IDEAS Radio 31 January 2020

IDEAS and the Lagos State Okada/Kẹkẹ Restrictions

Rotimi Sankore: Ayo Obe has joined us.  Welcome.

Aghogho Oboh: Ok.  So we can begin IDEAS on Public Square.  Good evening Ayo.

Ayo Obe: Good evening Aghogho.

AgO: Good.

AO: Well, of course the restrictions …

AgO: Oh, sorry, thankfully we’re not going to be singing Sesame Street.  You missed Rotimi singing Sesame Street last week.

AO: Thank God for small mercies.

AgO: So people have been sending messages …

RS: It was public education.

AgO: More like Public Singing.  Ok, so!

AO: You mean, scare them straight Aghogho?

AgO: No one could go beyond one line.

AO: Well, as I said, there are … this matter raises IDEAS issues, because as you know IDEAS is about Integrity, Democracy, Ethics and Accountability.  And one of the issues, one of the questions that has been raised, is that: Where does this come from? … And the Government, in its publicity, is saying: It is the 2018 law, Transport Sector Reform Law of Lagos State, that we are merely enforcing.  Ok? So that’s one aspect of it. And of course the immediate response is: But that particular piece of legislation said that the ban on plying certain named routes would only affect those motorcycles which had an engine capacity of less than 200 cubic centimetres.  And, but the government, in its publicity, Lagos State Government in its publicity, has been justifying … the question had been asked: Why is it going … why must it affect “Gokada” and … similar ride-hailing … people who use ride hailing apps? Why is it affecting those?  And it does seem to me that the government, if it’s going to say that: We’re standing on the 2018 Law, then it has to stick to that.

I need to say that the Integrity and Democracy issue is about: That particular law was passed after … through the legislature, of the House, and it was … I think it was section 15(1) of that law which stipulated that the ban would … that “motorcycles with 200cc engines and above are exempted from the restriction”.  And that’s why many people felt that the ride-hailing apps … Of course, at the time when the law was passed the ride-hailing apps were a new thing. But the point is, that that is the law that the government says that it is enforcing, or implementing. If that is the case, then it needs to clear, be clear about what it is implementing, because it can’t just wake up and say: We have decided that these are part of the problem.  Because the problems that they have listed, range from the threat to life and limb … the fact that some of these … the general habit of jumping on and off okadas and the way that they drive, is in itself unsafe and threatens the life of the passengers and other road users. But they also give the excuse that the … okadas generally are involved in crime and that they are … because … the immediate response has been: Well, but, isn’t this by throwing people out of work, going to increase crime?  And the government’s … or the response of the publicity, had been that: Well, that the okadas are actually being used to commit crimes. But I think that that displays a lack of understanding of what ride hailing is about, because the whole point about ride-hailing is that you are leaving an electronic trail. It’s not like my standing at the side of the road and flagging somebody down and then I just jump on. The whole point about ride hailing is that your journey is documented. So if the Gokada or whoever it is, has picked up somebody who is … who uses the Gokada to snatch somebody’s bag or something, and make a quick getaway, then the Gokada at the point in time (a) should be traceable by his own or her own service, and at the same time should be able to identify the person who did the hailing, and so on.  So that I think that there’s a little bit of woolly thinking, and it’s particularly disturbing because the government claims that it had consulted stakeholders before it decided to go ahead with implementing the ban, so I think that’s one aspect of it.

RS: And those same stakeholders marched, at least, the stakeholders we’re talking about now, which is the kẹkẹ and okada drivers, marched to Alausa today, to go and complain that in fact, they were not consulted.

AO: Well in fact … and I think that it’s a point, because the ride hailing okada apps (if I can call it) they don’t consider themselves to be just any old okada.

RS: Okada

AO: They’ve gone out of their way to meet the requirements of the law.  I did see that they had gone on a demonstration, I’m not aware of the others.  And I think Rotimi that … the issue of rule of law is not a … is not a one way street.  And if anything, this law had been in effect since 2018 and even before. And it was passed … the legislation was passed, and because the assumption was, and the legislation stipulated, the 200cc limit; the belief was, is that the ride-hailing apps are excluded, and people did feel that this is actually a more … is a saner way to go about … about these things.  And, but then, nonetheless, we knew that apart from the ride-hailing, there was a whole load of … how do I put it? There was an army of okada, which are not ride hailing apps, whose engines are not up to the 200cc …

RS: And many of them possibly not trained to ride properly.

