I made a road trip to Ghana sometime last week with some work colleagues. Prior to this recent trip, the farthest I have travelled along the west coast of Africa was to the Republic of Benin. And that was about 22yrs ago!
Aside from the usual shenanigans we encountered at every border post along the route – which in itself added almost five hours to our journey time – what I find quite surprising is the orderliness of the commercial motorcyclists in the Francophone countries.
I was very impressed with the way the road infrastructure have been designed to accommodate the commercial bike riders. Basically, the Beninoise govt went as far as creating a dedicated ‘right of way’ for commercial motorcyclists.
As we drove through to the city of Cotonou, the questions on my mind were; if the Beninoise can succeed in organising the motorcyclists, why not Lagos? Is it something to do with the culture of the francophone nations that is lacking in our own society? Are we applying the right policies to deal with the menance of okada riders in Lagos? Do we actually have a good understanding of the challenge in order to proffer the right solutions?
Efforts by previous administration to reform the informal transport sector in Lagos has always been chanelled towards a ‘total ban’ of ‘danfo’ and ‘okada’ riders from Lagos roads. Unfortunately, these attempts have been unsuccessful due to lack of political will to follow through with enforcement of legislation and executive directives.
The fact is, due to our current socio-economic status, there will always be a place for the ‘okada, keke NAPEP and danfo’ in our transportation system. If nothing, the okadas and keke NAPEP will always act as ‘last mile’ transport option because we are still far from the desirable 400m walking distance of residential homes to a bus stop.
For me, the challenge before us right know is how do we go about finding the right solution to our own problems? How do we ensure that these informal sector operators are well integrated into the overall state transport strategy? We need strategy that clearly defines the role of each transport mode (okada, danfo, keke, BRT buses etc) in a integrated transport system.
In my opinion, a total ban of informal transport operators is not the solution. A more inclusive approach needs to be adopted.
Seyi Osiyemi is a Senior Transportation Executive and lives in Lagos