They were supposed to relief pains for commuters pains on the roads. but in Lagos, the introduction of motorcycles, tricycles and small buses on the roads as means of transportation has become a source of pain to Lagosians. Not only are they reckless, they are also a threat to lives of other road users as OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI writes
hen a former Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was in office, his dream was that Lagos State would live up to its status as a Mega City. He planned to rid Lagos of motorcycles, commonly called Okada and commercial buses, otherwise called ‘Danfo’. Hence, Ambode embarked on the acquisition of high capacity buses, which he believed would especially ease the traffic situation in the state.
But exactly few months after his exit, the Lagos transportation system has virtually collapsed.
Noticeably nowadays, they are probably more commercial motorcycles, better known as Okada on Lagos roads than commercial vehicles.
Ambodes’s dream of a mass transit system with importation of hundreds of buses has remained that: a dream. Lagos residents, who were looking for relief from the menace of the tricycles, popularly known as Keke, got a rude shock when the matter became compounded; mini-buses-Suzuki, with capacity for only seven passengers also became the new addition to the nuisance on Lagos roads.
As a matter of fact, Okada means of transportation has even upgraded in outfit and operation. From the conventional ubiquitous Okada, now to uniform-corporately operated Okada called O’Pay ride. They are seen at every nooks and crane of Lagos city, in most cases creating nuisance on Lagos roads.
Although, in the present day Lagos, it has become faster and more convenient to ride both local Okada and corporate bike-O’Pay within the city because of the horrendous traffic that seems to have become a permanent feature of Lagos State, especially in this December.
There is a noticeable sudden surge of movements in Lagos, consequently making it difficult to drive or go out freely in the state. Hence, most residents resort to Okada that is not really held up by Lagos traffic.
With the endorsement of O’pay ride however, comes a subtle penetration of unauthorized local Okada. They have also gained ground like O’Pay ride, bold on the road and uncontrollable. Unfortunately, most of the local riders cannot and do not understand English. Even the known Hausa language, most of them do not understand and cannot speak! They take one-way, face and zoom past oncoming vehicles. While Okada and its attendant nuisance is gaining ground, Keke becomes unbearable; they get on motorists nerves with their recklessness and audacious driving. They also take one-way and order motorists to give them way, also not minding the safety of passersby by the roadside. They occupy available spaces on the roads, (that meant for passersby mostly) hurl abuses at motorists, who dare challenge them. As a matter of fact, they seem to have overpowered the sanity of the state and that of enforcement agencies that ought to instill discipline within the transport system. Indeed, Police, LASTMA officials and Traffic wardens turn blind eyes to their indiscipline; they rather take money (bribe) that has become a source of daily contribution for them from the commercial motorists. They (officials) wave and even throw banters with both Okada and Keke riders.
For a week observation in some parts of the city, from Ogba motor park (Iju/Ishaga park) through Excellence Hotel by Aguda/Ogba to Omole roundabout, through to Grammar school and to Ojodu Bus stop, it was recklessness galore by Okada, Keke and even Danfo buses.
Also, from Ikeja under Bridge through to LASUTH, Oba Akran, Ikeja-Along, Ojota 7up, New Telegraph observed the way and manner some of the officials were collecting money with impunity (ranging from N50 to N200) from commercial bus drivers and Okada riders, who ply one way.
Riders and drivers express no fear of being harassed by officials. Rather, sighting them from afar, the riders would simply zoom past and hail the traffic officers on duty. But the practice is mostly done when the day is going down- between 3pm and 4,30pm.
Okada and Keke have so flooded Lagos roads that the fear and reluctance Lagos residents had towards patronising them during the Babatunde Raji Fashola and Ambode regime has waned totally. Both passengers and riders now see it as ‘usual business.’ Going through the African Shrine street down to CBD lane, except for private vehicles, the common sight around this axis has become long line of Keke and green colour helmet and reflective jackets of O’pay rider.
