Residents fume as Okada ban extension exacerbates anguish
With millions of Lagos residents still suffering the consequence of the total ban on the operations of commercial motorcycle operators in some local councils, penultimate Thursday’s extension of the ban to more local councils slaps differently.
On August 18, 2022, the state government extended the ban on the operation of commercial motorcycles popularly called Okada to four more local councils and six local council development areas (LCDAs).
The additional councils where the total Okada ban will be enforced from September 1, 2022, now in force are Kosofe Local Council, Ikosi-Isherri LCDA; Agboyi-Ketu LCDA; Oshodi-Isolo Local Government; Isolo LCDA; Shomolu Local Council; Bariga LCDA, Mushin Local Council, and Odi-Olowo LCDA.
In May, the state government imposed a fresh ban on commercial motorcyclists, stressing that the ban would be “total” on all highways across six local councils and nine LCDAs effective June 1, 2022.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who spoke at a meeting with the commissioner of police, area commanders, and divisional police officers (DPOs), directed security operatives to enforce the proscription order across Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Surulere, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, and Apapa local councils.
The latest ban, some residents insist, would succeed in worsening their plight, as they attempt to commute across the state, especially as the state government only paid lip service to the first and last-mile transportation, which it promised.
One of those affected by the government’s recent action is Kemi Adebola, who resides on the mainland, but works on the island for the last six years.
After the Apongbon Section of the Eko Bridge got burnt, accessing Lagos Island became an arduous task for motorists and commuters.
Consequently, connecting Lagos Island by motor vehicles, which was always a smooth experience became problematic (no thanks to long and chaotic traffic) hence she and some of her colleagues resorted to patronising commercial motorcycle operators.
As they thanked their stars for the commercial motorcyclists’ option, despite the numerous risks involved, the state government banned commercial motorcycles from the Island.
Now, Adebola makes it to Lagos Island by first heading to the Flour Mill area of Apapa, from Mile 2 to get a boat ride.
She is petrified that she and many others would have been spared the pains of connecting the island the way that they now do if the government was considerate.
According to her, if the Idumota Bridge and Nmandi Azikwe Road were free of traders and transporters who have turned the area into a trading centre and motor park respectively, the route would have been a good alternative to connect the Island easily.
She lamented that the government has remained insensitive to the plight of road users plying the route as alternative routes were either not motorable, or were partially blocked due to human activities.
Adebola is equally peeved that the state government, which has not done enough to cushion the impact of the earlier ban is extending the ban to more council areas and LCDAs.
With this latest development, the ban on commercial motorcycle operation is now effective in 10 local councils and 15 LCDAs.
Pronouncing the latest ban, on behalf of Sanwo-Olu, the Commissioner for Transport, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, said having critically reviewed the achievements and challenges encountered so far, the state government identified the need to engage the general public in a Stakeholders Forum tagged “Okada Ban: What Next,” which was held on Tuesday, August 16, 2022.
He added that during the stakeholders’ forum, issues relating to the ban and of course the impact of Okada operations on the lingering security challenges bedevilling the nation at large were discussed, and the major resolution reached by the forum was a state-wide ban on Okada Operations.
“So, the Ministry in conjunction with the inter-ministerial committee on Okada having critically accessed these resolutions, and the challenges of Okada operations on the security architecture of the state; recommended to Mr. Governor not to go back on the already laid down phased ban in a bid to sustain the gains.”
The latest ban on commercial motorcyclists by the state government is the third ban by the Sanwo-Olu administration and the sixth since the return to democracy in 1999.
For instance, in January 2007, Bola Ahmed Tinubu banned commercial motorcycles from operating within the state.
His successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, March 2012, also prohibited the use of motorcycles for public transportation in the state, the same way that the immediate past governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode did in November 2017.
Sanwo-Olu also toed the same line on January 27, 2020, with the effective date for the exercise being February 1, 2020.
The 2020 ban was ineffective. This explains why commercial motorcyclists were only off the road for days before returning to the roads.
Although the May 2022 ban has achieved an appreciable level of success, especially as a result of the prosecution of both defaulting riders and passengers, many commercial motorcyclists are still operating even in the areas where their activities are banned.
