Commercial cyclists ban: Residents lament job losses, ineffective alternatives
Baba Funmi, a middle-aged commercial motorcyclist has three daughters two of whom are in tertiary institutions, while the third is in secondary school.
When his main business started failing, he gathered what was left of it and procured an 18-seater, diesel-powered bus, which he put to commercial use. This was at a time when the price of diesel was lower than that of petrol.
A couple of years down the line, the reverse became the case, and the price of diesel hit the rooftop. After struggling to break even with the rising cost of diesel, but without success, Baba Funmi parked his bus and resorted to the use of his Baja brand of motorcycle for commercial purposes.
As the price of diesel continued its upward movement, he stuck with his bike to feed his family and pay school fees.
But he is presently jolted and utterly confused with the ban on the operations of commercial motorcycles in Mushin Local Council. Days after the ban came into effect, he is still yet to come to terms with the next step to take.
Mrs. Yemisi Akinyelure resides along Olusoga Street, a less than 10-minute bike ride from Bello Street, where three of her children attend school.
Her husband leaves home for work at 6 am hence she does the school runs all by herself. With only two weeks of schools’ resumption down the line since commercial motorcycles were banned in her local council, she said she has never suffered this much ferrying the kids to and from school as she has in the last five days.
“Before now, I spend N400 daily for both legs of the trip, now there are no bikes and the tri-cyclists, which some of my neighbours were using for the same purpose “have even increased their charges for a return trip. While some of them are now asking for N400 for a drop, others insist on N500. At the end of the day, I spend between N800 and N1, 000 conveying my kids to and from school daily. Last Wednesday, we trekked to school since the tri-cyclists were scarce and the few out were there asking for over N500 for a drop.
“I just don’t know for how long this will go on, or even how sustainable the development would be the way that we are going. This is one of the occasions that I am forced to say that government is always working against the interest of the poor, and in the interest of the rich,” she alleged, adding that the government has grossly failed in the alternatives that were promised to cushion the effect of commercial motorcyclists’ ban in the local council,” she said.
Besides the sufferings currently experienced by both the commuting public and commercial motorcyclists, Omowunmi Temilade thinks that the state government should learn to find suitable alternatives for citizens when it comes up with policies and programmes that disrupt, or cause the citizenry pains and dislocation.
“I’m saying so because the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), LAGRIDE, first and last miles buses all combined do not provide the volume of services that commercial motorcyclists provide to residents of the state daily.
“As far as I’m concerned, claims that the rate of criminality and accidents has reduced since the operations of the commercial cyclists were stopped, does not add up because no one, apart from the government has been able to authenticate. So, how do you throw thousands of people out of legitimate “employment,” which you did not create,” she questioned.
The entrepreneur tasked the government to urgently retrain and engage affected cyclists to curb rising unemployment or expand ongoing transportation schemes using affected riders as operators.
A resident, Esther Kalu, who spoke in support of Temilade, said that even though the ban was aimed at reducing accidents and criminality, it is not worth the trouble, especially because a greater majority of residents are at the receiving end.
“There is no effective Plan B for residents to go about their duties seamlessly. This past week has been crazy for those who work far from home, and who in the process of getting to their offices, have to resort to the use of commercial bikes. Now, I have to walk long distances to get a bus because I stay on one of the inner streets of Ketu, and the stress is not helping.
“I usually take a motorbike to the secretariat, from Ikosi Ketu to work. In doing so, I get to work in 10 minutes. Also, while coming back home, the bike drops me right at my gate, but not anymore. Due to the ban, I have to wait endlessly to get a bus to the secretariat. Another challenge is that the tricycle I often board home drops me off at the bus stop, from where I will still have to walk for five minutes before getting home.
“If the government provides better alternative transportation means, I guess, it would reduce the stress that Lagosians are presently going through.”
The lamentation of some residents of the state, as gleaned from the submissions above, is simply indicative of the fact that the government’s action in this regard has serious negative implications on their wellbeing.
Three months after Lagos State initially banned the activities of commercial motorcyclists in six local councils, and local council development Areas (LCDAs), it recently extended the ban to additional four local councils and LCDAs.
It premised the extension on the successes recorded from the initial six councils/LCDAs saying it has helped to curb crime and motorcycle-related accidents.
In May this year, the state government imposed a ban on commercial motorcyclists on all highways and across six local councils and nine LCDAs effective June 1, 2022.
On August 18, 2022, it extended the ban to four more local councils and six LCDAs effective September 1.
The additional councils 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.
The Commissioner for Transport, Frederic Oladehinde, who rationalised the state government action, equally claimed that various interventions have been put in place to ease the inconveniences that the development might bring to the people.
He warned against breaching the Lagos State Traffic Law, stressing that both the rider and passenger would be penalised.
The commissioner also said that Okada ban in the affected areas was in the right direction and that the government was committed to ensuring total enforcement as it had provided alternative means of transportation, which include the Bus Rapid Transit, LAGRIDE, and First and Last Miles buses.
Justifying the extension of the ban, Oladehinde said that accidents and fatalities involving commercial bikers had reduced by 63.7 per cent across the 15 local councils and LCDAs where the first phase of the ban was enforced, adding that the development also significantly brought down the rate of crimes associated with motorcycles.
He said: “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.
“Based on the apparent positive impact of the ban and the resolution of the Stakeholders’ Forum, Mr. Governor has approved the ban of Okada in another four LGAs and their respective five LCDAs for the second phase of the total ban, in addition to the ongoing ban in the six LGAs and their respective LCDAs.”
The state government advised residents to embrace alternative means of transportation for their trips across the state, noting that the state had provided safe and sustainable transport schemes, as well as an e-hailing taxi scheme, and other acceptable means of transport for the safety of commuters.
He further alleged that the state government had interventions in place to empower the affected riders as an alternative means of livelihood, urging them to embrace the intervention programmes that are being coordinated by six government ministries, and the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF).
He said: “It is important to reiterate the state government’s commitment to the safety, security of lives and properties in the state. In exercising this, any motorcycle impounded will be crushed and the process will be made public.
“Both riders and passengers arrested on proscribed routes will be made to face the full wrath of the law in line with the provision of Section 46, sub-section 1, 2 & 3 of the Transport Sector Reform Law (TSRL), 2018.”
As the government continues to celebrate “the successes” of the initiative, residents, who are hit by the effects of the ban are still livid.
Another resident, Chris Irekamba, described as hellish, his experience on September 1 when the fresh round of ban kicked in in new local councils.
He said: “On my way to Ikeja for official duty, I alighted at Balogun Bus Stop. Since I was not familiar with the street that I was heading to, I began my search for commercial motorcyclists, tri-cyclists, or a bus that would take me to my final destination, but there was none. If it was in the past, okada riders would come in handy because they are very conversant with every neighbourhood. So, in their absence, I trekked for kilometres while making inquiries.
“Also, in Mofoluku where I reside, transporters now charge a flat rate to Oshodi Bus Stop, whether you are alighting on the way or not. This was never the case before the ban was extended.
Also speaking, Bemigho Awala, a public relations consultant, said that the ban has come with unpleasant consequences.
He stated that one of the positives is the fact that the roads, especially the inner ones have become a bit sane, but with hordes of people spending longer hours at bus stops waiting to hop on buses or tricycles.
After watching government representatives speak on the provision of more buses for the inner roads, another resident, John Adebiyi said: “I have observed keenly that in most places the buses are not available, and where they are available, the number is too small to meet the need the peoples’ demand. The ban is not well placed if the state government bothers about the plight of residents.”