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Travails of residents, investors amidst Okada ban in Lagos

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SANDRA, an accountancy student of Yabatech secured employment as a motorcycle rider to fend for her siblings and save up for her Higher National Diploma, but now she’s about to lose her job.

Evidently, in her early 20s, Sandra is a motorcycle rider with a commercial and digital motorcycle company in Lagos, Gokada, a choice she said she made because there are no good jobs in the country.

She said she needed to save up for her Higher National Diploma, and that her love for education despite the unavailability of funds lured her into riding Okada.

She also said she couldn’t consider prostitution as an alternative.

“I can’t sell my body out there, that is why I’m doing this job. There is nothing we can do again if the government takes this job away from us,” she lamented in a viral interview.

As Sandra pleaded to the state government, she said there are other women, especially single parents who raise their kids by operating Okada taxi.

But all of them now face the threat of unemployment if the ban on Keke and Okada persists.

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For some other people, the ban means missing job interviews, getting stuck in Lagos gridlock, or trecking long distances to work among other difficulties.

Lagosians wished the day would never come, but on Saturday 1st February, it happened.

 

While some took to the streets to protest the restriction, any more took to social media to register their displeasure over the ban.

In a series of tweets on Monday, many slammed the governor on what they consider to be the fastest and most efficient mode of transportation in a densely populated metropolis, without providing an alternative.

Describing the effect of the ban, a social media user said: “this morning, if you see people at the bus stop, you’d wonder where they’ve been all this while, you’d see people running after bus and jumping inside the bus, you’d see people trekking and you’d see conductors inflating prices unnecessarily”.

Omotomilola Arawomo, a customer service representative who lives in Iwaya Yaba while expressing her trouble to The ICIR said she spends N100 to get to her place of work in Sabo Yaba but due to the ban, she was forced to book UBER, a digital commercial vehicle and was charged N400 as fare to get to her place of work on Monday morning.

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“The major/only transportation to my location is Keke/bike, imagine my experience!” she decried the ban.

 

Fatimah Abdulkareem, a Corp member posted to Lagos state from Zaria, said she has been subjected to gruesome stress and has to pay more and wait longer to get to her destination owing to the massive traffic congestion worsened by the restriction.

“Just when I thought the government had increased my allowance and I’ll have more money to do other things, I didn’t know I will have to spend more on transportation to my place of primary assignment,” she told The ICIR reporter.

 

A Failed Promise

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The governor of Lagos state, Babjide Sanwo-Olu in October 2019 had promised to ‘regulate’ Okada in the city housing about 24 million people.

He said this was needed so that all Okadas in the state could be well accounted for and none of the Lagosians would be left behind in his plan.

 

Riders of Max NG protesting in Lagos

“Part of the things we are going to be doing is not to leave anybody behind but people are currently using a system that works for them, you see some Okada riders that are branded, some are using smart pays, we are trying to harmonize all of them and come up with a regulation system where we can account for every Okada rider,” the governor promised.

Speaking on the use of digitalization in operation of commercial motorcycles, he said ‘in fact the solutions that some of them are bringing, they can actually disenable those Okada remotely but it’s just something we need to think very well so that some people will not be disenfranchised as much as possible give everyone the opportunity to play and to play well’..

https://twitter.com/OlaseniOladejo/status/1223951326343811072?s=20

The aftermath of the ban

A video went viral on social media when primary school pupils were seen hanging at the back of a truck, while some women yelled at the background appealing to the governor to resolve the matter.

Some, while countering the effect of the ban argued that Keke and Okadas are not the major factors responsible for heavy traffic on Lagos roads rather the Danfo buss are the major cause of traffic in the state.

Violence erupts

Not satisfied with the restriction, Okada and Keke riders stormed the streets of Lagos to protest the ban, resulting in chaos between the riders and men of the police force who were trying to disperse the protesters.

While they protest on Tuesday, they threw stones at some commercial buses around Ijora axis of the state on Monday.

According to reports, two persons were allegedly hit by stray bullets from the police and many others injured.

It was also reported that some of the protesters in another part of the city embarked on a protest that eventually became a riot as they lit a bonfire resulting in disruption of businesses, peace, and order of the state.

On Wednesday, an eye witness report confirmed that another crisis occurred when the task force team set up to implement the policy were seizing Keke and Okada from riders at Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos.

https://twitter.com/VolqxA/status/1224993864970317824?s=20

 

Money down the drain

The ban on Okada and Keke in the state might end up being the end of some digital commercial motorcycle taxi owners in Lagos such as Gokada, OPay, and Max ng.

The Co-Founder of Metro Africa Xpress (Max ng), a Nigerian Bamidele Adetayo said he had invested N5 billion naira into his business in Lagos state before the restriction.

If the ban is not released then he might end up losing all his investments as it means the end of business for his company. Max ng currently boasts of over 1000 drivers in Nigeria.

Gokada founded in 2019 by a foreign investor, Fahim Saleh, and a Nigerian, Deji Oduntan are also affected. According to  reports, the company has laid off 80 percent of its workers.

Confirming the financial situation of the company, Saleh said that the company was due to make a profit in January before the restriction came up.

What the State Authority is saying and doing

The state government believes the decision is necessary because the motorcycles and tricycles have done more harm than good to the residents of the state. Supporting the government’s claim one Odogwu Ogbete said the government has done right to have placed the restriction because of the way they operate.

Ogbete wrote ‘ I defend and support the ban on Okada and Keke and would definitely ban them if I were a governor. Their suicidal instincts and total lack of concern even for their own safety horrifies me. However, states who ban them must find an alternative. Imo under Rochas did a good job of it’.

In a report by The ICIR, the state commissioner for Information and strategy, Gbenga Omotoso said Okada has been a tool for robbery in the state and has been a major factor contributing to road accidents in the state, a claim corroborated by

According to the commissioner, ‘Okada is a symbol of poverty’.

The commissioner’s perspective differs from the view of many ‘Lagosians’ who took to social media to slam the decision of the government as being ‘anti-people’.

The government announced it would be making available 65 buses & 14 new ferries to fill the voids that may have been left open by the restrictions.

The announcement, Joe Abah, a social commentator argued should have been made before the restriction, he wrote on his timeline, “With the Lagos #OkadaBan, we appear, as usual, to have gone for the option that involved the least thought & planning from a public policy perspective. If you are introducing 65 buses & 14 new ferries from tomorrow, introduce them first and watch it work before announcing a ban”.

On Wednesday morning, the government made good of its promise to provide 14 ferries to aid transportation in the state.

During the inauguration of the ferries, he insisted that his government will not back down on the Okada and Keke ban.

As at the time of filing this report, many social media users in over 12 thousand tweets are still lamenting the bad situation of transportation in Lagos because many are forced to walk to their destinations as the hashtag #LagosIsWalking continues to trend on Twitter.

Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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