Many have wondered whether the ban on okada, the informal means of mass transportation is necessary. In a country like Nigeria where the leadership has failed to plan for mass transportation of people even as the population grows, it is no surprise that there is no effective, efficient and well organized public transport system.
Nigerian urban centres as many professional town planners will agree grew organically. That is, their emergence and growth are never planned. A hitherto small village could be made a state capital through state creation by military fiat and pronto, the small village has transformed into an urban centre.
Lagos itself was a rural settlement, until the Portuguese appeared on the scene in 1472, and made it centre of their trade with the hinterland. Enugu was the product of coal mining, just like Jos became an urban centre because of the mining of tin and columbite.
The only urban centre in Nigeria that is the product of detailed planning from inception is Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
But even Abuja is an abysmal failure when it comes to public transport planning. Public transport is non–existent in the FCT.
It was the failure of the governments, both federal and state, to provide efficient and effective public transport system that led commercial motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (keke) into filling the void.
Okada and keke therefore becomes the means for most Nigerians to commute. Okada and keke have become indispensible to most Nigerians. From Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, okada and keke are ubiquitous!
With the ubiquitous nature of okada and keke in our urban centres, some criminals have taken advantage of it to commit heinous crimes using these means of transport, while others have constituted themselves to traffic menace in our urban centres. These have resulted in series of bans placed on the operators with dire consequences on commuters and operators alike!
The latest is the ban of okada and keke by the Lagos State Government. The state government had earlier announced that it would commence enforcement of the extant Transport Sector
Reform Law 2018 which banned the operation of okada and keke in some Local Government Areas(LGAs) and Local Council Development Areas(LCDAs) with effect from February 1, 2020.
The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority accused commercial motorcycle and tricycle operators of being responsible for the chaos and disruption witnessed on roads in the state.
The LASTMA boss said the enforcement was to control the unrestrained behaviour and recklessness of the operators in the state which contributed to the traffic bottlenecks in the state.
He explained that the operations of tricycle and motorcycle riders had also been creating traffic bottlenecks and chaos in the state and accused them of regularly riding against traffic.
Also, in the FCT, the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Babatope Ajakaiye, recently stressed that commercial motorcycles and tricycles remain banned from operating within the capital city. Ajakaiye made this known when he met with the leadership of the Okada / Keke – Napep Owners and Riders at the FCT minister’s conference room.
He told the operators that the okada and keke would only operate outside the city centre and designated areas like estates and area councils, explaining that the Abuja master plan did not make provision for them in the city centre.
According to him, commercial motorcycles are injurious to the riders as well as the passengers and the government has a duty to protect the lives and property of all citizens.
In May last year, the Nigerian Army imposed an indefinite ban on the activities of commercial motorcycle in seven states of the federation.
Spokesman of the army, Sagir Musa, who made the disclosure in a statement said the ban was meant to curb activities of armed bandits and other groups responsible for the insecurity crisis in some parts of the country.
“The Nigerian Army (NA) over time has observed the use of motorcyclesby armed bandits, kidnappers, criminal elements and their collaborators as enablers to perpetrate their heinous crimes especially in the states within the north west geopolitical zone of the country, ”Musa said in the statement. “In this wise, it is hereby reiterated that the use of motorcycles remain banned within the forest areas in Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger states.”
Given the level of insecurity in the North West, no reasonable person will question the ban of motorcycles in the forest areas in Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger states. This is more so as the bandits have made motorcycles their preferred operational vehicles with which they carried out their nefarious activities.
However the ban of okada and keke in parts of the country that are relatively safe have had dire consequences on the commuters. It has also increased poverty in the country, as many of the operators with families to feed can no longer earn a living because of the ban.
Much has been said about the use of okada and keke to commit crimes, but so do other criminals commit robbery, kidnapping and killings using flashy private cars. Are we therefore going to ban private car ownership in Nigeria because some criminals use private cars to commit crimes?
The reason why our governments think that they could stop criminality with the banning of okada and keke is because they believe in quick fixes to our nation’ s challenges. The traffic congestions in our urban centres are not caused solely by okada or keke operators, but also other motorists. It is the consequence of general indiscipline in our society.
Governments should therefore find a way of punishing criminals without inflicting economic injury on the innocent. The operations of okada and keke should be regulated and not outright ban. The operators have helped to keep our cities moving and contributing to the urban economy nationwide, therefore our governments should not kill an ant with sledgehammer.