On the Ban of Okadas

With okadas banned acorss the Metropolis, it remains to be seen how much longer Lagosians can endure this hardship – and continue to walk miles.

I got to experience first hand how difficult it is to move around without okadas yesterday, as I had barely noticed last week since I was driving around the city in a car.

I live in the Oregun area of Lagos. My house location is central within the area and you can easily come into the street through 3 routes; Ikosi Rd (now Zartech Rd), Oregun Bus-stop and Billings Way. My movement really never exceeds leaving my house to Ikeja, Berger or in recent weeks Surulere and Allen.

A typical fast day goes like this: I step out of my street onto the adjoining one, catch a bike to Oluyole Bus-stop and then take a bike to either Ikeja or Berger – mostly to avoid traffic along Allen through Ikeja Bus-stop or Ojodu-Berger Road respectively. Still, if there’s a ban along these “major” roads, it’s really not a big deal to me as busses or Napeps ply these routes adequately.

But imagine if I’m at the Kudirat Abiola end of Ikosi Rd and I need to get to say Daystar Church, I’ve gotta walk! Hold on, what if I have to get home from Ikosi Rd, gotta walk. Or imagine if I’m at Firstbank or GTBank in Oregun and I need to get to Opebi, I have to either walk about 4Km or first take an Ikeja-bound bus, drop off at Allen, then take a Napep to Opebi.

My experience in the past few weeks on Iju Road has led to my discovering that anything beyond 8p.m, you can hardly get a bus going to Iju Ishaga – well, you’ll get Obawole-Ishaga, but those familiar with that route know it’s a last – very last resort. So we all usually just “fly” okada to Ishaga.

Let me add that there are 2 FBN branches and 1 GTB branch between Asbestos Bus-stop and Computer-Village in Ikeja, that’s on Oba-Akran; and they happen to be the only branches of those banks within 2miles of  Computer Village (except for GTB however that has this always-overcrowded mini branch inside computer village – a no-go if you need to transact fast).

I was at Ikeja yesterday (at the point where I was wondering what was amiss until it hit me that “No Okada oo”) and was going to transact at both banks. I had to walk in the scorching sun along Oba-Akran to get to those banks. The alternative would have been to board an 80Naira bus heading for Agege and drop off at Asbestos (the nearest bus-stop) and walk about the same distance as Ikeja is from FBN to the bank – nice one, yea?

One more. I remit my sales TAX at the Ikeja FIRS office on Adeniyi Jones and I usually get there having dropped off an Ikeja-bound Napep/Bus. I then take a 70Naira bike from Allen roundabout to the FIRS office. With this NTL (for New Traffic Law – yea I love acronyms :)) in place the alternative is to head to Ogba from Oregun. Take a bus headed to Allen-Opebi and pray that there’s no traffic jam on Adeniyi Jones – Aromire Axis, because the bus-driver could choose to make the trip Opebi-Allen i.e he comes in through Opebi rather than Allen.

I’m sure you now get the picture of how life has just got harder for an average young Nigerian entrepreneur trying really hard to improve his country with his knack for dreaming up and developing software and communication solutions.

Ahh, lastly. I like the fried rice and shawarma at Mozaya. I also like spending some part of my weekend pretending like ama’buyout the whole Ikeja City Mall. Now, I can’t walk to the junction along billings way and grab a bike. Right now, I don’t even know how I can get there without having to first get a bus to Berger/Ogba, drop off along Obafemi-Awolowo Rd. and then take a Ketu-bound bus to Alausa.

On the one hand, hey I could develop a mobile app around one of the existing maps APIs that’ll help Lagosians without cars find the best route to places of interest or we could start a car-sharing service like zipcar orrr maybe just invest in more DanfosOR the state government could simply review the decision to ban okadas on over 450 routes in the metropolis.

I over-heard on radio yesterday that Lagos won’t be the first city to ban okadas entirely, but I can imagine that these states (like FCT which I lived in for 2 years) through their Ministry of Transportation created new routes and bus-stops. Also, I can imagine since our Toyotas and Nissans don’t levitate, the Ministry of Works would have ensured all the roads were in good enough condition to ensure a pleasant ride. Unfortunately, none of these seem to have been done in Lagos.

Commuters in Lagos will adapt, somehow. But think about this, if Lagos crushed over 3000 okadas, then there must be over 15000 of them across the city. What happens to the about 5000 families whose means of survival was from the ability of those two-wheelers to get their passengers to their destinations in record-breaking time? What measures did the state government put in place to empower these ones in the event that their primary source of income is taken away?

I agree with the Commissioner of Transportation on the merits of banning okada, but he hasn’t (they all havn’t) proven that they put the average Lagosian in mind when resorting to banning bikes on “major” routes – like say any real place of work is on minor routes.

Enough has been said, I only hope someone is listening, reading and (re)thinking…#lagossuffers

NB: I don’t think I read anything about this in the Law, can anyone tell me what became of the decision.