By Chiamaka Okafor
The ban on motorcycles and tricycles across 15 local government areas in Lagos State, as unpleasant as it is to inhabitants, is only in line with the ‘constitutional legacy’ of Nigerian governors.
In 2018, the Anambra State government under Willie Obiano, for the second time in recent times, banned the use of motorcycles in the metropolis. In doing this, he was borrowing from the legacy of his predecessor, Peter Obi, who also in his time as governor banned these motor vehicles as commercial means of transportation.
The present new month gift has not gone unengaged by Lagosians, as they are already in the news either commending the ‘long overdue’ gift or passionately lamenting the attendant hardship that this action has brought on them.
While this may appear as a great initiative for a city like Lagos, the questions left unanswered are: After the ban, what next? What is being done to bridge the nightmarish vacuum in mass public transportation that has been created, and what alternatives are being designed for the huge demography whose means of livelihood have been taken away?
As the city with the highest volume of internally generated revenue (IGR) in the country, the government of Lagos State should be able to provide alternatives for those affected by the ban, since they have been declared unworthy of the ‘Lagos hustle’due to no fault of theirs. It should interest us to know that Lagos generates over N200 billion internally, which is N124 billion more than that of Rivers State – the second largest subnational unit in terms of IGR generation.
This enormous wealth notwithstanding, a significant number of Lagosians live in abject poverty, with people dwelling under bridges and in slums without hope of the next meal or even of a single daily meal.
If anyone has been on the streets of Lagos for as short as 10 seconds, the situation of the physical plan would possiblymake many agree with me that even cars can be said to have no business being on these streets. As a matter of urgency, cars should be banned from the streets of Lagos! The roads need smaller vehiclar types that will definitely not occupy much space, to make it easier for everyone to ply the roads and get to their destinations in good time.
The present situation is going to be a painful experience for Lagosians who thought they had found a way around surviving the almost impossible traffic by discovering trusted alternative means of transportation like Gokada, Max rider, and Opay. Also, residents who chose not to be lazy against all odds by finding work in riding okadas have now been returned against their wish to the sad state of unemployment.
Even though the okadas and kekes of Lagos were blamed for the traffic congestion on the roads, yet the congestion persists presently, despite their ban. And now that the livelihoods of a large number of Lagosians have been taken away, would we be needing a prophet to forsee the oncoming surge in the state’s crime rate? Or mental health specialists to envisage the extent of depression and mental health erosion that many would be susceptible to in the weeks and months ahead?
Importantly: What would be the economic significance of the ban that has been effected? How will this improve or affect productivity in the Lagos State (including the rate of internally generated revenue)? What happens to the average people on the street who depend solely on their okadas or kekes for their daily bread?
The ban may be a solution to some of the problems in Lagos, but the absence of an alternative for those affected is certainly going to create double wahala in the State.
Chiamaka Okafor is with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Abuja.