Late January last year, the Lagos State Government banned the operations of motorcycles and tricycles on major highways in the state.
The then on-demand motorcycle-hailing startups including ORide, Gokada and Max NG that were cashing in on the terrible and particularly tiring/frustrating Lagos traffic were not exempted.
It came as a rude shock that these startups that were organised, fast, and relatively safe unlike the regular okadas went under as a result of a random government policy. Unfortunately, the millions of dollars spent by these startups were wasted.
Why Lagos State Banned Motorcycles?
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, said the ban was introduced by the Government in response to “scary figures” of fatal accidents recorded from operations of Okada and tricycles in the State between 2016 and 2019.
Omotoso said the lack of regard for the Lagos Traffic Laws by the motorcycle and tricycle riders had resulted in preventable loss of lives, adding that their impermissible movements on restricted highways had also contributed to traffic jams.
Omotoso added that the enforcement would be total, warning that the Government would deal with violators in accordance with the Laws. He added that there would be zero tolerance for the movement of the banned vehicles on the listed highways and bridges.
Has the enforcement been total?
As expected, there was a lot of initial gragra (aggressive push) on the part of the government to enforce the ban. While it was successful in getting the digital motorcycles off the road, It has so far failed woefully in removing regular motorcycles that are the main cause of accidents from the highways.
Even the alternative that the government said it would provide, there has been none so far.
So why EXACTLY did the Lagos State Government ban these digital bikes?
Clearly, the ban on okada in Lagos was rushed and not well-thought-out. With okadas littered around the state including restricted highways, it begs the question of why Lagos State knifed the digital bike startups.
These startups eased mobility in the face of severe traffic by quickly transporting Lagosians from point A to point B. If you have an appointment for 9 am, you can leave your home at 7:30 am and still arrive at your destination in good time by hailing a bike. It was one of the most pragmatic ways to bypass and beat Lagos’s notorious traffic.
The excuse the government gave then was untenable, unacceptable and quite ridiculous because these bikes met quite a number of safety conditions and their drivers were accountable.
As long as the regular bikes are back on Lagos streets and are still one of the major causes of accidents, the government was absolutely wrong to have banned ORide, Gokada, and Max Okada.
Perhaps, it was out of ignorance that these ‘ban or tax anything Lagos government’ ban these okadas.
If they had not banned them, maybe, the government would have used vexatious policy to bring down these startups down just like it is doing to Uber, Bolt and others.
How are these former on-demand motorcycle startups fairing?
After the ban, the bikes of ORide, Gokada and Max Okada that have become part of the daily life of Lagosians disappeared.
They were a bit confused about what to do as ambitious plans were left hanging and millions of dollars spent on bike and human resources went down the drain. Then came coronavirus.
They had two options-to pivot or to shut down.
ORide was by far the biggest on-demand motorcycle startup. Backed by Opera and millions of dollars in funding, it acquired inexpensive bikes to move Lagosians around with ease. Additionally, it did a lot of promos which drove hundreds of users to its platform.
With the traction, it expanded to other Nigerian cities and even added tricycles to its services. These were good times for ORide. However, with the Lagos ban on okada, it sold off all its bikes and sadly shut down ORide. Another victim of weak government policies.
Gokada’s approach was to be the standard for these former motorcycle-hailing startups. Its bikes were beautiful and very neat. Its helmet was unique. You will feel like a superstar when you hop on their bikes. It was an exciting experience. However, the bikes were quite expensive. Arguably, its quest for high standards was its biggest undoing. Its then CEO Saleh Fahim’s voiced out his absolute displeasure on the ban.
Due to the ban, it shelved its plan to launch GBoat.
After a brief lull, Gokada cut its staff, pivoted to logistics and later launched ‘Chop’ its food delivery service. Months after, the Gokada founder was brutally murdered which could have led to the shut down of the company. By whatever grace, the firm stood firm during these difficult times and recently appointed Nikhil Goel as new CEO.
MaxNG already had a very solid logistics business before venturing into motorcycle ride-hailing. In fact, it was the first on-demand motorcycle startup in Nigeria. Just like Gokada, it had ambitious plans to introduce electric bikes. It is even working with the Ekiti Government to digitise the state’s transport network. Amongst the three, it was the less affected even though the on-demand motorcycle business must have been one of its core businesses.