AO: And yet the government was not enforcing the law.  It had passed the law, and it had not enforced the law.  In a way, we should not be complaining: Government is now enforcing the law.  We should have been asking: Why did government stop enforcing the law? And of course, the answer that occurred to many, was that in a democratic situation where you need the votes of people, that government found it convenient to look the other way, at a time when it needed votes, not just of the okada riders but also of their potential passengers.  And … so for political advantage, it said, Well, we are … we are not going to enforce this law. But it is legislation.

RS: Alright, we have to take ads now.

AgO: We’ll take a quick break now, and when we come back, we’ll continue IDEAS.

[Ad break]

AgO: Alright, welcome back.  It’s a behind the scenes laugh.

RS: Aaahh…

AgO: Alright, so back to IDEAS with Ayo Obe.

AO: The reason why we’re straddling the divide, is because I could not jump onto an okada and beat the traffic.  Not that … I mean, come on, do I look like an okada jumper? I’m terrified of the idea. But on the other hand, I would feel much more comfortable about a ride hailing.  And I think that when the government says that it is … not part of its vision for Lagos. That’s … it’s good to have a vision for Lagos. But the other part of this, because as you said, the consultation with the stakeholders … who … which are stakeholders?  Which stakeholders were consulted? Because we do know, that even if we move our focus from the ride hailing apps, which had gone out of their way to comply with the law as they understood it by investing heavily in expensive motorcycles and so on … 

RS: And software.

AO: Yes, software and all sorts of things.  If we even put them aside: are we saying then that this army of okada riders and kẹkẹ Marwa drivers are not also part of those who should be consulted?  Because even if the government is going to say: We are now coming to enforce the law.  It’s a question why the … if they had chosen to be … to treat the laws that they passed as ‘Maybe I will, maybe I won’t’ affairs, why they should now feel that: “Well we …  It’s the law, it’s the law!” So I think that that is also a problem.

RS: Ok.  I think the other thing of course to really look at is: Why are we even in this problem in the first place?  And it’s because we don’t have a proper mass transit system in a city like Lagos. So the kẹkẹ and okada, and the ride-hailing ones are filling a gap which … and that gap exists because of poor public policy and investment.  So if …

AO: Well Rotimi, you know, we’ve always said that: If you are going to throw somebody out of the window, you must put the cushion there first.  And the question is whether the transport – such as it is – because we’ve seen … the BRT lanes, we’ve seen the bus terminals and so on. We are still sleeping over the Red Line and the Blue Line, but I dare say that at some point, the government will …

RS: Those are supposed to be the trains, if you’re wondering what the lines are.

AO: So the point is that it need not be a matter of … it should be a matter of carrot and stick because quite frankly, once the mass transit is actually properly in place, people will not have to tell okadas to pack up their business, or to go to where their trade is, which is in some of the inner areas … 

RS: Rural areas

AO: Not even rural areas, because even inside Lagos, there are areas …

RS: In fact Ok, inner streets where there’s no public transport.

AO:  nobody would have to tell them because people would only be wanting to use them to get to where they can board the efficient …

RS: A train or a bus.

AO: And that is not what we are seeing at the moment.

RS: Alright, so thank you so much Ayo.

AO: You’re welcome.

RS: So, we move over to Tunji, and hopefully Gbolahan will join us soon.  So …

Tunji Andrews: There’s traffic everywhere.

RS: There’s traffic everywhere.  There is pre-ban panic.

AO: There is actually, it took me forty minutes to get here.

RS: If you think there’s traffic today, on Monday … you may have to leave at 2 a.m. to get to …

AO: Well Rotimi, I think we should also … we shouldn’t also forget that the whole idea of the kẹkẹ Marwa was that it was supposed to be a safer form of transport for people who could not jump onto an okada.  And I remember that … you may recall that when we discussed the idea of the amount that it costs for some of these constituency projects, the empowerment projects that end up with providing a kẹkẹ Marwa, we said: Is it that they cost so much more than an ordinary person going to buy on the street because they include some measure of training and so on?  And the verdict seems to be that: No, there’s no training! They just get the machines and …

RS: And believe or not, someone asked me once … whether it was only the Marwa people that make this kẹkẹ?  And I had to explain that actually, Marwa is the former military governor.

TA: Who was the first person to bring the tricycles into Nigeria, so it was named after him then.

RS: So, the kẹkẹ’s are also “a legal introduction to help with the transport system”.  But before we …

AO: Well, I should say goodbye from the IDEAS section.

RS: From the IDEAS.  Thank you.