Lagos Okada ban’s unintended consequences


By Amaka A.

The Sanwo-Olu administration of Lagos State recently released a list of areas that prohibit the presence of all commercial motorcycles and tricycles operations, including the tech startup backed ride-sharing companies, Gokada and Opay. The extensive list left little to no room for their presence in Lagos, which resulted in the restriction being known as an outright ban. The governor points to crime, and the infiltration of violent mercenaries disguised as okada riders as the justification

Protests abound in the city with areas of Ijora erupting in a riot, with 3 people injured by stray bullets from the police, with one including a school girl. Lagosians grumble under the weight of needing to walk long distances to link to their buses or to arrive at their houses.

These problems point to the failings of the transportation infrastructure of the state. The elimination of the alternatives, such as okada or keke has exposed people to the elements of a transportation desert. A ban on these vehicles may be justified if the administrations, past and present addressed the transportation shortcomings in the state and filled in these gaps to provide a stable system as a fallback for the people.

At the same time, the amount of deaths and accidents caused by the unskilled tricycle and motorcycle riders cannot be ignored. A hospital ward dedicated to these accidents speaks to the danger that they flirt with daily. Drivers are also incensed by the death defying maneuvers that some of them embark on while on the road. By witnessing the ride-sharing riders, proper training and professionalism is the component that can reduce fatalities and road rage.

What does this mean for the fledgling tech startups that have raised investor monies in the millions? They have invested in bulk in motorcycles and equipments, as well as the thousands of employees that draw a living from these companies.

The governor has close the door to any dialogue and insists the ban is not open for debate. This may affect the arrival of investment opportunities in Lagos, and investors may be wary due to the volatility of the environment. If an administration can enact policy with little notice or time for adjustment, with no conversation or debate with the relevant stakeholders, it creates some level of uncertainty in the feasibility of going all-in on a business venture.

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