As much as one may be inclined to think that these means of transportation are an anomaly in Africa’s largest city, the reality is, that for most residents in the state it is a convenient means of moving around and keeps the wheel of business going for an important, albeit, informal sector.


All the while, I supported the ban on “okadas” and “marwas” because of my experience as a fellow road user. The recklessness of these drivers jeopardised the rest of us on the road, no matter how sanely we went about our driving business. I, like many others, was alarmed by the strange road etiquette of the okada riders and the security threat they posed. So, when the ban was announced, I applauded it. And I still supported the ban. Until a recent interaction with a young lady forced me to re-think my position. Now, I think that the ban may have affected more good people negatively than we initially cared to think or acknowledge.

As part of the “New Month” service in my place of worship, we were asked to take another’s hand and ask for a prayer point. This young lady had just one prayer point ― access to means of transportation. She spoke with so much pain about the toll that the ban on okadas and marwas had taken on her health, her personal life and her business. In light of the ban, it had become unbearable and extremely difficult to continue to run her business.

Her business? She sells books and stationery.

Since her husband died unexpectedly, years ago, she has had to single-handedly fend for her little daughter, while also completing her own education. I remember that we came together as a church, at that time, to support her. Since then, I have watched her grow in determination and perseverance. She completed her education and focused on her business. From the proceeds, she pays for her daughter’s upkeep and school fees.

Is what we need an outright ban or a phased approach, where we determine when okadas/marwas would no longer ply our streets? Or maybe what we need is a well-defined governance framework around the okada/marwa businesses? One where we know who the drivers are, and under which they must earn a certification to operate these forms of transport?


Her business involves her carrying hard copy books to offices, schools and homes. And until recently, her main means of transportation were okadas and/or marwas. She would load her books on these vehicles and transport them as far as her money could carry her. A key success factor was the ease with which she could transport her books and how quickly she could. It was also important for the books to get to the consumers in good condition. Unfortunately, her clients are in the business districts of Lagos State, where the ban on this category of vehicles applies the most.

Since the ban, she has had to walk long distances. Spend so much more on taxis and buses. And then there is a limit to the quantity she can carry on public buses. Plus, waiting in line for buses for a long period in the open, means that her books could be dusty or have drops of rain on them. It also takes her twice as long to get her supplies to her customers, which is a minus for the growth of her business. By the time she gets home, she has aches and pains. Not surprisingly, she is no longer her usual happy self.

Thinking about it, there are many like this young lady, who have been affected so negatively by this ban, which in itself is not out of order. The major downside is the absence of any real alternative to the vehicle categories affected by the ban. It does seem that this ban may have affected our micro-SMEs very strongly. Within the business chain, it stands to reason that they would have been the main users of okadas.

So perhaps what is needed is a solution that works for all?

…how do we ensure that all of us have a hat in the ring? Some of us want a secure Lagos, one without the recklessness of okada/marwa drivers. Some of us want the assurance that everybody is accounted for and we do not have a huge number of strangers with a hidden agenda living amongst us.


Is what we need an outright ban or a phased approach, where we determine when okadas/marwas would no longer ply our streets? Or maybe what we need is a well-defined governance framework around the okada/marwa businesses? One where we know who the drivers are, and under which they must earn a certification to operate these forms of transport? This may be the quickest alternative to implement, whist we await the much talked about trains and new bus systems that would connect the entire state.

As much as one may be inclined to think that these means of transportation are an anomaly in Africa’s largest city, the reality is, that for most residents in the state it is a convenient means of moving around and keeps the wheel of business going for an important, albeit, informal sector. A ban, therefore, ought to come with alternatives. Alternatives that will ensure that businesses don’t fail and our youths, out of frustration don’t resort to crime. Doing business has to be made easy, even for those who would rather be idle. We must not make it very hard for people to earn an income or contribute their own quota to society.

So how do we ensure that all of us have a hat in the ring? Some of us want a secure Lagos, one without the recklessness of okada/marwa drivers. Some of us want the assurance that everybody is accounted for and we do not have a huge number of strangers with a hidden agenda living amongst us. Some of us want a Lagos where transportation is easy, convenient, and cheap, such that doing business is easy.

So why can’t we all have what we want?

‘Lande Atere is a lawyer and everyday girl.