After the squabble that ensued for large parts of the previous year, anyone can see the cracks in the relationship between the Lagos State Government (LASG) and bike-hailing companies operating in the state. It’s a checkered arrangement.
After last year’s bickering over crazy daily levies and insane licensing fees, as well as confiscation of hundreds of motorcycles, the latest concern is about the fact that the government of Nigeria’s most productive state appears to be clamping down on the use of commercial motorcycles (popularly called Okada) and tricycles (better known as Keke) in certain areas.
A statement put out via the official Twitter handle of the state government on Friday, January 17, suggested that Okada riders are now prohibited from plying certain routes, as part of safety efforts.
“LASG has commenced the installation of 2,000 prohibition signs across the metropolis, in a renewed effort towards creating awareness on the Lagos State Traffic Laws on restricted areas for the operation of motorcycles and tricycles,” the statement reads.
LASG has commenced the installation of 2,000 prohibition signs across the metropolis, in a renewed effort towards creating awareness on the Lagos State Traffic Laws on restricted areas for the operation of motorcycles and tricycles @jidesanwoolu #LASG #ForAGreaterLagos pic.twitter.com/bn5BPlFoqc
— The Lagos State Govt (@followlasg) January 17, 2020
“The Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, disclosed that a good number of the road signs indicate restricted areas, warning that anyone that violates the law after this effort would be punished in accordance with the law.”
According to the statement, the road signs prohibiting Okada operators have been mounted on major highways including the Third Mainland Bridge, Agege Motor Road, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. This is in order to create awareness on restricted routes for Okadas and tricycles as prescribed by the State Government.
In addition, Dr. Oladeinde was quoted as saying that motorcycle and tricycle operations remain restricted on highways and bridges in all the Local Government Areas including Apapa, Ikeja, Ikoyi, Surulere, Eti-Osa, and Lagos Island.
Of course, the directive restricting Okada riders from plying major highways and bridges is a necessary one — it’s too risky for two-wheelers to be jostling for right-of-way with 24-wheel monster trucks in full speed anyway. But no sooner had the new directive been communicated than the hashtag #NoToBikeBan began trending on Twitter.
Why has the government chosen policies to make citizens miserable? Bikes help people get to their destination fast. Maxng and Oride make life easier for a lot of people. Government should reconsider please.#NoToBikeBan
— IYAWO THINNA BODY??? (@Lois_Aniefiok) January 20, 2020
Lagos policies could be so frustrating, why would they make policies to frustrate citizens? High rate of traffic and bad roads should be their primary policies not frustrating lives, MaxNG helps citizens beat traffic and get to thier destination faster #NoToBikeBan
— D É M Á Y Ó (@la_kunma) January 20, 2020
There were scores of people lamenting the move as one that would foment hardship. Some others accused the authorities of using ‘soft power’ to slowly and systematically kick motorcycles and tricycles off Lagos roads, even as nothing practical is being done to solve the lingering commute problems in the state.
Sanwo-olu wants to ban motorcycles and tricycles on all major roads in Lagos. It is one thing to make them adhere strictly to traffic laws, it is another thing to foolishly ban them. They are not responsible for the deplorable state of Lagos roads, ?#NoToBikeBan
— LORD Adérẹ̀mí PhD (UI Affidavit) (@Xklusive_ATM) January 20, 2020
Is the bike ban by Lagos state govt affecting you yet? #NoToBikeBan
— Anda (@lazywritaNG) January 20, 2020
Lagos, with all of its 17 million inhabitants squeezed into a land area of a mere 110 square-kilometres, is often the scene of some of the world’s most crippling traffic congestions due to its less-than-efficient road network.
To get around the daily car logjam, motorcycles and tricycles often come in handy as faster ways of getting around and staying productive. But Okada can be just as much of a lifesaver as it can be a ‘lifetaker’. And that’s part of why bike-hailing/tricycle-hailing services came into existence.
Motorbikes have been used as a mode of road transport in Nigeria for several decades; one of the many “individual-spawn fixes” of the many failings of governments past and present. However, all those years, the informal, haphazard nature of the service meant that lives were put at risk and service delivery was poor.
It was only a few years ago that MAX.ng decided to improve the system by rolling out the first app-based motorbike taxi service in not only Nigeria but the whole of West Africa.
By introducing technology and equipping riders with the appropriate training and gear while making them part of a corporate arrangement, the startup formalised the system and gave Okada a new meaning.
After MAX.ng came GoKada, EasyMobility, ORide, and others in Nigeria — all of these companies providing employment for thousands and bringing nobility to the Okada business which was once passed off as something reserved for uncouth individuals and hooligans with little regard for safety and customer satisfaction.
There’s a feeling that the prohibition of motorcycles and tricycles from plying some of the more popular routes in Lagos would undermine the bike-hailing startups, though MAX.ng which currently operates a bike-hailing and tricycle-hailing service maintains that all still seems normal.
When asked about how the ‘ban’ on Okada and Keke may affect their business, a representative of MAX.ng told WeeTracker in an emailed response that official confirmation is yet to be gotten.
“There hasn’t been any official communication in that regard. While the government has embarked on a strong citizen education about the importance of safety and security while using tricycles and motorcycles in Lagos, we aren’t aware of a ban,” said the MAX.ng representative.
“As a matter of fact, under the Transportation Hailing Alliance of Nigeria (THAN), which we are a member of, we have also commenced a public enlightenment campaign on the importance of safety targeted at Lagosians.
“Other than the fact that the rumour of a ban surfaced and our customers reached out to us for clarification, and if we were affected, we haven’t seen any impact. For those who reached out, we reassured them of the fact that we were compliant with the legal requirement of the 200cc upwards, and as such, they could count on us to continue to deliver uninterrupted service to them.”