The news of Okada (Motorcycle), Keke (Tricycle) ban by the Lagos State Government has been consistent in the last few years. Each year, since 2012 when the then Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola banned commercial motorcyclists from plying about 492 out of 9200 roads of the state, under the Lagos Road Traffic Law, there has been one rule and the other restricting them from plying certain areas of the state.
Okada riders association, under the name, All Auto-bike Commercial Owners and Workers Association, (ANACOWA) sued Lagos State Government for stopping them from earning a living through a legit business. The association lost and Lagos State was emboldened to expand areas of restriction.
The clampdown by law enforcement that followed the rule reduced biking activities in Ikeja to almost none. But it did give birth to Keke Napep which began to operate in many places in the stead of okada. Not quite long, keke started receiving the same treatment; operators were restricted from plying many roads, pushing them to remote areas of the states.
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The excuse that justified the State’s clampdown on okada has been that the use of motorcycles is enabling crimes, especially armed robbery.
However, the rule could not be sustained. The push for survival due to escalating unemployment situation saw okada riders defied the orders, even though they did so at the risk of losing their motorcycle when caught. It was becoming a challenge that Lagos State needed to approach with circumspection, because the conflict in northern Nigeria was pushing a massive migration of men to Lagos, most of them were settling for okada riding.
In 2017, Fashola’s successor, Akinwumnmi Ambode, expanded the restricted areas as he reintroduced the ban. The 2012, Lagos Road Traffic Law has allowed motorcycles with an engine capacity above 200 CC to operate in most of the roads. So dispatch riders and power bikes were allowed under the ban of Ambode. But the traffic law was reformed in 2018 to deal with broader issues of commercial road users.
Recently, bike hailing innovation has increased the number of motorcycles with an engine capacity above 200 CC on the roads, and notably, the number of accidents. The state has also seen an increase in keke operations to an interesting point. Lagos reportedly has about 10,000 cases of motorbike accidents since 2015, with about 600 fatalities.
So it’s not surprising when we wake up to the news on Monday that Lagos State Government has once again banned the operation of commercial motorcycles.
The Commissioner for Information, who made the announcement at the state house in Alausa, said the decision has been in response to “scary figures” of fatal accidents recorded from okada and tricycle operators between 2016 and 2019.
“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 the safety of lives of Lagosians are paramount.
“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),” he said.
What has been remarkable each time these bans are enforced is the rate of unemployment it creates, which also is a high security risk. And on the other hand, the suffering it puts commuters through since there is no provision of practical alternative by the State Government.
Lagos is notorious of traffic gridlock, and the only remedy has been okada and keke, that’s due to their size, they find it easy to maneuver these gridlocks to the delight of commuters. For instance, those who work in Apapa rely only on okada to get to their places of work on time. Using vehicles is a day job.
Apart from the traffic hardship, the ride-hailing companies that are just trying to find their feet in Lagos have been put out of business. In mid-2019, Gokada raised $5.3 million in a Series A round led by Rise Capital while Max.ng Raised $7 million in a round led by Novastar Ventures with participation from Yamaha. So did OPay’s ORide, these leaders in the field all did in a series of fund raisings that welcomed many investors to Lagos and provided the financial power for these startups to push through the market. Economists said the ban by the State Government has landed a sledge hammer on the dream, projection and prospects of the investors.
These companies pay taxes. In July last year, the Lagos State Government was reportedly proposing $70,000 (N25 million) licensing fee per 1,000 and then $83 (N30,000) per bike after the first set of 1,000 for the bike-hailing companies. They were expected to pay taxes after the licensing fees.
Experts said for a state that is in need of investors, especially, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the ban on the bike-hailing operators is a scare-monger to any investor who is thinking Lagos. The decision is suggesting that the State Government can wake up someday to make rules that will put many out of business without considerations.
Lagos State Government promised to provide an alternative to the restricted means of transportation, but did not say what the alternative will be. It is also believed that the state should have made alternative provision even before the ban was announced. The ban which will take effect on February 1 is on short notice, taking everyone unaware. While the people wait on the government’s alternative, many are suggesting the use of horses as a means of transportation that will serve the purpose of okada and keke.