The case of businesses going under in Nigeria at multiple times the rate of new ones is no longer news. But what has made more headlines is who and what had been responsible for the deaths.
The recent Lagos State transport policy that sounded the death knell on commercial motorcycling from major interest areas within the state is akin to killing a tiny ant with a sledgehammer.
Some people in Nigeria believe that doing business in the country is as hard as squeezing water out of rock.
Killing free enterprise
It seems that while a few smart, young minds think hard to provide solutions to peculiar challenges in the country, some state governments become a cog in the progressive wheel of their territories.
Or how does one explain the policy challenges that have come the way of the bike-hailing start-ups in recent months. From the licensing issues to the point where outrageous ban was issued, investors in this transport subsector have been hit hard.
Aside the smart thinking and huge investment sunk into bike-hailing start-ups, like OPay, Metro Africa Xpress and Gokada, there have been other investments by individuals, small business operators and members of Nigeria’s fledging and edgy middle class. These investments will suffer greatly from the ban.
Founder of IrokoTv, Jason Njoku, recently bemoaned how Lagos tax officials sealed the entrance to one of his business premises because another firm in the building defaulted. This is way too hard for anyone to comprehend in this age and time.
Moreso, those directly affected – riders, ticketing officials of the unions, councils and support staff of the start-ups, among others – would be unleashed into the super-saturated labour market. As the time of writing, it was reported that Gokada, whose chief executive officer had, through a video, decried the loss of huge investment, had sacked some of its employees.
Also consider motorcycle and tricycle parts dealers who will be thrown out of business. The initial ban by former Governor Babatunde Fashola led to the death of motorcycle parts business at Ebute Meta. So, now that the tricycle is included, the effect will be greater than imagined.
How about those who fix those machines? Vulcanisers. Mechanics.
Food and drink vendor who serve these riders would have already started feeling the heat. Guess you can trace the cycle. The ripple effect is huge.
The human angle
But while Lagos was being ridiculed for the ban, Oyo State was being celebrated.
The Pace-setter State reportedly stated that traders hawking by the roadside would surely be made to leave, but that it would take it step-by-step, by providing alternative spaces for the hawkers.
As understandable as the idea to get Okada and Keke off Lagos roads for some reasons, the human angle should have been considered.
Research showed that responsible riders are more in number than the reckless ones.
Policies are great when they are geared towards the greater good of the majority. But in the case of the Okada and Keke ban, the reactions obviously tell the agony left in its wake – protests, joblessness and heightened insecurity. However, the political or ethnic undercurrents of this particular policy cannot be overlooked.
Given the job situation in Nigeria and the migration of youths from all over the country to the Centre of Excellence in search of greener pasture, the ban is out of place.
The ban, no matter how sad, still has some advantages, which, undoubtedly, is government’s reason for insisting on it.
Insecurity is one of Nigeria’s top issues. A careful study of Boko Haram and other bandits, especially in the North, reveals that they operate on motorcycles.
Also, accidents are expected to reduce in Lagos without motorcycles.
Did government look around and see this ban as the last resort? Is there no better way out the problem than the rush to lay off bike and tricycle riders?The bike-hailing companies are regulated. They have well-trained riders. So, just throwing them away for the fear of insecurity has definitely painted Lagos in bad light before prospective investors.
Policies are planned to give proper direction. In this case, proper planning would have mitigated the effect. For instance, all bike riders could hae been made to operate under any of the bike-hailing companies. This will result in proper profiling of riders since there will be registration linked to recognisable identification cards. This will also help with security issues.
This would have led to more competition within the bike-hailing ecosystem, as investors will be attracted to the space, and fares will be more competitive.
More funding into the economy will have spiral effect that will increase the revenue of the state. It is important to note that a city like Nairobi in Kenya with less than a third of Lagos population ramps up funding in comparison to Nigeria, due to right policies. This will be a win-win situation.
No responsible government wants to be drawn into court cases. Should these ride-hailing start-ups think along that line, tax-payers’ funds will suffer.
Governments have to be circumspect subsequently in developing and reeling out policies that affect fledgling businesses. The idea of always killing an ant with a sledgehammer is poison to the enterprising spirit.