Opinion: Okada and Keke Ban – Transport for Lagos by Babatunde Gbadamosi

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Opinion: Okada and Keke Ban - Transport for Lagos by Babatunde Gbadamosi
Sometime last month, The Lagos State Government announced a partial ban on ALL operators of commercial motorcycles and tricycles in some named parts of Lagos State.
The ban went into effect yesterday, Friday, 1st of February 2020. The scenes across Lagos were expected. Thousands of stranded commuters were left to make their way on foot to their various destinations. Social media is awash with stories of Lagosians’ first day without their beloved “Keke” and “Okada”.
Sadly, reports are also rife of law enforcement agents enforcing this ban in areas not named in the official announcement, as a means of extorting hapless operators already reeling from the nefarious activities of the NURTW – its affiliates and the restriction placed on areas in which they can trade. I’m sure this was not intended, but it ought to have been foreseen.
The question that bothers my mind in all of this, is how Lagos State will be perceived in international business circles following this odd, but partially necessary action. At the advent of this new administration, several agreements were signed with, monies paid by and permits were issued to a slew of local and foreign investors in ride hailing services which took the Uber business model to the Okada and Keke platforms.
These services, namely Opay, Gokada and Max.ng, appeared well regulated, with riders who were noticeably more domesticated, better behaved and better equipped than the wild variety of Okada & Keke than Lagosians loved to hate, but needed, due to the bad roads and ensuing never-ending gridlock.
The ride hailing services were first given a baptism of fire by the government itself within a few weeks of starting operations, with demands to pay what o personally consider to be extortionate fees. Hot on the government’s heels were some government officials, who began to directly extort the riders by seizing their vehicles on flimsy excuses.
They were followed in short order by the unions, who demanded and got a massive daily fee from these “regulated” riders.
The foregoing, to my mind, demonstrates most graphically the inability of the operators of government to grasp or understand the mind of the investor, local or foreign. Nobody will go where they know that government action m, conspiracy or inaction will affect their investment adversely.
There is a very real danger that the  Lagos State Government, as a corporate entity, has lost or will lose whatever is left of its credibility in the eyes of the global business community over this avoidable fiasco.
For Lagosians, the struggle to survive will become even more real, if by Monday, 4thbof February 2020, Governor Jide Sanwoolu does not announce a new transport initiative that will fill the gap left by the riders he has banned.
Millions will lose not just their Okada and Keke livelihoods, but many more will lose their jobs to lateness or even outright inability to report to work at all. It is almost inevitable that there will be an upsurge in crime, reported or not, which is mostly the case.
I would strongly urge the governor to reconsider this decision immediately, exempting the ride hailing services from this ban in exchange for better profiling, perhaps even including biometric ID and GPS monitoring systems.
This review can be done and announced before Monday, to avert the commuting chaos and suffering that will surely befall Lagosians on Monday.
It is not too late.
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