Nigeria: Keeping Okada and Keke Off the Highways

24 January 2020

For the umpteenth time, the Lagos State Government has announced plans to tackle the menace of commercial motorcycles (okada), tricycles (keke) and yellow buses (danfo) in the major highways of the nation's economic capital.

The governments of Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode struggled and failed to confine these grassroots movers to their designated inner city routes through the Lagos State Traffic Law of 2012 which was reviewed in 2018. The Law restricts them to 475 inner city roads.

Ambode was particularly determined to phase out the yellow buses and replace them with modern Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, alternatives but the powerful political lever of the operators of these transport models played a big role in ensuring he never returned for a second term.

Residents of the Lagos metropolis are wondering what the new Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, will do to make a lasting difference. His Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotosho, recently reeled out reasons the Traffic Law must be implemented to the letter.

The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, reported 619 deaths with thousands of people injured between 2015 and 2016. Countless robberies were committed by criminals using commercial motorcycles.

Most of the okada, keke and danfo operators have absolutely no training or regard for traffic or road usage laws. They are fond of running against the traffic and mobbing other road users involved in accidents or quarrels with their members. It is believed that some cartels bring jobless young men from other parts of the country and even beyond and once they land in Lagos they are assigned with motorcycles to hit the roads.

For the Sanwo-Olu administration to make more progress than his predecessors, the road transport unions who are major stakeholders in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Lagos must be made to sign on to this programme and keep their members off the prohibited highways. Without this, the effort to enforce the Lagos Traffic Law might fail for the third time running.

The government must also live up to its promise to ensure all roads are motorable. Very few inner city roads have been resurfaced for decades and this makes motoring very expensive in Lagos.

Also, the development of more BRT lanes and construction of the Blue and Red monorail lines as well as water transport development should be pursued to give commuters choices. People only jump on okada and these other riskier means of transport out of necessity.

The state governments must also reorient staff of the agencies controlling traffic on Nigerian roads and deploy technologies to track and punish offenders. The minimal use of manual control will reduce corruption and promote more efficient motoring.

Once the government plays its part it can get other stakeholders to play theirs.


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