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Crowded Lagos to ban motorbikes from most of Nigerian metropolis

By Libby George

By Libby George

LAGOS, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Nigeria's business capital of Lagos will ban commercial motorcycles from operating in large parts of the city, the state government announced on Monday, a move that could change the commute for thousands and threaten ride-hailing startups.

The Lagos state government announced on Twitter that it would ban motorcycles, commonly known as okadas, from operating in most of Lagos because of what it described as their "chaos and disorderliness" and "scary figures" of fatal accidents.

Companies such as Max.ng, Oride and Gokada have been aiming to capitalize on the congested Lagos roads and the city's teeming population to expand their operations.

The ban cites a 2018 law to bar okadas and small three-wheeled vehicles known as kekes from Feb. 1. It would bar them from 40 bridges and flyovers and areas covering the business districts of Victoria Island and Lagos Island, Apapa, where the primary port is located and Ikeja, which is home to the international airport.

Chinedu Azodoh, cofounder of Max.ng, is hopeful that the ban would not apply to them since their bikes are above the 200 cubic centimeter engine size banned specifically by the law.

"From what we've seen today, we don't think the ban affects our business," Azodoh said.

Still, he said, enforcement could be tough on their riders and drivers if police are not well-versed on the specifics of the law.

"We expect some more clarity on how this will be implemented," he said.

Max.ng, which also operates in Kano, Ibadan and Akure in Nigeria, had an investment round last year that raised more than $5 million.

Startup Gokada also raised $5 million last year for its Lagos operations. Founder Fahim Saleh said that while their bikes are also above 200cc, he was not sure about the impact of the ban on them.

"It's disappointing," he said, adding they would seek to expand its operations in courier and logistics services. "We don't know how it's going to be enforced."

ORide, part of OPay in which Norwegian software firm Opera Ltd has an equity interest, also offers ride-hailing motorcycles in Lagos. Reuters could not immediately reach the company for comment.

In June, Gokada told Reuters that there are an estimated 8 million okada drivers operating across Nigeria.

($1 = 305.9500 naira) (Reporting by Libby George; additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Grant McCool)