By January 28, 2020

“Gov’t Has Disrupted The Disruption!” – ORide, MAX.ng, Gokada To Rethink Business Or Perish After Blanket Ban On Okada/Keke In Lagos

By January 28, 2020

Barely a week after a representative of Metro Africa Xpress (MAX.ng), the company that pioneered bike-hailing in West Africa — told WeeTracker that its services were unaffected by an initial restriction placed by the Lagos State Government on the use of Okada and Keke in parts of the state, it appears things have changed, and not in the good way.

In a development that is sure to spoil the broth for bike-hailing/tricycle-hailing companies operating in Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos, a total ban has been placed on the use of Okada and Keke in key areas of the state by the state government.

The Lagos State Government has directed security operatives to embark on total enforcement of the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 on the affected six Local Government Areas (LGAs), nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and 10 major highways across the State with effect from February 1.

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, who made the announcement at the State House in Alausa on Monday, said the measures were taken by the Government in response to “scary figures” of fatal accidents — up to 10,000 accidents and over 600 fatalities — recorded from operations of Okada and Keke in the State between 2016 and 2019.

According to the Commissioner, operations of Okada and Keke NAPEP have been banned in the following LGAs and LCDAs: Apapa LGA, Apapa Iganmu LCDA, Lagos Mainland LGA, Yaba LCDA, Surulere LGA, Itire-Ikate LCDA, and Coker-Aguda LCDA.

Others are Ikeja LGA, Onigbongbo, LCDA, Ojodu LCDA, Eti-Osa LGA, Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA, and Iru-Victoria Island LCDA, Lagos Island LGA, and Lagos Island East LCDA.

Among the 15 Local Governments and Local Council Development Centres affected are Apapa, Apapa Iganmu, Lagos Mainland, Yaba, Surulere, Itire Ikate, Coker Aguda, Eti-Osa, Lagos Island, Ikeja, Onigbongo, Ojodu, Ikoyi-Obalende, Iru Ikoyi-Obalande, and Lagos Island East.

The commissioner also mentioned crime-fighting as another motivation for the ban, citing increasing cases of motorcycles and tricycles being used to facilitate various kinds of nefarious activities within the state.

The blanket ban, which also effectively tanks the services of ride-hailing startups like MAX.ng, Gokada, and MAX.ng, is being perceived, more than anything else, as the latest in a series of moves by the state government to systematically take transport-hailing companies out of business and increase the hardship that it is supposedly trying to reduce.

After the squabble that ensued for large parts of the previous year, anyone can see the cracks in the relationship between the state government and bike-hailing companies operating in the state. It’s a fragile arrangement.

After last year’s bickering over crazy daily levies and insane licensing fees, as well as confiscation of hundreds of motorcycles, the latest development is sure to leave no one in doubt as to how Nigeria’s improved position on the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking may only be on paper.

Predictably, angry reactions have trailed the announcement of the ban on Okada and Keke in the parts of Lagos that see the most action, with many Lagosians faulting the government for, once again, disrupting the welcome disruption.

Lagos, with all of its nearly 20 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, some of which are backed by foreign investors.

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 mobility business which was once passed off as something reserved for uncouth individuals and hooligans with little regard for safety and customer satisfaction.

But these startups have hardly known peace since they took the market by storm over the course of the last three years. It’s been one stifling regulation after another, these companies have always been one regulation away from having their value proposition vapourised.

There are scores of people lamenting the move as one that would foment hardship among the masses who rely on these modes of transport for their daily commute, especially as the state is yet to get a handle on the lingering transport maladies paralysing Lagos as a whole.

Besides that, the Okada/Keke business is known to employ up to 40,000 people in Lagos and a ban of this nature is bound to block the means of livelihood for many individuals and plunge families into hardship.

Plus nothing foments crime like thousands of angry people on the streets with no job and nothing else to lose. Never mind the surging unemployment rate in Nigeria currently.

On the other hand, Lagos keeps serving up one hell of an audition to the foreign investors it hopes to woo.

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