“Business has been very profitable o. Apart from the fact that we are getting more customers because people are trying to beat the traffic which has become terrible, there are also the policemen that are no longer on the road. The 1000 we used to share to them daily is now extra profit for us,” said Arinze Chukwumambanefo, a commercial motorcyclist.
Mbanefo’s remark was in response to a question, An24.net’s correspondent had posed to him, about how his okada business had fared since activities resumed fully after the disruption caused by COVID-19 and ENDSARS protests.
In Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, motorcycles popularly known as Okada are reputable for their ability to easily maneuver through traffic to take passengers to their destinations timely. The President of the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle and Tricycle, Owners, Repairers and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN), Babangida Maihula, in 2019 estimated that there are over 10 million bike riders in the country. With a motorcycle rider delivering between N3,000 and N4,000 daily, the okada business generates at least N30billion daily.
The Lagos State government has at various times banned the operation of okada in parts of Lagos. The latest was a ban announced on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. The ban restricted the operations of okada in 15 Local Government and Local Council Development Areas. The state government in a statement on its Twitter handle cited high incidents of road accidents, security and safety as reasons for the ban. According to Dr. Taiwo Salaam, permanent secretary at the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, okadas have killed over 11,000 people since 2011.
An24.net however observed that commercial motorcyclists have resumed business fully, even in areas where they have been banned like Ikoyi, Ikeja, Victoria Island, Surulere, and the bridges and highways which link the different bits of the coastal city.
Mbanefo who plys Ishaga-Ogba-Agege, Ifako-Ijaiye LG told our correspondent that business has improved significantly since the ENDSARS protest ended and okadas have returned to the road.
He said; “We have been getting more customers because people want to beat the heavy traffic and get to places where tricycles and commercial buses cannot reach.”
The pastor turned Okada rider urged government to consider training and skills improvement for commercial motorcyclists as against outright ban.
“The traffic situation has been a lot worse since the protest ended so people prefer bikes. We just want to tell the government that even if they bring BRT back, they should not chase us away from the road. They can just find a way to regulate our movement so that there won’t be accident. Governor Sanwo-Olu should please arrange conferences and trainings for us so that we can improve the things we know. They can teach us conflict resolution and traffic laws,” he stated.
Another commercial motorcyclist, Sanusi Haruna said the business had proved to be a legal source of income for him and urged the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to focus on working with identified unions and organising trainings for okada riders.
Haruna said, “This bike is helping many of us. Some of us went to school and were forced to do this job because of unemployment. We did not want to venture into illegal activities like armed robbery and that was why we took up this business.
“If government wants to help, they should work with our Chairmen and organise trainings for us. The training would include how to maneuver traffic.”
Recounting his experience during the ban, Ojo Ayodeji, who frequents the Obawole-Ogba route said it was a terrible time as he had to borrow to pay his children’s school fess and has only commenced repayment of his debts when business boomed in the wake of the ENDSARS protests.
“The time bikes were restricted, it was very difficult and a struggle to eat three square meals. Sometimes we ate only once daily. My two children are in the Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti and I was forced to borrow money to pay their school fees, it is only now that we have resumed work, I am repaying the loan.”
He also agreed that there was a need for government to work with an organised unions to minimise the risk of accidents and havoc posed by commercial motorcyclists.