Okada/tricycle ban: Commuters groan as operation of LAGOS new ferries suffers delay

Commuters have yet to come to terms with the ban on commercial motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (Marwa) in some parts of Lagos State by the government a week after the decision took effect, Saturday PUNCH can report.

The state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said the ban which commenced on February 1 was irreversible, noting that it was for safety and security reasons.

Our correspondents who went round some of the areas where activities of okada and tricycles were restricted observed that commuters still experienced hardship getting to their destinations.

On Friday, it was discovered that the roads were still congested despite the ban as stranded passengers filled bus stops.

Saturday PUNCH also observed that commercial bus drivers doubled fares against reported warning by the state leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers.

A visibly angry commuter, Mr Phillips Udeme, said the ban was having a psychological effect on him as many workers were trekking for hours.

Udeme said, “I don’t know what to make of this situation. Honestly, I doubt if they calculated this move well. I got out of my house and didn’t expect to see any motorcycles but I didn’t know it was going to be this difficult.  Normally I pay N100 to get to my junction and with okada it’s about 10 minutes from my house. But today, I didn’t see any keke or okada. I had to trek to the junction. By the time I got to work, I wanted to return home because I was tired and in no mood to work. I sweated after trekking for a long time. Even the commercial buses were not available. The passengers were too many.’’

Another commuter, Mr Adedeji Olabode, expressed frustration that after leaving his house in Ojodu to his workplace in Festac, he encountered traffic on the road.

Also speaking to Saturday PUNCH, Mr Christopher Imolide stated that the stress of transportation had taken a toll on him. He said, “I left the house by 5am and I got to the office past 9am. If I take a bike, the journey is about 40 minutes but I was on the road for four hours. The Lagos State Government said it would provide another means for us but does that mean we should suffer till then? Where I used to enter keke to, I trek there now.”

James Nwokekoro spoke about the possible insecurity the ban might cause commuters who had to walk their way to or from work.

The commuter said, “The ban, as much as we want to focus on the positive aspect, is unleashing suffering on us and exposing many to danger. By the time I left home in the morning around 4.30am, I used to see okada to where I would take a bus. I now have to walk and scared that someone could rob me. I have to wait till it’s dawn.’’

One of the commuters, Julius Etim, said a phone belonging to one of his colleagues was stolen by hoodlums while returning from work.

Israel Smith, who said the ban caught him unawares, noted that though the move was commendable, it was done without appropriate alternatives.

Smith said, “To me, buses are even the major problem in Lagos. There are more buses than good roads, so why won’t there be traffic.”

Another commuter who spoke with one of our correspondents, Stella Akachi, hailed the government’s decision but noted that it was not properly handled.

She added, “Before you start a plan you have to think about the poor masses. There ought to be substitution before implementation. The government promised to provide more buses to substitute for the banned bikes and motorcycles. But it has not been inadequate.

A 200 level student of the University of Lagos, Funmilayo Adepoju, said more motorists now put their vehicles on the road as fallout from the ban thus causing traffic.

To Cecil Dickson, the ban was a mixed feeling for her though it was tough on her but it was somehow good considering the menace okada had become on the Lagos roads.

A painter, Michael Folorunsho, said he was on the way to Lekki for a painting job but had to reschedule the 10am meeting when he was stuck in traffic in the Iyana Ipaja area of the state despite leaving home at 6am.

According to a lawyer, Emeka Ezenwa, the ban has been able to empower the motorists who now charge double fares.

Similar view was shared by Daniel Adeyemi who told Saturday PUNCH that he and some other passengers were charged double fare on his way to work.

He said, “My office is between Obalende and Awolowo Road in Ikoyi. Normally if you stop at Obalende, you are supposed to take a tricycle to Keffi for N50. But now that there are no tricycles, you take N100 bus to Keffi.’’

What Adeyemi and Ezenwa witnessed also extended to another commuter, Sophia Ogwu.