Providing the impetus for the latest ban, the transport commissioner said that the state government has received empirical reports from the Ministry of Health, Lagos State Health Service Commission, and the Lagos State Police Command on accidents and crime rates to analyse the impact of the ban on safety and security before, and during the ban within the affected areas of the state.
He said: “A report from Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) confirms that accident rate as it relates to commercial motorcycles has reduced by 4 per cent; (i.e 68 accident cases were recorded in June 2022 as against 74 recorded in May); Report from the Ministry of Health confirms that accident rate as it relates to commercial motorcycles has reduced 63.5 per cent in all general hospital across the state (i.e 176 accident cases were reported in June as against 277 recorded cases in May).
“It is also important to mention that the restricted corridors (i.e Apapa, Lagos Island, Yaba, Surulere, Ikeja) recorded significantly low accident reports, which indicates that the restriction is achieving its objectives (i.e accident record in June is 18 as against 91 recorded in May.
“Report from the Commissioner of Police confirms as follows: Crime Rate: 14 crime cases were recorded in June as against 20 in May while crime cases as at 15th July as against 14 in June.
“Accident Rate: 23 accident cases were recorded in June as against 37 while two cases of the accident as at 15th July as against 23 in June.”
Oladeinde maintained that the data shows that the operation has significant gains and compliance rate in the concerned areas as available records show that crime and accident rate has reduced astronomically by 86 per cent and 63.7 per cent respectively within the period under review, and a total of 7, 500 motorcycles have been impounded and crushed accordingly, hence, the need to sustain this achievement.
While the government revels in the success of the ban, residents are in pain as transport fare has increased sharply.
For instance, commercial buses plying Mile 2 to CMS have increased their fares by nearly 200 per cent (depending on the time of the day). Some residents along this route decried the government’s failure to ensure that BRT buses commence operations along that route, in line with its promise.
The ferry service from Mile 2 to CMS has been down for many months now and has not commenced operation even after the ban. This is just as traffic management on the route is poor.
Surprisingly, the state government, through the Lagos State Ferry Services (LAGFERRY) claimed that it had deployed more boats for ferry services from Mile 2 to CMS ahead of the June 1 ban date. This was also repeated on August 18, 2022 briefing.
Ironically, the Mile 2-CMS corridor was not considered given its capacity to foster easy movement into Lagos Island, considering the hectic traffic on the route occasioned by the partial closure of the Eko Bridge.
For Bemigho Awala, a public relations consultant, the state government should have allowed some more time to make a declarative value judgment in terms of how successful the initial stage of the ban has been.
“Be that has it may, the ban in May 2022, while it has brought some form of sanity, has also created pinpoint for a lot of commuters, because residents now get home late at night due to the chaotic traffic situation in the city. And this is because they were unable to access the Last Mile solutions to their homes.
“So, you see people trekking at very strange hours to get to their final destinations. For example, most operators of the Last Mile services would have shut down by 7 or 8 pm. Even BRT services sometimes close by 8pm, so you begin to wonder when the government says ‘we have given you BRT, Lagride, First and Last Mile solutions. These solutions are good, but are not very holistic.”
“Okada ban is not the solution to the problems that we have in society. We have missed the opportunity to digitise the system to reform our transportation network. The question is, can we not digitise to know who these operators are? Let us provide technology for them so that we are better able to monitor their movement and productivity. I feel it is a missed opportunity.
“Some people argue that a city of the status of Lagos does not deserve okada, but the truth is that they have filled a gap in the market. So, do we then throw away the baby with the bathwater? No. I think the government needs to rethink and ponder over the use of technology to better trace operators and get them to conduct themselves well.
“I also feel that the buses are grossly inadequate to cater to the transportation needs of the state. I stay in the Agboyi-Ketu area of the state, and I am beginning to brace up to where trekking would become the only option when I’m not out with my car.”
Cordelia Jesugo Adetunji, who works at Ikoyi, said that because of the ban, “I had to re-adjust my schedule ahead of the effective date to see what I can do to get to my office before 8 am. Leaving my house at Abule-Ado in Festac Phase 2, to Ikoyi, where my office is located, I have to wake up before 6 am. Doing this affects my sleeping pattern, and by extension, my health.”