By Denrele Animasaun
There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance — Socrates
The last couple of days, the move to ban Okada and Marwa off the main roads in the city of Lagos has created so much anguish for the Lagos commuters. It has divided the people. Some are relieved that the nuisance of these two and three-wheelers are taken off the road while others are dismayed, despondent that their only means of livelihood have been withdrawn from those eking a living in these trying times. No one knows how many Okadas and Marwas there are on the roads but what is for sure is that there are thousands of undocumented Okada and Marwa riders in Lagos State and crucially, whatever the numbers, the fact is, they will potentially lose their livelihood.
Okada riders have taken over the roads in their thousands. The safety of the roads and Okada have always been an issue even with motorists who have always flouted the highway codes and with tragic consequences.
With the Okadas and marwas , let loose on the roads is a perfect storm. What is for sure is that there have been more deaths on the roads as a result and of course, it is also used for nefarious activities; bag snatches, quick getaways, kidnappings.
A couple of years ago, the state government ordered Okada riders to wear helmets, there were protests, they said it was expensive even if it meant saving their lives. The result, was some homemade helmets fashioned from all sorts and they missed the salient point that wearing a proper safety helmet is there to save lives, protect their heads from accidental impacts. Nigerians have always lived by the seat of their pants and laugh in the face of danger. Safety is not a funny business and not one to play Russian roulette with. It is wasting precious lives.
It is important to have standards and adhere to safety regulations and for years, this has been dismissed or disregarded.
Expediency has always been the Nigerian mantra but never safety or efficiency or effectiveness.
So the massive protests was the last stance to get the state administration to change its mind. Despite appealing to the state house of assembly to appeal and influence the state to overturn the decision.
They were mistaken as the lawmakers kowtowed to the ban and informed protesters to obey the law.
The decision to ban was primarily to save lives and standardise an effective mode of transport by the state government;. The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, said that the government had had enough of fatal accidents caused by the operators.
Furthermore, Omotosho said, “The figures are scary. Between 2016 and 2019, there were more than 10,000 cases of accidents recorded at General Hospitals across the state. This number excludes unreported cases and those recorded by other hospitals. The total number of deaths from reported cases is over 600 as of date.”
Omotosho also noted that Okada and Marwa riders often violated the Transport Sector Reform Law 2018 and contributed to the crime rate in the state.
The figures are shocking but these Okada and Marwa did not just appear on the roads; they were fulfilling a need. The dire state of transportation in Lagos State has been a state flux for decades especially in heavily populated areas. There was a need for affordable and accessible transport and that’s what they need. They were able to weave in and out of heavy traffic, carry passengers from door to door. It was initially a God sent for the low-income earners, traders and middle-income earners.
Disturbingly enough, there is no training or test to get on the roads. No safety regulations to adhere to. Years ago, due to the senseless deaths on the roads, Lagos State government demanded that every rider and its passager should wear helmets. Of course, there was an uproar; the protest that they should wear helmets! Helmets are known to save lives but, many take to the roads regardless and they become part of tragic statistics.
What is definite, is there are no true statistics of these riders but for businesses like, MAX it claimed to have created 2,000 direct jobs and 70,000 indirect jobs, it postulated that some 90,000 Lagos residents on the platform would lose their means of livelihood.
Some personal stories are heartfelt; , Of course, there are two sides to a story. Sandra Egbuna, said she was able to fund her education. She said that she saved money from her earnings; “This was what I used to train myself for my National Diploma. I am currently on industrial attachment with Gokada and by next year, I will start my Higher National Diploma.
“If the government bans us, I cannot go back to school. There is no hope for me. Some of my mates are involved in prostitution, but I chose to keep my dignity and work hard,” she said. One can not but feel for this young lady, who is trying to make something of her life despite the odds and the risks.
The blanket ban is going to affect many, more than just the Okada and Marwa riders. It has a knock-on effect on many more. The economy can ill afford many more on the poverty line and unemployed.
