Lagos Destruction of 3000 Motorcycles: A welcoming Development


A consuming nation where talents and creativity are misdirected, and younger generations are wasting at their prime, while the senior citizens/pensioners in their 60s, 70s  are finding okada as their means of survival is sitting on time bomb. It will soon explode before our very eyes if nothing is done urgently…

Recently, Lagos state government ordered and executed the destruction of over 3000 motorcycles seized across the state. As usual, the cry is that of poverty and wastage. Some activists competed with one another to be heard loud and clear as caring for the army of unemployed youths that will be thrown back into living from hand to mouth, and worse, embracing crime. In the midst of all these, I ponder deeply inside my mind to see that I am seeing the same Lagos as they are seeing. At the end of my observation, I came up with the three words: “a welcoming development!”

Let’s me go back a little into the Bike debate. Not long ago, there was a debate on whether Bike should be banned in the city or not. It was a heated debate with argument in favour of (and against) their operation. The usual excuse was poverty and unemployment. The people in favour of the retention clearly identified the linkage between poverty/unemployment and crimes surge. I was one of those in this group as I believed there must be an alternative(s) for the army of youths that will be affected. I noted that without alternative(s), it will be crime against humanity for government to deprive them of their means of livelihood. I recognized, however, that most of these riders are not unemployed. They are in some ways richer in term of monthly take-home compared to graduates working in some companies.

The argument for the banning of bikes was based on issues like; frequent accidents, disregard of traffic rules, using of the bikes to commit crime etc. But these arguments will not have come up if the bike riders observed the rules and also ensure that criminals didn’t hide among them. I am still in favour of free operation of bikes because of their usefulness in a city like Lagos where traffic gridlock can make a sane man insane and where valuable man-hours are lost.

While government eventually allowed the Bikes to keep operating and then put various rules and laws put in place to regularize their activities in the state, those of us who use Lagos regularly will know the following:
Most Bike riders, despite the massive awareness hardly obey traffic rules and they drive recklessly and snaking from lane to lane in their bid to reach their destination faster;
The rate at which people with regular employment are taking to Bike as part time work is growing so rapidly. This should have been positive development in its own way except that it is hurting the non-formal sector of economy in a way that we are not even noticing. Most of the vocational/technical enterprises are dying from lack of innovation and commitment because the people involved do not take them serious anymore. While some may be quick to blame the government on this, I will be interesting to note that non-formal sector of the economy used to be very vibrant and profitable. And it was a success because people were the driving force behind it.

Why is it a welcoming development? One, the nation’s non-formal sector begin to depreciate when the people and government become too reliant on oil and all resorting to quick-fix to make end meet. Companies were shutting down, and government is becoming unconcerned about the drift. Younger generation begin to drift into universities hoping to acquire degrees, get a high paying job and succeed. In the process, the spirit and value of hard work and integrity are gradually eroded. People become lazier as they aim to make it through any fast means. While all these are going on, our innovation and ingenuity are being channeled into the wrong path. We gradually become a consuming society where all nations dump their junks and products.

With collapsing infrastructures, the informal sector of economy gradually begin to lose it allures as younger generation move toward fast lane in a bid to beat the growing economic challenges. The government’s attempt at revitalizing the sector also failed to yield desired results due to the attitude of both the government and the citizens. They are on the path of no return.

Why is it a welcoming development? From government angle, this will means more trouble, in my opinion. With more youths thrown into unemployment, and propensity to commit crimes on high, the government will have the headache of coming up with an alternative to Bike business or the efforts may yield nothing positive in the end. I am thinking the hullaballoo generated by this destruction may and may not force government into action. It “may” if the people making noise sustain the pressure and request for alternative to Okada business and some of them actually come up with practical ways. It “may not” if the people just take delight in noise making and then switch into another national controversy (as they always) do.

My argument is that if we look at the positive side, and we decide on positive actions, we will end up finding a lasting solution to this and, naturally, we will have to revisit the non-formal sector of the economy. If government can be forced to play her roles, it will now be left to the citizens to look at the options available to them and explore them. We must not ban okada operation, but the operators must be made to comply with the rules and regulations and the business be made unattractive to law breakers.

Why is it a welcoming development? Many young and agile youths with creative minds have died or are killed by Bike accident while many are handicapped one way or the other. Many brilliant minds have been wasted because they channeled their creativities and talents into wrong avenue. The wastes resulting from this lost is so high and unfortunately can’t be felt within short time. The erosion of our values is gradual and psychological. If the government is ready to offer alternative and the citizens are ready to tap into them, this nation will grow and one day we will wake up and find that we are technologically evolving.

Why is it a welcoming development? It will send a clear signal to the Bike riders that they cannot eat their cakes and have it. Some of my friends suggested that the government should have auctioned the bikes, I think this is wrong. Why auction it when the owners will buy it back at a cost lower than the fine that was imposed in him? This has been the tradition in the past. You penalise someone at say, 20 000, and then ask the person to buy the product at 10 000; who will not jump at that opportunity? The primary purpose of imposing fine or punishment is to deter people from breaking the laws.. Once they know that the law will take its course, they will obey the rule.

The root of corruption in the wider society today is because the laws are not enforced. Auctioning the bikes will promote corruption among the officers. This is Nigeria and we all know how it works. Some of the law enforcement officers will sell the bikes through the backdoor. We all know this and have been crying against it, so should are we now encourage it?

Will the 3000 destroyed bikes have been put into something more positive? Yes! But we need to ascertain if the government has the facility to crush the bikes and sell them as scraps.

My personal view is that given the circumstance, it is a welcoming development. It is now left for the people and the government to rise up to the challenge. Something need to change. However, looking at it from Nigerian technology development, I sincerely hope that those affected will look at opportunities non-formal sectors of the economy. We need them all to put their creativity into work and make Nigeria proud. Bike riding business is a high risk business where the short term benefits (both to individual and the nation) often work against the long term benefit.

A nation where millions of agile, able graduates (and old retirees) are taking to Okada riding as a means of livelihood is a nation walking a pathway to economic doom. A consuming nation where talents and creativity are misdirected, and younger generations are wasting at their prime, while the senior citizens/pensioners in their 60s, 70s are finding okada as their means of survival is sitting on time bomb. It will soon explode before our very eyes if nothing is done urgently…

It is time to arrest this development and come up with strategy toward reviving the informal sector of the economy. We cannot go on this way. Biking is supposed to be for leisure and a not occupation (in my opinion). The earlier we act on this, the better for the individuals involved, the nation and the economy.

It is upon the above I feel that the destruction of the bikes is a welcome development provided we sustain the tempo and ensure that our noises and cries are heard so loud that it propel the government to action and also drive the people concerned toward better and viable options. 

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