by Olumide Makanjuola
If you know Lagos State very well, you will understand how ridiculous and insensitive the state government has made itself look with the ‘okada’ restriction law on 475 roads
In the last few months, we heard rumor on plans by the Lagos State government to ban commercial motorcycle riders popularly called ‘okada’. For some reason, I thought it must have been the most expensive joke of all time, considering how the Lagos State governor used ‘okadas’ as a ‘street army’ during his election campaign last year. Apparently, those days are gone and forgotten by the governor.
I have asked myself many times what could have led to this ‘okada’ restriction move which is now obviously an ‘okada’ ban and I certainly can’t figure out any reasonable justification.
If you consider ‘okada’ accidents, it no big deal. Commercial buses do have accidents daily across the state. Instead of conducting a survey on how many ‘okada’ accidents happen in the state, the government should have carried out a survey on how accessible public transportation is, especially the alternatives to the ‘okada’ where there is any.
Such a survey would have revealed how grossly inadequate the alternatives to ‘okada’ are and revealed how ‘crazy’ a decision to ban ‘okada’ is. Mini-buses, ‘molues’, and BRT buses are inadequate, you don’t need a third eye to sense that fact.
I have also heard the shakiest of all arguments to defend the reckless decision to ban ‘okadas’ in the state. It goes, “Okadas are used to commit robbery.” Oh, yeah?! What about the one-chance robbers who use mini-buses to rob? What about the dare-devil robbers who use cars for their operations? Please let’s all be sincere. Let’s be true to self. That reason is not tenable.
If you know Lagos State very well, you will understand how ridiculous and insensitive the state government has made itself look with the ‘okada’ restriction on 475 roads.
I am stepping out of character here in saying that Lagos State has the smallest land mass among the Nigerian states and also the most populated in West Africa. Even with the “okadas” added to the buses, and the taxis – public transportation services are grossly inadequate.
It’s also instructive that most of the people who ‘passionately’ support the ‘okada’ ban also own car or cars and have no need to use public transportation services.
And the tone of the argument for the ‘okada’ ban is that they drive recklessly and are ‘foolish’. But, I have to ask, is there a more reckless group than the ‘danfo’ drivers? Lagos drivers, generally, are “crazy”, out of this world, if you may. Do we follow along this line to ban ‘danfo’ drivers and private drivers, indeed, all Lagos drivers?
I have carefully monitored how difficult it has been for people who find ‘okada’ as their primary means of transportation since this obnoxious law came into effect. I have observed the frustration of the masses of Lagos, and all I can say is that any attempt to be dismissal and justify this law is inconsiderate, heartless, and selfish, so is the state government. And sadly, it’s a reflection of all our governments in Nigeria – federal, states, and local governments.
Nigeria happens to be the only place where a government wakes up and makes laws that are disconnected with realities of the social system and inflict suffering directly on the people. Whoever crafted the ‘okada’ banning law (yes, it’s a ban and not a restriction, let’s stop fooling around with words) is mean and frankly, out of depth. In a state like Lagos, where the government has fallen short in providing social services, it behoves me that private citizens taking the initiative to provide a vital social service like transportation, affordable transportation for that matter would be “restricted” by the government from doing their business.
The Lagos State government cannot honestly say that they are not aware that the police, assisted by their own officials are arresting ‘okada’ riders everywhere they are seen.
However, I would like the government to consider some steps towards addressing the frustration it has landed its citizens in the last few days from this unjustifiable decision on ‘okada’ restriction.
- Allow ‘okadas’ to run their business during the peak periods (6am-10am and 4pm-9pm) when traffic is huge and buses are very limited especially on Mondays to Fridays.
- Create sensible traffic laws that will control and guide the usage of ‘okadas’ in the state.
- Carry out a survey to appraise how accessible the populace find the public transportation system and what they think the options are.
If the Lagos government would consider these three steps, we might at some point arrive at a solution in addressing the transportation crisis in the state.
Olumide Makanjuola (@O_Makanjuola) is a sexual reproductive health and right advocate with specific focus on MARPs population and marginalized groups.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.