An outright ban of motorcycles will be fraught with problems, but it’s the right thing to do
Although the Lagos State Government has not categorically stated that it will place a total ban on the use of motorcycles, popularly called ‘Okada’, as a means of commercial transportation in the state, the handwriting is on the wall, particularly after the resolution of the recent Mile 12 violent clash. Indeed, part of the resolutions was the agreement by traders and stakeholders to have the market relocated ultimately and to restrict these commercial motorcycles within the environs.
Right now, the thinking among government and security officials in Lagos is that an outright ban of ‘Okada’ will have three immediate positive impacts: it will reduce accidents, it will bring down incidences of armed robberies, and the environment will be cleaner. If that happens, Lagos will only be taking a cue from states like Edo, Delta, Abuja and even Akwa Ibom that have phased this mode of transportation out of their metropolis for similar reasons.
However, there are grave security implications for what the Lagos State Government is said to be contemplating. What will the ‘Okada’ operators now do? Will they not become jobless and stray into anti-social activities, including criminality? How will those presently commuting by commercial motorcycles within the state now move around?
Obviously, the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration will have to critically examine these issues before making its next move. However, we are also of the strong opinion that the growth of Lagos as a mega city requires more modern modes of transportation than commercial motorcycles. Even in India, where half of the motorbikes in Nigeria are reportedly manufactured, they are not allowed as a mode of commercial transportation, only tricycles are. Yet India is five times bigger than Nigeria in terms of population.
Indeed, commercial motorcycles as a means of public transportation was an anomaly that sneaked into Lagos, explaining its low regulation. But the state government started the modernisation of public transportation eight years ago with the successful phasing out of the ubiquitous ‘Molue’ and its replacement with the BRT buses. It also restricted the use of these motorbikes from about 500 roads. The Ambode administration therefore will only be carrying forward this policy if it phases them out as a mode of public transportation. And we think some recent steps the administration has taken may help to address the social and security concerns that have been expressed about the policy.
Making road rehabilitation its focus, the administration has fixed more than 400 roads since its inception 10 months ago and it has also expanded the BRT corridors with 430 brand new buses that have impacted positively on the Ikorodu – CMS axis. It however needs to replicate this along the Iyana-Ipaja, Ajah-Epe and Badagry axis as well as complete, within the shortest possible period, the blue line rail project expected to carry about half a million people daily.
With government’s increased investments in the sector, commuters will find less need for the use of motorbikes as a mode of public transportation. Those who would be laid off from the business will then have to take up the opportunities the development of Lagos into a mega city will offer. Already the Ambode administration has established the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund, which from this year will make small funding from N1,000 to N1 million to start-up businesses for residents of the state. There is also the multibillion naira rice farming partnership between Lagos and Kebbi States that will employ several thousands of people. Also, as more jetties are built and BRT corridors expanded, more jobs would be created for people to take advantage of.
We believe that Lagos has the capacity to provide alternative possibilities to those who are in the ‘Okada’business. It will not be easy and the idea requires more strategic thinking but phasing out commercial motorbike from Lagos streets is possible.