My friend in the civil service once said, “the government doesn’t like competition”, and we are about to see if it’s true for this case.
You know that in 2019, Gokada, Max and OPay racked up millions of dollars in venture funding with OPay leading that pack. It was all in the news, money was everywhere. My instincts told me, some people may not be happy – if they don’t get a substantial share in it. Well, you know these Bike hailing startups pay the Lagos State government to get permits to commercially run, do you think that money is enough? Just so you know Uber, Bolt, and the likes have been slammed N10 Million licence fee with a N5 Million annual renewal in order to operate their cabs. This is by the way.
The State Government directed security operatives to embark on total enforcement of the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 on the affected six Local Government Areas, nine Local Council Development Areas and 10 major highways across the State with effect from February 1.
If you are wondering like many others about this law, especially because you’ll need to be aware of it so you can be best positioned for your own opinion; here’s a bit about it.
For a rich, small and literally-big city like Lagos with more than 7 million people, the core concern in the transport system has to be safety, effectiveness and efficiency. This implies that it’ll require a transport system that moves fast, encouraging more commercial activities and ultimately more money to individuals, businesses and the government.
In line with its Bus Reform Policy (BRP), the Lagos State Government (“LASG”) passed the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law 2018 (“the Law”). This was a supposed messiah, intended to bring sanity on Lagos roads by raising the dignity of commuters and commercial vehicle drivers in the state and to restructure motor parks across the state, in a way that discourages the sale of alcohol and such other illicit substances at motor parks.
Simply put, the Law was supposed to ensure that the government put a structure in place to determine the continued operation of danfos (commercial buses), okadas (motorcycles), and Keke napeps (tricycles) on Lagos roads.
The Law has quite a number of interesting provisions and a good list of transport offences within the state, with punishments ascribed to each offence.
Some Provisions of the Lagos State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018
For the benefit of this discussion, I’ll like to highlight three core areas of this provisions; beginning with the least point of interest.
Among the three provisions I want to highlight, the first is the “Control of Trailers and Long Vehicles.” Section 45 of the Law prohibits any trailer other than petrol tankers and long vehicles used in conveying passengers from entering into or travelling within the metropolis of Lagos between 6.00 am and 9.00 pm. The Law further provides that any driver who contravenes this provision will have his vehicle impounded and will also be liable on conviction to a fine of N50, 000.00 (Fifty Thousand Naira) or a term of imprisonment for six (6) months or both.
The second with a complimentary concern is the “Public Bus Services Reform.” The law contains provisions aimed at ensuring the efficiency of bus services in Lagos State as well as rebranding the State transport system. According to the Law, bus drivers would be wearing uniforms as approved by the LASG. It also contained a code of conduct for bus drivers as well as passengers (these codes are publicly available). It was expected that we would have a Lagos with uniformed bus drivers, good customer experience attendants with finesse and outstanding manners! We wished.
The last provision which is the Bone of contention is the “Restriction of Motorcycles and Tricycles.” The combined reading of sections 46 of the Law and section 15 of the Regulation made pursuant to the Law prohibit the operation of motorcycles and tricycles of 200cc engine capacity on major highways within Lagos State. In other words, for a motorcycle and a tricycle to commercially operate (and by this I mean, to commute persons) on any major highway within Lagos state, such motorcycle or tricycle’s engine capacity must be above 200cc.
The only exception from this provision is a motorcycle used for mail distribution, which is prohibited from carrying passengers. This, however, must be fitted with a properly fixed mail cabin on the pillion and must obtain the permission of the Lagos State Ministry of Transport prior to commencement of mail distribution.
Interestingly, the Law further provides that no one should drive, ride or be carried on a motorcycle without wearing a standard protective helmet. Additionally, having more than two (2) people on a motorcycle is prohibited; so, also is carrying a pregnant woman, a child below the age of twelve (12) years and an adult with a baby or a heavy/large load placed on the head or which obstructs normal sitting on the motorcycle. In addition, the rider of a motorcycle must not carry any person in front of him on the motorcycle.
Any person who fails to comply with the above provisions commits an offence and is liable upon conviction by a competent court, to imprisonment for a term of three (3) years. However, it doesn’t end there; such a motorcycle or tricycle will also be impounded by the LASG. It is important to also state that where a rider of a motorcycle or a tricycle is convicted for the above offence, the passenger (except in the case of a child) will also bear the same punishment.
To start with, I think that setting a standard for the operation of motorcycles and tricycles on Lagos roads is an indication that the LASG recognizes the vital role these means of transportation play in the lives of Lagosians.
— Gokada (@GokadaNG) March 20, 2019
It is undisputable that, considering the unbearable traffic condition in Lagos, the fastest means of commuting on the state roads are motorcycles and or tricycles. Setting a benchmark that only motorcycles or tricycles with engine capacity above 200cc can operate on highways is also an indication that the LASG intends to apply a quality control measure.
Were these bike hailing brands qualified to use the road?
According to the Lagos State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 the passed the first test. These motorcycles and tricycles used engine capacities above 200cc.
The hailing startups were also using a scheme driven by tech where they control their community of riders; from training, onboarding, support and, and able to track performance and customer experience via reviews, unique code reports. Accordingly, the bike drivers were using helmets that were DOT certified and roadworthy.
According to data presented by Fahim Saleh, the CEO of Gokada, they’ve managed more than 350,000 rides and recorded fewer than 250 minor incidents and boast of an accident rate that’s about just 0.1%. For a regular Lagosian, these bikes were saving lives! From helping get to where they needed to be faster, to feeding families and bringing people closer to their dreams.
But LASG happened!
“People hawking by the roadsides will surely leave, but it is a process, we will have to provide a place for them first.” This is a quote popularly attributed to Gov. Seyi Makinde.
Maybe everyone was looking forward to this approach by Gov. Jide Sanwo-Olu, but it didn’t happen and Okada whether it is from the Opay, Max or Gokada, may become history in no time.
Amidst the ban, a couple of people think it’s a good-hard decision even though a vast majority of people think it was a very poor decision.
Do you think it was completely poor? Or was it just to use political power to kill the competition?
Few days later after the ban, the Lagos State government, announced 64 LASG buses deployed to handle the situation. This sounded like a not very sweet product upgrade announcement for many people. This move did not hold weight where more than 10,000 okada riders and Keke Drivers are already jobless, and the number of stranded people has only doubled. 64 buses has not helped.
— The Lagos State Govt (@followlasg) February 11, 2020
The Lagos State government also commissioned new jetties adding weight to the discuss that commuters should consider alternative transport. This was supposed to be an indication that the Lagos State Government is doing well in responding to the issues and promoting diversification in the commuting methods.
Guess what? Mini-buses are here too, courtesy of the Lagos State government.
Was this ban a way to announce these new buses and the Lagos owned waterways transport channels? While killing off competition from the okadas and kekes?
— Orezi (@Oluwa_Tobi07) February 19, 2020
Meanwhile, Gokada has changed verticals, and now servicing the logistics sector, while OPay is continuing to focus on street rides and their diverse range of lifestyle products including the cab-hailing, it’s unsure what Max is going to do next.