train service. The latter will have its biggest terminal at Apapa from where it will ship freight to out of town cargo terminals located around Epe!
As the days go by and the harsh realities of the Okada ban begin to settle in, it is beginning to look like the Lagos State Government were not advised properly before the decision to place a ban on motorcycles and tricycles was finalised. Today, if you take a “stroll” around Lagos, you will see unending queues at almost every bus terminal accompanied by gloomy faces of Lagos residents who are just beginning to adjust to the realities that the palliative transport options they have used for years have been truly taken away from them with no feasible alternatives.
Lagos is a city of approximately 25 million people and like we noted earlier; more and more people are trooping into the state on a daily basis to look for greener pastures in a city where it is widely believed that you can achieve whatever you want if you are willing to put the work in. In a city with a population as high as Lagos has, it is nothing short of funny that the government decides to replace hundreds of thousands of bikes and tricycles with a miserly 65 buses and a few number of boats.
These measures are not going to bring in the much needed succour that the city needs. It is only when proactive steps like the ones noted in this editorial are followed to the letter that proposed megacity will become the city of mega dreams that Lagos was known to be. For now we all have to do what Nigerians have always been known to do- persevere.
In conclusion, depending on the side of the divide that you stand, the good thing is that Lagos Mega City project is a reality and all should support it. Nevertheless, government’s actions should be in sync with her words. Today, the country is in dare need of local and foreign direct investments. Nobody will invest where policies are not clearly followed.