Is there an active ban on Motorcycles and Tricycles on Lagos State Highways?

The Lagos State Government (“LASG”) held a press briefing on Monday, 27th January 2020, where it announced the outright ban on motorcycles, (recently given a definition in the Oxford English dictionary as “Okada”) and tricycles, the “Keke Napeps” on major highways in Lagos State. This ban is set to be effective from 1st February 2020. As the said ban captures all kinds of motorcycles and tricycles, it effectively affects the operations of ride-hailing businesses such as Opay, Gokada and Max NG.

In explaining this ban, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information & Strategy stated the LASG was “merely enforcing” existing transport laws in the state, notably the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 (the “Law”). He stated further that the LASG had consulted with stakeholders and the State Security Council before making this decision.

In a previous article, we emphasised the need for a fast, safe and effective means of commuting between points in Lagos State. We were particularly excited on the innovative nature of the Regulation made pursuant to the Law. This appeared to have examined Lagosians’ needs, by exempting motorcycles above 200cc engine capacity from the prohibition in the Law and permitting them to ply all roads. This recent development is therefore rather puzzling, given the government specifically allowed the operation of that particular category of motorcycles on its highways.

Section 46 of the Law generally prohibits motorcycles and tricycles from plying major highways in Lagos State. However, Regulation 15 of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law (Road Traffic) Regulations, made pursuant to the Law exempts motorcycles above 200cc engine capacity from the general prohibition in Section 46. This same regulation also allows a motorcycle having a minimum of 200cc engine capacity to be used for mail distribution and courier services.

The first question that comes to mind after listening to the Commissioner for Information & Strategy, is whether the provisions of a regulation made pursuant to a Law duly enacted by the Lagos State Government can be amended by a press briefing? Section 326 (1) (dd) and (ee) of the Law gives the Commissioner for Transport the authority to make regulations generally and specifically to prohibit or restrict the use of any specified highway by vehicles of any specified class or description and to prohibit the driving or propelling of vehicles on any specified highway otherwise than in a specified direction. Based on the above provision, undoubtedly, the Lagos State Commissioner for Transport is empowered to prohibit motorcycles and tricycles on specific highways in the State. However, this can only be validly done by a regulation. To the extent that the Commissioner for Transport has yet to issue a Regulation amending the existing Regulations, the Commissioner for Information & Strategy’s press briefing would at best be considered the government’s notice of an “intention” to change the Law.

If the Commissioner for Transport goes ahead to amend the exiting Regulations by issuing a fresh Regulation reflecting this intention, it is highly unlikely that the LASG alone will be able to cater for the transportation needs of the millions of Lagosians on the move every hour in the state, and this makes private sector participation and government’ s regulation unavoidable.

In our opinion, the sustainable suitable solution to Lagos State’s transportation conundrum is the formulation and execution of an effective and strategic transportation policy aimed at encouraging private sector participation and government regulation encompassing the promotion and protection of security, health and safety. Accordingly, LASG needs to execute its blueprint for intermodal transportation that will open up investments in the rail, road (including ride hailing motorcycle transportation) and water sectors through Public Private Partnerships. The LASG can concession routes to the private sector whilst holding on to its regulatory role, empowering institutions like Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (“LAMATA”) and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (“LASTMA”) to enforce its transportation laws and regulations.