Okada & Keke ban in Lagos: A necessary evil

By Marie Obiora

The benefits of exercise cannot be over emphasized; it boosts the immune system, reduces blood pressure and is good for the heart. Some of us need regular exercise to stay healthy however when exercise is imposed on the frail, the weak and the sick, it becomes torture. Surulere is a residential area with some offices, many schools and hospitals, it is home to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and other public health centres in Randle Avenue, Gbaja and Enitan Aguda. Since Saturday February the first all its residents have been compelled to trek when moving around within Surulere which is not a small area.
On Saturday afternoon an elderly woman perhaps aged between seventy and eighty years was cursing and swearing as she slowly dragged a leg with her hunched shoulders. I do not understand her native language but I caught a few swear words, oh, she was cursing and swearing. Poor mama, no Keke to ferry her to her location. Then there was the heavily pregnant woman who simply sat on the side walk looking exhausted, I hoped she would not go into labor. A young adolescent man could be seen along the road struggling with a twenty five liter jerry can of fuel. He stopped severally along the way switching the container from one hand to the other, finally, he set it down and stooped down beside it and hung his head. He was tired. I wondered how much further he had to go to reach his final destination. We all know that electricity supply is not constant and we need to buy fuel both for homes and businesses. Not all homes or businesses have cars, how are they going to carry fuel from the petrol stations to their homes or places of business? Fuel buying is a regular event with some places buying fuel two or three times a week.
Then came Monday morning, the bus stops were crowded by 7am with commuters who had trekked from their homes to major bus stops such as Aguda market, Kilo, Masha, Shitta, Bode Thomas by Babs Animashaun junction, there were no buses or Keke to ferry them to their respective places of work or to ferry them to major bus stations like Ojuelegba and Costain. Previously, Keke plied most of the side streets picking up or dropping off people from major bus stops to their places of residence and vice versa, now getting to any major bus stop within Surulere is an ordeal. At these major bus stops, buses too are scarce, how does one trek from Aguda to Costain or Ojuelegba? How does one trek from Orile or Bode Thomas to Ojuelegba? How does one get from Ojuelegba to LUTH or Lawanson? These are significant distances to trek and yet some people are trekking. Those who are ill will not be able to trek from their homes to the hospitals or health centers neither will they be able to stand for a long time waiting for buses to ferry them to LUTH.
It’s been a long time we saw children crying on their way to school but some tears have been shed these past few days. Those tiny ones in kindergarten who do not leave close to school have to trek. Their tiny little legs and feet get tired, their care givers carry them part of the way then get tried and set them down, then the crying begins but to no avail, they are dragged along the road anyway. Resumption time in schools may have to be moved to 9am from 8am, some children have quite some distance to trek and so do their teachers. There are petty traders and food vendors who rely on Keke to ferry their goods to their places of trade. How are they going to get their goods across? There are households who have to carry their shopping from the market to their homes, they need to buy cooking gas and kerosene, Keke used to ferry all these items. Yellow cabs have mysteriously disappeared and when one eventually appears, it is occupied; I believe it is simply a case of demand outweighing supply. Then there is the price aspect, Keke is so much cheaper than yellow cabs.
When a law is passed that turns out to be detrimental to its citizens, perhaps those in authority should reconsider. I’m making a strong case for tricycles (Keke) because they are relatively safer than motorcycles and are quite affordable, they have also formed a very convenient network of routes for Surulere residents, making movement within Surulere easy. Let’s all not forget that Nigeria has a high unemployment rate; tricycles and motorcycles are the means of livelihood of many men and recently women who have joined the business. What are all these people going to do to earn money? Most of them have wives and children, they have bills to pay and mouths to feed and now they are unemployed.
Tuesday morning found a security man attached to a building along a well-known street in Surulere dead. Thieves had come at night or in the early hours but he fought with them, it cost him his life. When there is massive retrenchment, crime rises exponentially. I am appealing to the authorities to please come and have a look. Observe the residents of Surulere, speak to them and possibly allow tricycles to ply within Surulere whilst avoiding major roads like Western Avenue.
Thank you.
Marie Obiora is a Public Affairs Analyst.

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