Okada (motorcycle taxi)

Achaba in Kano, Nigeria

In Nigeria, an okada (also achaba, going, inaga[1]) is a motorcycle taxi. The name was borrowed from Okada Air, a Nigerian local airline, now defunct.

Motorcycle taxis or Okadas are also commonly used in some other West African countries,[2] including Togo (oléyia), Benin (zémidjans), Burkina Faso, Liberia (phen-phen) and Sierra Leone.[3]


The airline was named after Okada town near Benin City, the hometown of its owner, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion. Commercial motorcycles were later nicknamed after the airline company, 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 remember. In January 2020, the word, "okada," was added to the Oxford English Dictionary January updates, along with 28 other widely-used Nigerian words.[4]


The use of motorcycle taxis in Nigeria predates the Babangida administration: they were known in the Cross River State in the 1970s while Achaba or motorcycle taxis were also present in parts of Yola[5] and Gongola State (now Adamawa State) in the late 1970s and spread to Lagos through a group of individuals in the Agege Local Government Area.[6][2] Okadas began to spread in the 1980s and became more popular in the late 1980s following an economic downturn in Nigeria which was partly a consequence of the adoption of liberalize economic policy in the form Structural Adjustment Program with a combined effect of rapid urbanization, unemployment and inadequate intra-city public transportation.[2] Some of the advantages of the use of motorcycle taxis for intra-city commercial transport are that they are readily available.[2] They also easily navigate narrow and bad roads and remote areas, and meander through the hectic urban traffic, thereby meeting the unmet transport needs of some urban residents.Unemployed youths began to use motorcycles to earn money by transporting passengers swiftly to their doorsteps and sometimes on narrow or poorly maintained roads.[2] This type of transportation quickly became popular, and acceptance of it increased steadily. Okadas are now one of the primary modes of transportation in Nigeria, and constitute a cheap and adaptable transportation system, the most popular informal one in the country. Even in remote villages, they arrive at regular intervals. It has become a means of transportation regularly used by the young and the old, and men and women. Unfortunately, the rise in okada usage has been accompanied by increased occurrences of risky driving, and accidents, on Nigerian roads; as a result, okadas have come under heavy criticism, resulting in legislation intended to restrict or prohibit their operation in some Nigerian cities, notably Lagos in 2012[7] and in 2020.[8]

Okadas in Nigerian societyEdit

Okadas in Kano, Nigeria

Taxicab and bus service in Nigeria is inadequate, and congestion and poorly maintained roads are widespread. Okadas are used in cities such as Lagos by businessmen, government workers, and students to overcome traffic congestion, and can navigate roads that are inaccessible to automobiles and buses, particularly in villages and urban slums. Contributing to the flourishing of okadas is their low purchase price for operators, and their superior fuel efficiency, which is particularly important during petrol shortages in Nigeria.

Okada fares are usually higher than those of public transit. Riding on an okada has been described as "a unique experience" by both tourists and local users.[9]

Demographics of okada drivers and passengersEdit

Okadas in Lagos, Nigeria

A study carried out in 1993 in Yola, a medium-sized city that is the capital of the northeastern state of Adamawa, Nigeria, provides additional insight into the okada business. The study showed that about 88% of the okada drivers were between 18 and 30 years old, and only 47% had received any type of formal education. The survey also elicited information from 106 passengers. Customers generally were male (65%); were young adults between 18 and 30 years of age (57%); had completed at least secondary school (83%); were unemployed but in the job market (59%); and had low to moderate incomes (45%). They valued okadas mainly because they were fast and readily available. Reasons that customers disliked them were that they considered them to be unsafe (this was stated by 67% of the respondents) and expensive (stated by 43% of the respondents). A survey of okada customers in Akure also revealed customer concerns over safety—61% felt operators drove too fast, and 31% said that they drove too recklessly.[9] Left with few transportation options, however, many continue to patronize okadas despite knowing well the significant risks involved.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The impact of Inaga ban on students". www.thenationonlineng.com. The Nation (Lagos), Thursday, 18 June 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ezeibe, Nzeadibe, Ali, Udeogu, Nwankwo and Ogbodo (2017). "Work on wheels: collective organising of motorcycle taxis in Nigerian cities". IDPR. 39 (3): 249–273. doi:10.3828/idpr.2017.10.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Mbella Mouelle, S. L. (2014). Complex causality between transportation and human security: A special focus on the city of douala, cameroon http://search.proquest.com/docview/1625048725/
  4. ^ Augoye, Jayne (21 January 2020). "'Okada', 'Kannywood', 27 other Nigerian words added to Oxford Dictionaries". https://www.premiumtimesng.com/ - Premium Times News. Retrieved 15 February 2020. External link in |website= (help)
  5. ^ Olubomehin Oladipo.(2012). The Development and Impact of Motorcycles as Means of Commercial Transportation in Nigeria. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, ISSN 2224-5766(Paper) ISSN 2225-0484(Online). Vol.2, No.6, 2012
  6. ^ Kumar, A (2011). "Understanding the emerging role of motorcycles in African cities: a political economy perspective". World Bank.
  7. ^ Olowosagba, Bamidele (24 August 2014). "Will Lagos Authorities Reverse Okada Restriction?". Naij.com - Nigeria news. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  8. ^ Olasunkanmi, O (5 February 2020). "NO GOING BACK ON OKADA, KEKE RESTRICTION – SANWO-OLU". https://www.vanguardngr.com/ - Lagos State Government News. Retrieved 15 February 2020. External link in |website= (help)
  9. ^ a b c Cervero, R: "Informal Transport in the Developing World", 2005

Further readingEdit

  • Solagberu et al., 2006, Motorcycle injuries in a developing country and the vulnerability of riders, passengers, and pedestrians, Journal of Injury Prevention.
  • Daan Beekers, 2008, Motorcycle fellowships: security, solidarity and subjectivity among okada riders, chapter 4 of 'Children of a "Fallen House": Lives and Livelihoods of Youth in Nigeria'. MPhil Thesis. Oxford. [1]
  • The WHO newsletter on road safety, 2004, Road Safety Is No Accident.
  • The UK Department for Transport, 2004, In-Depth Study of Motorcycle Accidents.
  • US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001, Fatal Single Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes.
  • US National Technical Information Service, 1981, Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures (The Hurt Report).