Late last month, the Lagos State Government intimated the members of the public of its plan to ban motorcycles popularly known as Okadas and tricycles a.k.a Keke Napeps from some selected local government areas of the state. The affected areas are the Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island, Eti-Osa, the state capital, Ikeja, Apapa and Surulere.
Its reason is that it wants to bring sanity to the roads of the economic nerve centre of the country and also in its bid to reduce crime and accidents on the roads.
This came as a rude shock to the operators especially those who had taken huge loans to purchase them. The likes of O pay and Gokada had invested millions of dollars in these means of transportation. An interview with one of the foreign operators who relocated from the United States of America to set up shop here revealed that about five billion naira was invested for that purpose.
This action by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu led administration is extremely harsh and anti-people. This ban will leave hundreds of thousands without any visible means of livelihood with the majority of the populace suffering greatly for it. Which alternatives did the government create for these people who have been operating under harsh circumstances from the government through its multiple taxation as well as from the street touts popularly known as agberos? The railways are not working at optimal capacity; the water transport means is still at its infancy stage. Commuting is worse than hell on earth as the affected LGA’s are the major ones where Lagosians are either resident or earn their living.
Many residents of the ‘centre for excellence’ have surreptitiously been turned into nomads as the old and young alike now trek for many hours because of the insensitivity and wickedness of the government.
The crime rate is bound to escalate as many of these operators have not in any way been empowered economically to cope with this latest policy which has thrown them out of work. The level of crime won’t be child’s play as the age-long Nigerian aphorism of ‘Man must wack’ rings true here.
I agree that the okadas are a major cause of accidents in the state especially if you visit the Orthopaedic hospital at Igbobi but we shouldn’t throw away the baby with the bath water. The ones being operated by O pay and Gokada as well as Max are relatively safe as their drivers have speed limits with the passengers also wearing crash helmets. The Keke Napeps are also safe to a large extent and do not record a large number of accidents. It would have made a whole lot of sense to have ensured that crash helmets are worn by the ones operated by private operators – not the O pay, Gokada and Max. The policy of the wearing of crash helmets was once in force in the state. It was the lack of policy consistency that made the government to abandon it – it should have been brought back rather than cruelly rendering them economically impotent overnight.
It is a different thing if the government had a plan for mass transit and absorbed them immediately so that they won’t feel the pinch of the loss. In the 1980’s when the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, she changed the economy from a manufacturing one to a services driven one. The coal miners’ resident in the Northern part of England suffered the most as they were the worst hit but she ensured that the welfare system of the dole took care of their day to day needs so that they didn’t end up destitute. This was an efficient government that took into careful and critical consideration the welfare of those who were vulnerable. Nothing stopped the Sanwo-Olu led government from following suit.
There is a rumoured plan of the erstwhile okada and keke napep operators to stage a statewide protest against the unpopular public policy. We hope it doesn’t degenerate into an avoidable civil unrest as the state has too many challenges plaguing it; we cannot afford another one that may cost precious lives and properties.
The year is still young as this is just the second month of it. It is too early for the government to engage in needless brick bats with the vast majority of the citizens. The government exists to serve their interests and not the other way round.
The law is a bad one and should be rescinded for the majority of the state’s residents to be able to commute effectively without much stress.
Going forward, the government must engage in more dialogue with the residents before going ahead to make laws as there is the need for the government’s law to be more reflective of the wishes and aspirations of the people.
The time for that rescission is now!
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com