At the Central Mosque, Alausa, it is the line of mini Suzuki buses and Keke- all painted in yellow colour. From LTV 8 through to Agidingbi, it is usually a tug of war among private vehicles, commercial buses, Keke and Okada. To most motorists that New Telegraph spoke to, they describe them as ‘annoying and misfit elements’ within the Lagos transport system.
A disgruntled Lagos civil servant urged government to declare state of emergency on Lagos State transportation. Twice, he had to drag Keke Marwa drivers to the Police Station when a Keke damaged his Toyota Corolla car from behind. “They are very rough and reckless. I believe they are also wicked. I had seen the reckless way he was driving; I slowed down for him, watched his direction, then drove past him to be at his front. I thought I was safe that way, suddenly, I heard a loud bash from behind. I almost lost control of the steering out of fear of what could have happened. Alas! It was the keke driver who recklessly bashed my left side break light while struggling with his fellow keke driver for passengers,”
James Amadi, a lawyer, told New Telegraph that he had a terrible experience that made him thought his vow of never to patronise them again would hold forth. “Truth is that, they have become necessary evils within the Lagos transport system due to the mad traffic in Lagos. For me not to miss appointments and clients, I park my car at a safe park and take O’pay ride. It no longer really makes sense to take Uber or Taxify round Lagos because they are also bind and hindered by the terrifying traffic,” he said.
Samson Ogunbunmi, a writer has come to prefer Okada to Keke and the mini bus, in the case of choosing between two evils. “I narrowly escaped a terrible accident where the driver of the Keke that I boarded almost rammed into a bus in front of us. As he was trying to maneuver, he swerved to the left and I nearly fell off the keke on motion. But thanks to God that I only had a minor head injury and not my life,” he narrated.
He added that, “it’s shocking to see that government seems perplexed with the way Keke, Okada and mini buses have taken over Lagos roads. The level of indiscipline nowadays in Lagos is higher than the past two regimes. I am highly disappointed.”
For Cornelius Olufunsho, the riders have become a law unto themselves. He said since he noticed that they ride recklessly, he took the decision to install an iron protector in front and back of his car. “If you observe, the kekes are made of iron and the irons can damage one’s vehicle. That way, I no longer bother or fear any keke or bike would hit me. If they do, it would be to their damage and loss,” he explained.
Omoyetunde Oguntade, a medical doctor, said Lagos has gone eight years backward by allowing Okada loose on the road to do and move as freely as they wish at the expense of the residents and other road users. She said further that while Okada has become a monster that of keke riders is more of terror scaring Lagos residents in the face. “They (Keke) are more of pains in the neck of motorists and commuters in Lagos. They drive without regards to traffic rules and care for other road users. Their confidence level failed to put into cognizance that their tricycle is made of three-tyres. There is so much breakdown of discipline in Lagos, especially within the transport system,” she said.
However, the Public Relation Officer, of the Ministry of Transportation, Bolanle Ogunlola told New Telegraph that the ministry is trying its best in managing them. “We are trying our best to control their operations and the menace of this alternative means of transportation, it’s a gradual process, we can’t do it at once. But we have never stopped controlling them, though difficult,” she said. Ogunlola added that the problem started with the last administration that puts restriction on enforcement of law on them. She said the riders come from neighbouring countries like Benin, Ghana, Niger, to Lagos in particular do business because they see the customer urge and because it is a big city. She said that they come in large numbers in trailers around 1am by weekends with their bikes, they do what like, what we can do like. She stressed that they can’t do it at once because the riders come almost on daily basis along with their bikes in the middle of the night. “The last time we apprehended and took them to Oshodi Head Office of the TaskForce, there was uproar against the government for discriminating against them. We had to release them and look for better ways of enforcing the rules and regulations on them. Even at that, the riders don’t stay where we restrict them, they do as they like. So, there is nothing really that we can do about them than to be managing them as instructed by the new administration,” she said.