Last week, the Lagos State Task Force impounded 115 motorcycles in the state metropolis, 22 of which reportedly belonged to motorcycle on-demand companies, MAX and Gokada.
Requesting anonymity, a source close to the matter told Techpoint the number of impounded MAX and Gokada motorcycles was actually 15 and not 22. The source also said the arrests were made to clear out an area that commercial motorcycles had been banned from parking.
The report said the impounded vehicles contravened Lagos State Road Traffic Laws of 2012 (pdf).
The said laws were signed in August 2012 by past Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, in a bid to sanitise the state. Most of its provisions proscribed improper safety measures, vehicle categories among other offences.
Gokada and MAX seem to meet most of the provisions of the law like safety apparel for riders and passengers and minimum rider count.
But one of the provisions of the law prohibits commercial motorcyclists from plying about 475 roads and highways across the state and this seemed to be the task force’s pressing issue with the two companies.
According to the report, chairman of the task force, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi “confirmed that activities of these newly branded commercial motorcycle operators are illegal and without any valid documentation from the state government.”
This was a new twist to the story.
How true are these claims of illegality?
Co-founder of MAX.ng, Chinedu Azodoh refused to comment on the impounded motorcycles. On the issue of operating illegally, he said MAX is not aware of any valid documentation a motorcycle on demand company needs to operate in the state.
“However, we are working closely with relevant agencies and the Lagos State government to make sure the law is clear around our operations in the state.”
Commercial motorcycles or okadas as they are popularly called have been a darling of commuters in Lagos State, one of Nigeria and Africa’s busiest cities.
But as effective as they are in weaving through debilitating traffic, they are not without hazards. Ghastly accidents trail their wake and there is the issue that they prove an effective vehicle for crime; murders, kidnappings and armed robbery; the list is endless.
Over the years, the Lagos state government has waged a seemingly losing war against them.
Then in mid 2017, on-demand motorcycle transportation services launched in Lagos State. And the chronic nature of traffic congestion in Nigeria’s commercial hub made these solutions a godsend. They were an upgrade to the risky and highly unregulated motorcycle operators or okadas.
MAX.ng launched in June of 2017, Gokada followed nearly one year later and these two have dominated the market since.
Techpoint was unable to reach CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi for comments and clarifications, but seeing as the first of these motorcycle on-demand companies launched 5 years after the law was enacted, this may be a case of the law not evolving fast enough to keep pace with technological innovations.
Suggested Read; Gokada is looking to be more than a motorcycle on-demand company
On-demand motorcycle transportation services are an innovative answer to the challenges of okada in the state as they provide an alternative means of effective transport for commuters.
Until road networks and alternative transportation systems are well built out in Africa’s busiest city, okadas will never go away. Fighting them will be an uphill battle the government may never win.
So these companies are also a seeming answer to the government’s need for a regulatory model for okadas.
The Lagos State government with its many initiatives like the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) has positioned itself as innovation friendly. Hopefully it can adapt its laws to changing tides, technology and innovations to match this positioning.
“Branding and marketing for small businesses” is the theme for the 2nd edition of our SME Clinic. Find out how you can participate here.
Love to write? Looking to build a career in tech journalism? Techpoint is organising a Writer Bootcamp; you could land a 6-month paid internship with us. Find out more here.
Nigerian startups raised $17.6m in Q1 2019, 8.5% higher than they did in Q1 2018. Find out more in the latest quarterly edition of the Nigerian Startup Funding Report here.