Lagos Okada Ban: These Lagosians Are Not Having It
Though it was on the website and official Twitter account of the Lagos State Government, Sally didn’t believe that okada and keke NAPEP had been banned from major routes in Lagos. “I was in doubt at first until Monday, two days after the ban was implemented,” she says. It all started like a light bulb switch came on and suddenly she had the perfect plan. She rearranged her schedule as a digital marketer and influencer relations executive and strategized. It was simple: crash the Lagos State marathon.
On the 8th of February, as the Lagos City Marathon held, Sally gathered a few friends, who gathered their friends and matched to Eko Atlantic where the marathon was taking place with placards and the movement #OccupyLagos was born. “YOU DO NOT BUILD A MEGACITY BY HIDING THE POOR,” read one. “WILL THE FERRIES COME TO MY STREET?” another.
“It felt good taking advantage of the international exposure of the event and its part of the reasons why it got the maximum attention it did,” Sally says.
This is not the first time that the Lagos State Government will ban okadas from major roads in Lagos. Babatunde Raji Fashola, who now serves as the Federal Minister of Works and Housing, issued an okada ban as governor of the state. But this time, Lagosians are not having it. “Many (Lagosians) are angry because our population has increased, traffic has gotten worse and the ban was implemented without providing an immediate alternative,” Sally laments. The last time the ban happened keke was not affected. But now it’s a different story. “Lagosians are angry not because they were taken off the street, but because no alternatives have been provided and no jobs have been made available to accommodate the drivers,” Olorunrinu Oguala, a chemist and media strategist, who took part in the protest says.
“Early in the morning you meet a large crowd at the bus-stop. You see struggle, you see fight. In the afternoon and evening the story is the same. The traffic is now horrendous.”
It was terrible. There were, and still are, hikes in bus prices. No alternatives to how you can move short distances. Old, small and young were trekking,” Olorunrinu recounts her experience on the first Monday after the ban.
Ladi Ogunseye who runs development and growth at FinTech didn’t see the ban coming. He, like many others in the city, just expected plans to have been made prior to the announcement. But the “deal-breaker” for him was after two of his colleagues couldn’t get home until 12 midnight. He reached out to like minds and joined the movement.
Of course, the protest wasn’t rosy. As they took to the streets with their placards, the police was out to micromanage them and make sure visiting runners on the marathon saw a specific side of Lagos. “The police pushed us a couple of times. They told us where to stand, what to say and what not to say. There was a policeman who was unnecessarily aggressive towards us and even insinuated we would be arrested after the protest,” Ladi says.
But by the time they were done with the protest, they had achieved their aim. Their hashtag #OccupyLagos was trending on social media. Sally and many other Nigerians are tired of the laws that they do not gaslight. “We need to be seen and heard. We got tired of adjusting and suffering. Jobs and means of livelihood have been taken away from people,” she adds.
The #OccupyLagos protest was more about the impact than the numbers. A little over twenty of them took to the streets with placards but the impact was massive. “We had about 20-25 people and the energy was outstanding. We all stood our ground peacefully and got the attention we wanted.”
In many GRAs and estates in Lagos, regardless of how long the streets are, okada and keke NAPEP have been banned for a long time. Visitors and residents alike who are not mobile will have to walk to their destinations from the gate. Many CDA and estate management associations argue that they have banned okadas to curb the rate of theft within these estates. But Olorunrinu sees things differently. “Okada riders engaging in theft is a security issue and has nothing to do with the okada transport. Private cars engage in kidnapping and theft with their cars, are we going to take private cars off the road?” she agitates.
Sally is not done taking to the streets to fight for what she believes in. “You just need people who share the same passion to see things better, some money, connections, security and God.”