By Tokunbo-Peters Oluwaseun
Lagos state government’s announcement of the ban on Okadas and Keke Napeps in certain areas of the state has resulted in several protests by the people who rely solely on those commercial vehicles to reach their destinations.
The ban took effect on the 1st of February with the Lagos state government stating that the ban was initiated as a response to the increased mortality rate caused by fatal accidents from Okada and tricycles in the state between 2016 and 2019.
The state government’s decision to ban Keke Napep and Okada, painful as it may seem, is understandable, as thousands of innocent people have been maimed and killed from motorcycle and tricycle accidents, mostly caused by the riders disregard of Traffic laws. A study conducted by the Lagos state government shows that over 10,000 deaths from motorcycle and tricycle accidents were recorded in the Lagos State General Hospital. Their presence posed a threat and the ban was long over due. But before the government decided to ban them they should have charted out an alternative mode of transportation to these Okadas and Keke Napeps for the people, as working individuals mostly rely on these vehicles to reach their destination.
Motorcycle commute companies like Oride and Gokada, who have invested so much money in the motorcycle transportation business in Lagos have suffered a great loss from the recent government policy. According to techeconomy.ng Gokada, Max.ng and ORide have suffered a loss of over 200 million dollars. Gokada was left with no choice but to sack 80% of its staff in order to cut its loses .
Because of the cries of the people, the Lagos state government has announced that a plan has been put in place to replace the banned commercial vehicles. The government have come out to say that a fleet of 65 buses will be deployed to major routes as from Monday, February 3rd and over 550 more buses are being expected to come with 14 ferries to be commissioned on Tuesday, February 4th. Some experiences from Lagos residents suggest that the alternative is not a proper replacement for Keke Napep and Okada because the buses meant to commute them are scarce and they arrive at checkpoint late. They also pointed out the fact that the buses don’t beat traffic as much as Okadas and Keke Napeps do. This lukewarm alternative is just a testament to the irresponsibility of the government when it comes to catering for the welfare of the people. A responsible government would have carefully planned out, tested and implemented an alternative before administering the ban. This action of the Lagos state government has forced a comparison between the Oyo state government and the Lagos state government. In Oyo state there have been many cries to remove street traders from the road side because there presence causes a lot of traffic jams across the state and also there continuous stay on the road side puts them at risk of losing their life and properties to motor accidents, in fact there have been many cases whereby street traders have lost their lives and property from motor accidents. When the governor of Oyo state, Gov. Seyi Makinde was presented with the issue, he said that he will not remove them until he has found a suitable alternative for them because he understands that if he orders their displacement, the traders will lose their source of income making them go hungry and leaving most to result to a life of crime as an alternative. This shows a government that puts the welfare of the people first before taking any action or making any decision or policy.
The ban of these commercial vehicles has made it almost impossible for people without automobiles to reach their destinations. Those who operate the banned vehicles appear to be the hardest hits of the ban, as their source of income have been stripped away by the state government’s policy. Those without cars are forced to walk several miles to reach their destination. Some people were of the opinion that the ban will restore sanity to Lagos roads and make motoring easier for car owners. Unfortunately car owners were also adversely affected by the ban. This is because many residents of the state with high profile jobs, who own cars, will prefer to park their vehicles at home and take an Okada to the office in order to beat the terrible Lagos traffic. Many working class individuals in Lagos own cars but they refuse to take their vehicles to work because of the traffic caused by the state’s growing problem of overpopulation. So what most working class individuals do is rely on these Keke and Okada to get to their destinations quicker because Okadas are able to manoeuvre themselves on a busy road thereby beating traffic. With the absence of these bikes and tricycles, the working class individuals will be forced to take their cars to work, adding to the worsening issue of traffic jams.
The advent of the ban is understandable because of the many deficit these vehicles have caused but a responsible government would have made plans to help, not just the commuters, but the vehicle operators who rely on their vocation as Okada or Keke Napep riders to cater for their families. Now that the ban has taken effect, without an alternative vocation to the riders, their families have been thrown into distress because the only source of income has been taken away by the ban. Stricter regulations and adoption of harsher punishment for violation of traffic rules would have been a better solution compared to an outright ban of these commercial vehicles. Because the advent of deterrents like extended jail time, or permanent seizure of commercial vehicles would help put a stop to their reckless movement that inevitably leads to motor accidents.