Like it was chanted by protesting animals in George Orwell’s famous satirist classic, Animal Farm, “four legs good, two legs bad,” the stark reality of this axiom has dawned on transport operators in Lagos State.
The new transport policy in Governor Babatunde Fashola’s mega-city is ‘two legs bad, three legs fair, but anything on four legs good’; which is in relation to motorcycles (Okada), tricycles (Keke NAPEP), and vehicles respectively.
Nothing else explains the agenda, being released in phases, to turn Lagos into an elitist society. First, it was the gradual phase out of okadas, now the clampdown has been switched on to another means of public transportation – commercial tricycles, popularly known as Keke Napep or Keke Marwa.
Few weeks back, the Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, disclosed at the 2013 Ministerial Press Briefing held in Alausa to mark the sixth anniversary of Fashola’s administration, that the state government has “agreed with the operator’s unions to outlaw the operation of tricycles on some Lagos roads.”
Some of the roads captured in the ban include the entire Victoria Island, Government Residential Area (GRA) in Ikeja and Ikoyi, Awolowo road, Awolowo way and Alausa in Ikeja, and the entire major roads in Surulere Local Government.
Opeifa had warned that tri-cycling isn’t a replacement for Okada in the state, quoting Section 3 of the 2012 Lagos Road Traffic Law, which outlawed the operation of tricycle in the state.
He said: “It isn’t a sustainable means of transport for the state, especially Lagos that is a megacity. I learnt that some Okada riders have began to sell their motorcycle to buy tricycle, but they can no longer operate on these major roads again.”
Operators and users of Keke NAPEP went to town and cried themselves hoarse about how the governor was trying to aggravate poverty, which the scheme was meant to eradicate, in the hope that the mob effect would cause government to rescind its decision.
Immediately, several factions of the operator’s unions engaged government officials in endless close-door sessions. Mute was the word from the lips of the operator’s representatives after each round of meetings, while hopes were raised on how the policy would either be jettisoned or implemented with a human face.
However, while the supposed interregnum lingered, the policy, last week, rode to town in full force, as Keke NAPEP became haram in all the proscribed areas.
This left passengers, who had slowly grown accustom to the absence of Okadas, stranded. Many resorted to trekking long distances, a few joined available taxis, while some others just turned back or board a bus, ready to roam the city in circles until they are closer to their destination.
But trust bustling Lagosians, who are always quick to see opportunities in every problem, an old means of transportation was revived to ease the situation and few days after Keke NAPEP disappeared from VI, GRAs and Surulere, Kabukabus have suddenly emerged from nowhere to fill the void.
Kabukabu or Bolekaja (meaning come down and let’s fight) is a form of shared taxi, which is the transportation system prevalent in most Nigerian cities and villages. These cabs, which are mostly rickety, pose even more problems than Keke NAPEP, which it has come to replace.
In the mega-city dream of the governor, these old wobbly vehicles, whose sounds could wake the dead while their exhaust fumes blind the view of vehicles in their rear, should actually not be found in 21st century Lagos.
They not only pose environmental hazards, placed under scrutiny, they are bound to fail every facet of roadworthiness test. Curiously, LASTMA and VIO officials look the other way when sighted on the road. Their gaze instead is turned on SUVs and decent-looking vehicles.
An angry Lagosian, who has had to report late for work no matter how early he left home, told The Guardian “Keke NAPEP is the least of our problems in Lagos State.
“It was wrong for the governor to keep pushing out his anti-poor policies without providing alternatives. This new policy will only increase criminality and unemployment. Fashola should know that fingers are not equal and Lagos does not belong only to owners of Range Rovers and Land Cruisers. More importantly, he should not destroy the platform and party that brought him to power through his anti-masses policies.”