It is difficult to balance the pros and cons but what is more important is what is in the best interest of the majority. It is a tough call but far too many fatalities and it has also spun the criminal elements who have found a way to add more miseries to the already impoverished lives of the masses.
In the meantime, scores of people have taken to walking to work or shopping.
Many have taken to social media: “Dear Sanwo-Olu, my cousin and I walked from UNILAG junction to Ransome Kuti. We’d have taken a bike instead.
Another , @Vichofu wrote, “Imagine trekking from CMS to Obalende, then from Obalende another trek to Dolphin Estate because these routes are majorly for bikes and kekes.”
A user, Chukwuemeka Umenzekwe, also wrote, “It was quite a struggle gaining access to a commercial bus today because of the okada ban. We begged the driver for an increase (in fare) to carry us. This is Lagos.”
The most novel is those that using horse power to beat the ban. Not sure if the horses will be pleased, they are not meant to be ridden on roads, their hooves can not take it and will need to be rested and fed to undergo the rigours of the Lagos roads.
The bigger operators are also bemoaned of losing trade:
The most affected by the ban are the ride-hailing services and their investors. The most popular ones are Opay, Gokada and MAX.
The Chief Executive Officer of MAX, Adetayo Bamiduro, in a recent interview, said his company had invested billions of naira in the business.
Bamiduro, who claimed that his company had been paying taxes to the state government and the Federal Government, said that in terms of equity investment and shareholders, MAX had close to $10m (about N3.6bn) in Lagos.
“And in terms of financing, the things that we have accomplished in the business cost well over $5m (about N1.8bn),”
The co-founder listed some of the company’s investors to include Novastar Ventures, ALitheia Capital, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Yamaha and Master Card, whom he said invested millions of dollars into the social enterprise.
The Pilot Operations Manager of Gokada, Victor Daminabo, said millions of dollars invested into the business had also been lost through the ban.
In hindsight, before this ban was put in place, it would have been prudent to put in place more local buses and more routes established so that it takes the pressure off the vacuum that the Okada and Marwa. Also, there will be more cars on the roads, more traffickers and pollution. This may be for the short term if, other means of government-funded transportation is in place as discussed previously for inner roads.
From my Archive -Turning the other way -may 26 2013
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people” – Martin Luther king, Jnr.
There are people that are not what they seem. Even when we have an inkling that something is not right, we remain tight-lipped and look the other way. We remain silent and pretend that everything is what it should be and besides, why should we care when it does not affect us so why, should we rock the boat? This NIMBY(not in my backyard)attitude is not helpful at all. I believe good people should not let bad things happen.
I am talking about the recent baby-making factory scandals. This is not the first time such scandal has been exposed and yet, here we are in 2013, right in full view of the community, a deplorable crime was being perpetuated and no one bats an eyelid. And this is not the first time a racket like this has been exposed.
We hear the madam behind this repugnant crime is at large, I do hope that when they find her, they hurl her before a good judge and hit her with the full weight of the law.
We had a similar scandal by a Kenyan evangelist, Gilbert Juma Deya, based in the UK in 2004. His organisation, Gilbert Deya Ministries, claimed that Deya is able to help infertile women to conceive through the power of prayer. Oh! They were full of it that their church was “the fastest-growing ministries in the UK and worldwide.
Their unique selling point was this holy man can give infertile couples miracle babies. He got carried away as he boasted that his ministries performed this miracle “through the power of prayer and the Lord Jesus”. He says he has helped sterile women give birth. This should have been a red warning to right-thinking people.
So he had one woman testify that she had three children in less than a year! I would have thought the woman would have submitted herself to science. And as always the women all had to travel to Kenya to give birth. It all came to light when his wife was arrested following a tip-off and charged with stealing children. At close inspection of their Nairobi home, the police made a shocking discovery; they found ten children and none of these children had any genetic connection to the Deyas.
These nefarious couple were operating a scam; stealing babies in order to sell them to gullible and desperate people. You would have thought that they should have asked how come they could have a baby and not be pregnant. But it seems no one asked; they just take as read.
We need to ask questions and dismiss anything that insults our intelligence.