Cover Stories, News, People

Northerners take over okada business in Lagos


– Consider the state safe and commercially viable 

OPERATING of motorcycles, popularly called Okada, in Lagos for commercial purpose was initially known to be the trade of the Yoruba, Igbo and people from the South-South of the country when it started about 20 years ago.

But now, the situation has changed.  The Yoruba hitherto dominated the business in Lagos has now been hijacked by the Hausa, otherwise known as mallams.

The scenario, we learnt, is largely due to insecurity and high rate of unemployment in the region; hence the decision by some youths in the place to migrate to Lagos.

ENCOMIUM Weekly went round some okada parks in Lagos State and we confirmed that they’re mostly populated by the Hausa-Fulani of northern extraction whose sponsors are either in the north or based in Lagos.

Our chat with some of these mallams’ confirmed the scenario.  According to Muhammad Ahmed who operates from Fagba, the incessant killings by the Boko Haram insurgents in the northern part of the country has hindered free flow of business in the region coupled with high unemployment rate.

“I am from Kebbi State.  I came to Lagos late last year to look for work.  And the only thing available for me to do is riding okada.  I was introduced to the business by my friend who took me to one of our tribe’s men in abattoir, Oko-Oba.  The man now gave me one out of his many motorcycles.  I was asked to be delivering N5,000 per week.  At the end of each day, I go home with not less than N1,500.  But when I am not that lucky, I may not go home with more than N500.

“I should have stayed in the north but the situation there is not conducive for any business now because of the activities of Boko Haram.  And apart from that, no job in the north that can fetch you your needs. I prefer to remain in Lagos.  It’s safe and better.”

Another mallam, Aliru Mustapha from Borno who operates from Okota via Cele Bus stop in the state said he came to Lagos as a cobbler but later chose to venture into okada business to complement his vocation.  “I am a cobbler. I moved to Lagos in 2013, from Borno.  And since I came in, my life has changed for the better.  There is nothing in the north now.  And the fear of Boko Haram made me leave Borno for Lagos because I can’t work there anymore.

“I joined okada business early 2014.  And I have mastered the trade.  Even when we’re restricted to certain routes, I am still making money rather than staying in the north jobless and begging for food.

“I got my okada through a brother who introduced me to a rich man from our side.  The man has about 500 motorcycles in Lagos and they’re mainly being handled by those of us from the north.  We’re not only in Okota here, we’re all over the state, including Apapa, Festac, Mile 2, Ajegunle, Ojuelegba, Agege, Lekki, Ikoyi, Obalende and other places.

“The fact is that there is no money in the north.  Even those riding okada there may not make up to N500 a day.  And apart from that, the place is not secured.  I am 22, I have one wife and two children now.  I need to make sure they’re okay before I get to 40.  In our family, it’s a tradition that you must marry second wife when you reach 40 years.

“When the rainy season starts, I will go back home to look after my farm and family.  Then, after a while, I will come back to Lagos to continue my okada business.”

Another rider in Ojota, Hawal Idris said, “It’s true that we’re many in the business now, especially in Lagos.  We believe Lagos is the only place in Nigeria where we can make our ends meet.  The atmosphere in the north doesn’t permit any business to flourish at all now.  Everybody is afraid of continued stay in the place, especially Borno, Adamawa, Kebbi, Kano and even Abuja.  A lot of people have been killed by Boko Haram.  So, we consider Lagos safe and commercially viable. That’s why most of us see the state as our second home.”

Related Stories:



About the Author