Ban On Commercial Motorcycles In Lagos Hits Thriving Ride-Hailing Startups

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Nigerian mobility platform
The commercial motorcycle ban in Lagos has had devastating consequences for the estimated 40,000 people who earn their living from motorcycle ride-hailing. Nigerian mobility startup Max.ng. Photo supplied by Max.ng

Commercial motorcycles and tricycles have been banned from residential and business areas in Nigeria’s largest city, a move that will have devastating consequences for an estimated 40,000 people who earn their living from motorcycle ride-hailing.

Introduced on Feb. 1, the ban is aimed at decongesting Lagos’s roads and reducing accidents and overcrowding in the city of 21 million people, according to TheGuardian.

The consequences of this policy have been dire for the motorcycle drivers and the ride-hailing firms that have been growing in popularity until recently. 

Collectively, Max.ng and Gokada raised over $12 million in funding in 2019, while payments firm OPay has dedicated some of its $170 million raised in 2019 to aggressively grow ORide, its motorcycle ride-hailing app.

Motorcycles often called Okada, and tricycles, popularly known as Keke, provide a cheaper and more efficient transport option on the gridlocked streets of Lagos where a virtually non-existent public transport system is heavily overburdened.

The government has promised to fill the gap left by the motorcycles by adding more buses and ferries to the city’s transport options but that will only add to congestion.

“With the Lagos Okada Ban, we appear, as usual, to have gone for the option that involved the least thought & planning from a public policy perspective. If you are introducing 65 buses & 14 new ferries from tomorrow, introduce them first and watch it work before announcing a ban,” political strategist Joe Abah wrote on Twitter.

To make matters worse for commuters, there have been reports of increased fares on Uber and Bolt as the major ride-hailing firms take advantage of the commercial motorcycle ban.

The ban has inevitably led to job losses as firms such as Gokada and ORide are now unable to operate in most parts of Lagos. 

While the actual number of retrenched workers was not communicated, Gokada says that it has already “laid off the majority” of its staff and changed its business model to that of a courier business. Max.ng says its drivers now operate only in areas unaffected by the ban, according to Quartz.

“I am jobless and I am confused,” Innocent Udoka, one of the motorcycle drivers hit by the ban, told Al Jazeera. “I am a graduate. I have no job and my only means of survival is taken away – how would I start again?”

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Despite protests from motorcycle ride-hailing firms and their riders, the Nigerian government is standing by the ban.

“We will sustain the ban on okadas and tricycles, mainly because of security and safety reasons. We will continue to ensure the safety of our people on all fronts,” said Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

“There have been reports of serious security breaches and safety concerns in areas where these operators ply. We had to respond to these concerns because life and safety matters to this government.”