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Lagos Okada Ban: This Okada Rider Has A Few Things To Say

Emmanuel Anjorin didn’t anticipate that his only means of income will be taken away from him as he cheered Happy New Year on the first of January with loved ones over their best Sunday meals in their most celebratory attires.

And so when the Lagos State Government announced that motorcycles and tricycles known locally as okada and keke NAPEP respectively will be banned as a means of public transport across 6 Local Government Areas, 9 Local Council Development Areas and 40 bridges in the state, a turgid panic descended on him.

A forty seven year old okada rider, who left his home in Kogi for Lagos twenty years ago with only the promise that in Lagos anybody could “make it.” After spending three years with his sister in the suburbs, he got a one bedroom apartment, got married and soon his three children followed.

It was a friend who first told him that he could make more money from riding okadas than he was making managing a local barber’s shop. After six months commuting passengers and successfully paying off the loan he took from his father-in-law to buy the motorcycle and buying a second one, Emmanuel closed down his saloon and became a full time okada rider.

“How will I feed my children? From morning till night I will just cut like two heads or three,” he said.

The timing could not have been worse. His marriage after 15 years was hanging on a thread. His children where almost out of school. 2020 was supposed to be his year but things are not looking up.

According to the government’s official Twitter account, the ban is in “consonance with the Lagos State Transport Reform Law of 2018.”

On the official Lagos State Government website, the government argues that the reform was put in place to “immediately address the chaos and disorderliness created by illegal operations of okada and tricycles riders in restricted areas.”

Since the okada ban from major roads took effect on the 1st of February -which includes motorcycle-hailing startups like ORide and GoKada- riders have had to move to smaller streets just to find work. With the riders who already only ply the inners streets, business has been bad.

“There are too many people now. It is hard to get passengers. Everybody is working on the road,” Emmanuel says.

But that is just half the problem. You see, the real money in the transportation business in general is on the expressway. On a really bad day, Emmanuel says that riders who ply the expressway make nothing less than 20,000 Naira. A friend of his who plies the express he tells me has two children at the University of Lagos who he sends money to regularly. Since the ban, he hasn’t been able to send them anything.

“They (motorcycle-hailing startups) have been discovered to be part of the problem they set out to solve. Their riders are involved in accidents and breaking road rules,” Lagos state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho told CNN about why the ban cuts across the start-ups as well.

GoKada disagrees. “For every 10,000 rides people have taken with GoKada there have been chances of only 2 incidents occurring,” the company having been in operation for two years declared on Twitter. Max.ng co-founder Adetayo Bamiduro, according to CNN, says that the company since established in 2015 has completed “more than 2 million trips without any deaths.”

The ban has plunged Lagosians into dire conditions to get their jobs done. A house aide who spent an hour trekking miles in the gated estates of Ikoyi on her way to the market. The clearing and forwarding agent who had to trek from terminal to terminals going about her job. The teller guy who didn’t get to the office until past 10am. The civil servant who now leaves her home in the dead of the night or will not make it to the office in time. The hashtag #OTrek has taken over social media.

The wails of Lagosians is not lost on the governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who has added 65 more buses to the Lagos Bus Services Ltd for major routes. But will these 65 buses carry the house aide in Ikoyi’s gated estates from her employer’s house to the market and back? Or take the clearing and forwarding agent from one terminal to the other while she does her job?

From the 3rd of February till today, Lagos has been plunged into the most hectic traffic situation in a long time and here is why.

Many commuters who will rather take an okada to work have had to resort to either driving which means more cars on the road and so more traffic, or take the public transport like many others which also means longer queues for bus which translates to getting to the office late.

It will take more than 65 buses to save Lagos from the state of unrest and chaos that the ban has brought. While it is no secret that many lives have been lost to the negligence of okada and tricycles riders in the city, the banning of every single form of okada and tricycle from these strategic places is too harsh for families like Emmanuel’s to navigate.

“They can tell us to use helmet then”, Emmanuel argues.

But helmets have been used by the motorcycle-hailing startups who were also affected by the ban.
Some have argued that criminals snatch pedestrian bags from okadas and many people have been robbed on keke NAPEP. Emmanuel sees things differently.

“That is a security problem. With or without okadas in Lagos, security is still a major factor in the city that should be addressed.”

Yes, Lagosians want Lagos to be the proposed mega city, but Lagosians also want to be able to pay their children’s fees, and get to the office on time and not have to trek miles that can be averted. Will Emmanuel go back to cutting hair?

“How much will I make? We make more money from working on the express. There is no going back.”

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