Okada, Keke ban: Tough times for Lagos commuters

In this report, DAYO AYEYEMI, TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, TAIWO JIMOH and ABIODUN ADESOGA examine the ban imposed on the motorcycles and tricycles operation in major parts of Lagos State, which is causing problems at various fronts in the metropolis, just as political parties are at loggerheads over the development

 

 

On Saturday, February 1, 2020, the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State ejected operators of commercial motorcycles otherwise called Okada and tricycles popularly known as Keke from major roads in the metropolis.

And so, many residents, especially traders, both public and private workers have been coping with the stress of trekking long distances since the restrictions on Okada and Keke on major routes took effect.

From Berger bus stop to Ogba, Berger to Ikeja, Ogba to Allen and Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja to Ojota and Agege to Oba Akran to Ikeja, New Telegraph observed that there was strict compliance to the order by both Okada and Keke riders.

On the Ojodu end to Ogba, people who had left their homes early were stranded at the Berger bus stop while others embarked on endurance trek to their destinations.

The few buses on ground increased their fares from N50 and N100 to N100, N150 and N200, depending on destinations from Ojodu to Ogba or Agege and Ikeja.

At Berger bus stop, there were more stranded commuters waiting endlessly for buses that never came.

One of the stranded commuters, who identified herself simply as Ms. Sharon, told New Telegraph that she had been waiting at the bus stop around Ojodu for more than one hour.

She said she was going to Agege to attend a wedding ceremony, not knowing that there was ban on Keke commenced on Saturday.

Sharon said other waiting commuters outsmarted her whenever any bus surfaced, since she did not want to be roughened.

She said: “Why will government think of banning Keke without providing alternatives? Are they the problem of Nigeria?  They know that there are no jobs and the little business these guys are doing to make end meets is still annoying government.”

Another stranded commuter at Ogba, Mr. Yunisa Idowu, a vulcaniser, said he trekked from Ojodu-Berger to Ogba. According to him, his destination was Agege but couldn’t find any bus to Agege.

He said: “Even the transportation fare is now N200 from N100 I budgeted for the journey.

“I know government does not like the poor. They know that it is the poor that patronise Keke and Okada; that is why they placed the ban.”

One of the Keke riders, Mr. Chika, who came out “to see how the road looked,” was not happy about the ban.

He said: “But they said the crime rate is high, they have not seen anything. It is now the crime rate will double. People will begin to rob from house to house.

“This Keke is my only hope. This is the business I do to feed my wife and children. I even bought the Keke on hire purchase, and I have not completed the payment. Where do I go from here?

“They have not seen any crime.  There are people who will do everything and anything to feed their family.”

Chika added that he had nowhere to go.

He disclosed that there were many men and women who were yet to balance their Keke payments.

Also on Sunday, many people going to their worship centres were stranded at Ogba and Allen junctions as few busses available were making brisk businesses.

It became worse in the evening as people looked tired after trekking several kilometres on the road.

A commuter wondered how government would ban Okada and Keke at this period when youth unemployment is huge in the country.

He said: “Where do you want these people to get engaged?  Their source of livelihood has been taken from them. I am not happy with the way the governor banned Okada overnight.”

But a housing professional, Femi Akinlusi, said it was a good decision in the present circumstance.

He said: “We are going to get used to the order considering the benefits which outweigh the numerous demerits.”

Another resident said that government should have given them some time like six months because “poor people are the target”.

Another person, who did not want his name mentioned, asked that what has happened to the concept of “inclusive city growth/development” or even “right to the city for all” which is linked to sustainable development?

He described the policy as a clear example of top-down approach in solving the nation’s problems of which the end results, according to him, are visible to everyone. He argued that many countries have found ways of ensuring every road user is given a right of way in the design of their roads.

He said: “I hope someday when we do the statistics of deaths by vehicles we shall get to ban the vehicles too using the same arguments of government.

“I hope there is no plan to also ban the use of bicycles on highways for those who love cycling.”

Already, the effect of the ban is causing ripples across the metropolis, especially on Monday, the first working day after the government’s directive took effect.

At the Allen Junction, Ikeja on Monday, some policemen were shooting into the air to disperse the protesters while some used tear gas to also check the activities of those protesting the ban.

Commuters complained about the development as many of them took to trekking on Monday to get to their respective places of work.

One of the protesters said: “This is a means of livelihood and the government just took a decision to end of daily bread. It is unfair and unacceptable.”

A commuter, Mrs. Shade Olapoju, said she waited endlessly before she could get bus.

She said: “I waited for a long time at Ikeja Along, thinking I will manage to see any form of transportation to Allen. I finally saw a car collecting N100 from people to take them to work. We have not reached Allen Junction when we heard gunshots. So, we all came down from the car since we were all scared and the traffic seemed not to be moving. I had to run till I got to Allen Junction. I am still trying to find my way to work now at 11:30a.m.”

A tricycle operator, Mr. Jamiu Adio, said he was a trained electrical electronic technician by Lagos State government through poverty alleviation.

He said: “We were promised employment after graduation. But after we graduated from the technical school, government didn’t employ us. That was why I embraced tricycle driving to feed my family.

“What Lagos State government is doing is wickedness. Now we are buying tricycle for N700,000. In Lagos today, 10 per cent of us are self-employed, while other 10 per cent is employed by individuals and the remaining 10 per cent is employed by government. Government cannot employ all of us. The same tricycles they are collecting from us now were used as poverty alleviation by the administration of former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Brigadier General Buba Marwa

“We are suffering. Many of us are now idle. Government should collect the tricycles from us and give a us mini-buses, because I don’t know how they want us to survive. I cannot depend on my wife. I don’t know where to start from now.”

