History of the concept
The name okada was borrowed from Okada Air, a Nigerian local airline, now defunct. In its time, Okada Air was the most popular Nigerian local airline, but was not known for its comfort. The airline itself was named after the Okada town near Benin City, the hometown of its owner, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion.
The motorcycle transports were nicknamed after the airline, because they could manoeuvre through the heavy traffic of Lagos, and take passengers to their destinations in a timely manner, in the same way as the airline. The ironic humour of an airline's name being used for commercial motorcyclists, as well as the local familiarity with Okada Air, caused the nickname of okada to outlive the airline from which it originated, which many Nigerians no longer even remember.
Okada riders appeared in the late 1980s, during an economic downturn in Nigeria. Jobless youths began to use motorcycles to earn money by transporting passengers on narrow or poorly maintained roads to faraway cities and villages. This type of transportation quickly became popular, and acceptance of it has increased steadily.
Okada in Nigerian society
Okada riding is popular business and it is widely used by members of the public. Its role in the Nigerian society cannot be over- emphasised. Okadas, because of their low cost of purchase, fuel efficiency and ability to travel on roads that (cars) cannot easily go to or places that they cannot get to, have become invaluable in a country that is bedevilled with shortage of taxi cabs, buses, a weak mass-transit system, poor state of the roads and inadequate access roads to rural areas which causes traffic congestion.
In particular, various sets of people in the society including, government workers, students, traders and business people find okada business a great relief from the congested traffic situations that are sometimes common sight during the rush hours in the morning and afternoon when schools and offices close.
Unfortunately, the rise of okada commercial enterprise has been accompanied by increased levels of high-risk behaviours and accidents on Nigerian roads. As a result, both the riders and the business have come under heavy attack culminating in legislations restricting or prohibiting their operations in some Nigerian cities. Okadas, like motorcycles elsewhere, have a higher rate of crippling and fatal accidents per unit of distance travelled than automobiles.
Okada operations in Nigeria are seen to constitute a serious threat the security, live and property of Nigeria citizens. They have also been accused of causing accident on the road, death of many innocent citizens due to reckless riding.
Causes of motorcycle accidents:
Okadas are also accused of carrying out jungle justice hence taking laws in to their hands.
The influx of okadas has been linked to an increase in crime in cities throughout Nigeria, particularly in city centres, urban slums, and red light districts. The criminal activities range from theft of purses and mobile phones to abduction, grand larceny, and even politically motivated murder.
Okada people have become a constant menace and an embarrassment to civilization and civility. They call car owners names. They use vexatious slang that belongs to the crudest form of social discourse. They are gossip merchants. They are touts atop roving motor cycles.
In August 2013, the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences reiterated the ban of Okada riders on some restricted roads in Lagos Metropolis.