Ogwu said from Ikeja (underneath the bridge) to Berger, bus drivers charged N200 and you had no choice than to pay.

The governor on Tuesday inaugurated eight new commercial ferries at the Badore Ferry Terminal, Ajah, to ease the stress of commuters. The new boats were said to have been constructed by local builders with state-of-the-art gadgets, to complement the existing six ferries operated by the Lagos Ferry Service.

Each of the boats, it was learnt, has a capacity of 40 to 60 passengers and will commute from Ikorodu, Ebute Ero, CMS, Badore to Ikoyi among other areas in the state.

Sanwo-Olu, who said the boats would be increased to 30 by the end of the year, pledged that over 500 buses would be injected into the state transport system to ease transportation problems.

Many commuters who besieged the boat terminals on Thursday were, however, disappointed to discover that the new ferries in the fleet of the LagFerry had yet to commence operation.

It was still cloudy at 6:30 am when one of our correspondents got to the jetty at Ebute Ikorodu to have a ride in one of the palliative ferries.

The place was crowdy and the majority of the passengers were office workers as depicted by their appearances. Though the place was crowded, it was an organised arrangement notwithstanding.

Passengers get tickets and the numbers on them allow a turn by turn entry into each ferry which accommodates 20 passengers.Once it’s a passenger’s turn, he picks a life jacket and get on the boat.

A commuter identified only as Mrs Sumbo said that she wasn’t a regular boat passenger but had to use a ferry to beat the road traffic building up on the way to the Island.

Sumbo, who works with one of the commercial banks in Victoria Island, said that she often joined a colleague to work from Ketu but since Monday, February 3, the narrative changed hence she had to use the boat though she’s hydrophobic.

She said, “I have a phobia for water but I don’t have a choice as I cannot afford to get to the office late. There’s gridlock in most areas but I cannot use that as an excuse for getting to work late.

“I used to join my colleague at Ketu by 5am but things changed lately. I have been unable to meet the 7:30 am resumption time for some days now. When I told my husband about my challenge, he advised that I should use the ferry.  I have decided to join the boat users today so that I can get to the office earlier.

“The ban on okada and tricycles does not really affect Ikorodu but the problem is the traffic. My husband told me that some ferries were just inaugurated by the governor and I could try them. That was what made me to opt for water transportation.  But to my surprise, I didn’t see the new ferries. I don’t know if they are in other terminals.”

Another commuter who gave his name only as Mr Mathew said he was a regular ferry user since it started operation in Ikorodu.

He told Saturday PUNCH that he had heard of the new ferries but they had yet to be available at the Ebute ferry terminal.

Matthew said, “I have been using this terminal for as long as I can remember but I haven’t seen any of the newly inaugurated ferries here.

“Most people patronise the bike-hailing firms to get to the Island but the ban has increased passengers at the ferry terminals. I have used all the boat terminals in Ikorodu; Baiyeku, Ijede and Ebute.

“In Ebute, it costs N700 to the Island. The major targets of the ferry operators are the working-class people who commute from Ikorodu to the Island every day.”

When one of our correspondents got to Badore, the story was the same. None of the new ferries was available. One of the workers at the terminal referred Saturday PUNCH to the Falomo jetty known as the five cowries terminal.

It’s a beautiful sight to behold at the Falomo terminal; well organised, neat and serene.

The boats therein were neatly parked at the seashore and the new ferries were parked separately from the old ones. LagFerry was inscribed on the new boats. There were artisans putting finishing touches like pasting stickers to the ferries.

One of the workers at the terminal who spoke to Saturday PUNCH on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press said the new ferries had yet to start operations.

He said, “We have not started operations with the newly inaugurated ferries. But if you can take a ride to Ijede, Ikorodu in any of the regular boats.

“The governor inaugurated the new ferries on Tuesday at the Badore terminal, Ajah area of the State. But we have yet to get to date when we will start. Once they we get a go-ahead, I am sure operations will commence in earnest. As you can see, some works are still going on in the boats.”

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