The Lagos Okada Ban. It is the manner of implementation that is the problem.

The ban by the Lagos State Government (LASG) on motorcycles and tricycles as a means of public transportation has hit its residents hard. The ban has made commuting in the city, for those that rely on public transport to get around, hellish. For those operating in the sector, the ban has been an unmitigated disaster. Overnight, ride-hailing companies (RHC) have found themselves without a business model and financiers have seen the value of their once promising investments plummet. Massive layoffs have begun with Gokada reported to have made about 80% of its workforce redundant. It is likely that various supply contracts will unravel, amicably or not, as a result of the ban. The question most Lagosians are asking is why.

The delivery of public transport is a regulated service the world over. No one is disputing the LASG’s power to regulate the sector but the manner in which the ban was implemented and the fact that so many are unclear on the reasons for the ban indicates that a proper and transparent regulatory impact assessment (RIA) and consultation was not done.

According to the LASG, its decision was based mainly on reasons of security and safety. However, conducting an RIA would have clarified in more detail what these security and safety concerns are, how the benefits of maintaining the status quo were outweighed in real terms by the drawbacks, and why a complete ban was the only viable option of addressing these drawbacks as opposed to, for example, permitting the RHCs to continue to operate under a tighter regulatory framework. And even if at the end of the exercise the LASG concluded that the ban was the way to go, the exercise would have highlighted the need for a transition period to permit all affected to prepare.

The RIA and consultation would have considered the impact on and views of the drivers who suddenly find themselves on the unemployment line in a country with no social security system. Their plight is not helped by our ridiculously archaic labour law which provides employees with very little protection in the event of a redundancy. There is no right of consultation or to minimum redundancy payments. Instead they have a right to be informed through their representative of the extent and reasons of the redundancy and the employer need only use best efforts to negotiate redundancy allowances. In other jurisdictions, governments intervene in failing businesses and sectors to avoid job losses due to the detrimental effect on the economy, but the LASG’s rollout of the ban has been nothing short of callous in this regard.

The ban is being challenged in court on the basis of human rights. However, it is not the ban per se which is the problem, rather it is the way it was implemented. The LASG would do well to learn the lessons from this debacle and review its processes for adopting and executing regulatory change.

Image by Akinielo. Licensed under CC BY-SA.

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