Although the ban is admirable, but the government must address the issues it raises.
About 100 motorcyclists stormed a residential estate in Abuja’s Lokogoma neighbourhood last Sunday, tearing down the gate and torching two buildings. The man who allegedly knocked down two of his colleagues and escaped into the estate would have been slain if a squad of police officers and the army had not gone to his rescue. David Sunday, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. On the 12th of May in the Admiralty district of Lekki, Lagos, a mob of commercial motorbike operators known as ‘Okada’ descended on the sound engineer over a N100 argument and meted out mob justice: they beat him until he was unconscious, doused him in fuel, and set him on fire.
The Lagos State administration put a new ban on ‘Okada’ activities in the state as a prompt response to the resort to lawlessness. Motorcyclists will no longer be permitted to operate in six local government units in the state as of today. The administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, however, has made a choice that is not new. It’s simply a reaffirmation of previous limits imposed on ‘Keke’ motorbikes and tricycles in order to put the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 into effect. The state government banned motorcyclists and ‘Keke’ riders from operating in numerous local governments and on ten main highways across the state in February 2020. Following the incident, security personnel began enforcing the law to the fullest extent possible. The goal back then, as it is now, was to deal with the confusion and unrest caused by illegal ‘Okada’ and trike riders operating in limited areas.
Commercial motorcycle riders have evolved into a threat over the years, disrupting the peace, order, safety, and security of ordinary individuals. As they did to David in Lekki, many of the motorcyclists act as if they are the law and are quick to organise and pounce on other road users at any given time. They appear to follow the Mafia code of vengeance, in which any perceived grievance by one is usually met with vengeance by all. Many Nigerians have been slain in the process.
The ban in Lagos was largely effective at first. However, the government has faced challenges in maintaining the policy, including public outcry over a lack of public transportation options and complaints from operators who say their livelihood is being harmed. Most individuals think that the government’s motivation is admirable and that there is a need for a rigorous control mechanism over ‘Okada’ riders’ activity.
Gbenga Omotoso, the Lagos Commissioner for Information and Strategy, reaffirmed this when he revealed the number of fatal accidents caused by ‘Okada’ and tricycle operations in the state between 2016 and 2019: over 10,000 accidents were recorded at General Hospitals alone, resulting in over 600 deaths. Unreported cases and those recorded by private hospitals are not included in this figure. Furthermore, the number of crimes aided by ‘Okada’ is supposedly on the rise, since these outlaws use them as a means of escape
However, important questions remain: What guarantees are there that the government would have the courage to implement the current ban, especially with elections looming? What are the options for the throngs of unemployed people who turn to riding motorcycles to get by? What modes of transportation are available to commuters, especially those who live in remote locations with no motorable roads? The government had previously created ‘First and Last Mile (FLM)’ buses as an alternate mode of transportation to ply ‘interior’ roads, but these had largely fizzled out. How will individuals be able to go around?