Photo published on Flickr by Greif.
It was already hard enough getting around Lagos, Nigeria’s traffic-plagued largest city. Now it’s become even tougher, with a ban of motorcycle-taxis in part of the city. Even though they're accused of causing many accidents, these taxis are extremely popular with local residents, many of whom depend on them in a city where paralysing traffic jams are the norm.
In late March, the governor of Lagos state announced a ban on motorcycle-taxis in the streets of Ikeja, the city's business district. Motorcycle-taxis, which in Nigeria are called ‘okadas’, are not just maligned for the troubles they cause weaving in and out of traffic. Authorities claim they also contribute to Lagos’ rising crime rate
Despite efforts of okada drivers' unions to hold protests and lodge court complaints, the ban is now in effect. The police have impounded hundreds of okadas whose drivers tried to breach the new rules. The drivers lament their loss of revenue, while Ikeja residents complain that it is difficult to find alternative means of transportation. There are few bus routes in the district, and, unlike okadas, the buses that do run often get caught in traffic jams.
A traffic jam in Lagos.

"They’re extremely handy when you’re in a hurry, but on the other, criminals can make a quick getaway by hopping on them"

Olusegun Iselaiye lives and works in Lagos.
When this ban was announced, Lagos residents had mixed feelings: it was seen as both necessary and premature. The authorities seem to have made this decision without considering its effects, since they have not come up with any solutions to replace the okadas.
Lagos’ public transportation is lacking, so nearly everyone drives a car, which causes huge traffic jams. People who have cars still regularly use okadas, because it’s the quickest way to get around. There’s a love-hate relationship between Lagos residents and okadas. On one hand, they’re extremely handy when you’re in a hurry, but on the other, criminals can make a quick getaway by hopping on them after they snatch your belongings in the middle of a traffic jam. And then, of course, there’s the fact that they’re at the root of many accidents.
Okadas have been banned in other Nigerian cities, like Port Harcourt, Warri and Abuja. I lived in Port Harcourt two years ago, when the ban came into effect. I don’t know if the crime rate went down, but there were much fewer accidents.
In Lagos, okadas feed many people: thousands of impoverished Nigerians who could easily have become delinquents drive okadas to make ends meet in a legal manner. As a group, however, okada drivers are viewed as a menace to society. I worry about what will happen to them now.