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Lagos, Okada and public policy challenge in Nigeria

The transportation and security challenges of Lagos would cease from February 1, 2020. As the Lagos state government tells it, the restriction of motorcycle riders, whether two or three-wheelers, would bring about sanity in the city-state of Lagos. The state, therefore, announced on January 27, a four-day notice to the persons who provide service to their fellow citizens that they would be jobless from February 1.

READ ALSO: Lagos gov. restricts ‘Okada’, Keke as 600 deaths, 10,000 accidents recorded in 4 years

At the national level, the repeated failure of the federal government to meet its budgetary targets would end beginning February 1 as the provisions of the Finance Act come into effect. Chief of the clauses is the one increasing Value Added Tax on goods and services by 50 percent from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

Believe these, and you would believe anything, as the title of a novel in my teen years asserted. Okada rose to fill a gap in public transportation in Nigeria. It was a failure of governance.

The ban in Lagos covers 15 local government areas and local council development areas. It is so wide-ranging it covers all the essential parts of what constitutes Lagos city. The broad sweep of the ban becomes clearer, looking at the bridges and roads affected. It comprises ten highways and 40 bridges. The highways are the arteries of the city. It would suffice to note that the bridges are the central transport nodes of Lagos.

Information and Strategy Commissioner GbengaOmotosho asserted in a statement that the ban followed a “robust assessment” by the State government and the State Security Council.

This “robust assessment” showed that the use of motorcycles is unsafe, and the casualty figures from their use are “scary”. “From 2016 to 2019, there were over 10,000 accidents recorded at the General Hospitals alone,” Omotosho said. “This number excludes unreported cases and those recorded by other hospitals. The total number of deaths from reported cases is over 600 as at date.”

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (http://www.healthdata.org/nigeria) compiles data for most countries. While it does not have a state-by-state breakdown, it captures “what causes the most deaths” in Nigeria in 2017 as lower respiratory tract infection, neonatal disorders, HIV/AIDS, malaria, diarrheal diseases. Others are tuberculosis, meningitis, ischemic heart disease, stroke and cirrhosis.

What causes the most premature death? They are a group of three: communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases; non-communicable diseases; and injuries.

Security is another consideration. According to Omotosho, “The rate of crimes aided by motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (Keke) keeps rising. Motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (Keke) are also used as getaway means by criminals.” Unfortunately, there are no figures here from the robust assessment.

Security informed the ban of Okada in Magodo GRA Phase 2, Lagos in 2015. The Estate introduced buses as an alternative. They tagged drivers and assigned them to routes. Citizens joined the management in monitoring the drivers. It was also a small, close-knit community with restricted access.

Permit me to play the devil’s advocate by pointing to some areas of concern about this policy and the process. Many questions arise from the ban of Okada and Keke in Lagos.

In human capital management, organisations usually give reasonable notice of at least 30 days and up to 90 days when disengaging labour. Lagos has given four days. From what HR manual did Lagos get this approach?

Have we thrown up to 500, 000 people into the unemployment market? A Wikipedia entry claims 1 million bikes operate in Lagos!

Is it because they are poor, not unionised and probably cannot afford a good lawyer?

Could Lagos State have devised another means of tackling the dangerous aspect of Okada riding in Lagos? Doing so would require rigour in thinking, research and execution. It would mean finding out the numbers. It would entail registration and tagging. It would mean monitoring and enforcement. It would mean work, above all.

The security consideration is unimpeachable. Yet. Do we cut off our legs because it aches and makes us limp?

Many middle-class citizens have hailed this decision. The presence of Okada in Lagos offends their sense of the appearance of a significant commercial hub. They gripe about bikes. Okada and Keke irritate such people

Will the security situation get better or worse when from February 1, hundreds of thousands of non-disabled men suddenly find that they cannot bring home money for amala, eba, fufu and soup?

Was there any consultation and stakeholder engagement? A substantial body of citizens represents a critical stakeholder group. Did Lagos State government consult with them as they usually do when mobilising them for elections?

What should happen to these persons who invested their resources in machinery and earn their living by providing a service that the state has failed to deliver?

What is the alternative plan or platform for citizens for whom Okada is the primary means of movement? Note that the Lagos State Government has acted first without providing any alternative. Neither buses nor trains or boats.

Is it legal or moral to deprive a massive number of citizens of their means of livelihood? How many persons do we speak of here?

Many middle-class citizens have hailed this decision. The presence of Okada in Lagos offends their sense of the appearance of a significant commercial hub. They gripe about bikes. Okada and Keke irritate such people. They do not reckon with the operations of bike taxis in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Sweden, Thailand and the niche services in London and New York.

Has this pronouncement by Lagos met the prescriptions for making public policy espoused by various authorities from Herbert Simon to our own TunjiOlaopa, LadipoAdamolekun, Pat Utomi and Ugwu I. Ugwu?

More significantly, it seems to me that on the matter of Okada, the Lagos State Government has condemned itself to the curse of Sisyphus because of the failure of rigour in tackling this challenge.  Sisyphus was a legendary king of Corinth condemned eternally to repeatedly roll a heavy rock up a hill in Hades only to have it roll down again as it nears the top. Lagos has frequently banned Okada. It should be clear now that the problem is more profound than what a mere pronouncement of a ban would solve. Deep thinking required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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