A graduate of Electrical Electronics from The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Mr. Kunle Ajayi, said when he couldn’t secured job in Ibadan he left for Lagos with the hope of getting job. All efforts he made were in vain.

Ajayi said after sitting at home for a year, he decided to take a loan from a bank to buy the tricycle he was riding to take care of his wife and children.

He said: “Now that government has banned us, I don’t know what to do. I am tired of my life. My children just resumed school; I have not paid their school fees. Now that we have been banned from working, I don’t know where to get the money to pay their school fees. Government should provide alternative for us.

“This is a means of livelihood and the government just took a decision to end our daily bread. It is unfair and unacceptable,” one of the protesters said.

The current development in the metropolis has renewed the rivalry between the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The political parties in the last few days have been engaging one another in war of words.

The state chapter of the PDP described the ban as unwarranted and needless, saying that the decision will bring about untold hardship to Lagosians and also increase the crime rate in the state.

In a statement, the state PDP Publicity Secretary, Mr. Taofik Gani, threatened that: “If the people go on trekking and they are burdened, we are going to call out people to march against this government.”

He said: “This latest decision of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has come out to confirm the height of disregard that the Lagos State government, in recent times, has for Lagos residents.

“This is not the time to ban Okada or Keke, which undoubtedly has become the simplest means of commuting in the state. In the name of SMART City, a government is coming up to put a burden on its own citizens. It is unfortunate that Lagosians have become dogmatic.

“I feel that this latest decision should generate angry reactions from Lagosians, they should rise up to support the young men who will now be unemployed by this unwise decision of the Lagos State government.

“They have to find an immediate solution to this ban because it will lead to kidnapping, armed robbery, killing and we have been lucky that we do not have such level of bandits.

“Where is the Lagos State Security Trust Fund that is now over N1 trillion? From that, this government can ensure that there is security of lives and property, even as Okada riders do their jobs. Because that is their excuse that Okada riders are involved in robbery and phone-snatching. But where is the job of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund that has gulped up to N1 trillion.”

Also kicking against the ban, a governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, said proper planning was needed in Lagos but banning commercial motorcycles and tricycles abruptly has negative effects, especially on the commuters.

Agbaje said this through a Tweet while reacting to the ban of motorcycles and tricycles on highways, bridges and expressways as directed by Lagos State government.

He said: “My view is that such an outright ban on major routes will be counter-productive and difficult to enforce. It will also have negative ripple effects on the economy with so many already out of work and cause inconvenience to commuters.

“The formal operators that have thus far regulated themselves should be allowed to continue, with stringent regulation and enforcement of traffic laws.”

But in a swift reaction, the state APC said Agbaje lacked the experience to teach Sanwo-Olu the art of planning.

The party also commended the sensitivity of the Sanwo-Olu government to provide succour with the release of 65 buses and ordering additional 550 buses to ameliorate the challenges commuters are facing.

It added that the recent massive rehabilitation of roads across the state is also an effort in the right direction.

The APC spokesman, Hon. Seye Oladejo, called on all and sundry to go about their lawful duties, ignore needless threats and allow law enforcement agencies to handle ‘sponsored’ protests if there are any.

He said: “My attention has been drawn to the needless and inconsequential ultimatum issued to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on the partial Okada/Keke Marwa ban.

“The desperation to seek relevance is not lost on us. While it is within their right to protest, the resort to self-help or violence should also be addressed within the confines of the law.

“We call on all and sundry to go about their lawful duties, ignore needless threats and allow law enforcement agencies to handle sponsored protests if there are any. The good thing is that the sponsors are not faceless.”

But on his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr. Adejare Adeoye, appealed that the ban should be reviewed.

He said: “Sanitising Lagos State and getting rid of these lawless miscreants that have been invading Lagos in droves for many years is a welcome development.

“Many of them hide under the pretence of riding Okada and Keke during the day, while they strategically distribute themselves in inner and exterior parts of Lagos State committing all manners of crimes and untold hardship on residents.

“But the government can partner with structured bike companies like O Pay, Gokada, Max Okada and others, who have invested millions of dollars into this business. They will surely follow guidelines on safety and won’t be reckless, unlike the uncivilised invaders who want to dominate the state, with their unruly and barbaric attitudes.”

Some commuters also noted that the decision was too hasty. According to them, it should have been a case of an announcement that will take effect in about one year or 18 months.

“You don’t wake up and take a decision that will affect people across all fronts. Some people are selling motorcycles and tricycles while some sell the parts. People are also paying back the hire purchase agreement they had with some dealers. What happens to these people? Governance should have human face,” one of them said.

Meanwhile, Sanwo-Olu has directed the management of Lagos Bus Services Limited to deploy a fleet of 65 buses along major routes with immediate effect to provide succour and ameliorate the hardship commuters might face as a result of the restriction order on the operators of motorcycles and tricycles in some parts of the state.

The new routes where the LBSL will extend its services and the specified transport fares are:

• Ikeja – Ogba:  N100

• Berger – Ogba: N100

• Ikeja – CMS:  N200

• Oshodi – Ajah: N500

• Obalende – Ajah: N250

• CMS – Ajah: N250

• Inner Marina – Ajah: N250

According to the MD/CEO, Lagos Bus Services Limited, Mr. Idowu Oguntona, extending the services of the company to these locations would help cover the vacuum created by the restriction order of Lagos State government on Okada and Keke operators in some areas.

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