…Govt should provide alternatives — Okada riders
By Ebunoluwa Sessou & Esther Onyegbula
PANDEMONIUM broke out, yesterday, at Second Rainbow in Amuwo Odofin Local government area, along the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, as commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada, violently protested the seizure of their bikes by the Lagos State Task Force.
Trouble started when Lagos Task Force officials impounded commercial motorcycles. However, they met with violent resistance from the riders.
The irate motorcyclists blocked the expressway and made bonfires, leading to a total breakdown of law and order around Festac, Amuwo Odofin, which escalated rapidly to Coker and Mile 2 axis of Apapa/Oshodi expressway, causing heavy traffic gridlock and serious hardships to commuters.
An eyewitness, Ayodele Sam, told Vanguard: “I knew it would degenerate to this, with what I saw when I was going to work yesterday morning. What happened was that when the Taskforce officials arrived at the scene to arrest Okada riders and seize their bikes, the operators confronted them, which degenerated to the crisis in the area.”
Another eyewitness, Mr. Ifeanyi, who narrated the story to Vanguard said: “The fight started Tuesday morning. The Lagos State taskforce raided Okada riders around the Second Rainbow area of Lagos, then, the next thing we saw was that the northern Okada riders in the area resisted them and started fighting them. The situation was tensed such that most people were stranded for hours. I narrowly escaped.”
Another witness, Mr. Rasheed, a commercial driver said: “The task force officials came to Second Rainbow and started raiding the Okada riders there. But they were overpowered because the Okada riders, who were many, retaliated. In their numbers, the Okada riders pursued and one of them was caught. We later heard that the task force officer was killed, how true the information was, I do not know, but I know that other officers ran away.”
A trader at Second Rainbow, Mrs. Bunmi, told Vanguard that: “I was not on ground when the clash started but when I got to my shop, I saw soldiers with guns. They were just trying to control traffic.”
Govt should provide alternatives —Okada riders
A commercial motorcyclist, who identified himself as Abass Yakubu, said: “If the government is not insensitive, how will they be impounding bikes after the COVID- 19 lockdown and the current economic hardship in the country? What did commercial motorcyclists do? Do they want us to steal? We are human and we have families. You can’t ban okada without providing alternatives for us. Like many okada riders, I have a family, I have children, and I have bills to pay. Do you think I love risking my life like this? But I don’t have a choice.”
Another okada rider, who identified himself as Ahmed, said: “These policemen have been disturbing us for a while and I do not know what we did to them. We are looking for them in the area and they will not go scot-free.”
Speaking on the incident, Head, Public Affairs Unit of the Lagos State Task Force, Adebayo Taofiq, said the operatives of the agency, “based on series of complaints from the public about activities of Okada riders using their bikes to rob them of their valuables and plying restricted routes, went to the area for enforcement.
After impounding no fewer than 74 Okada caught plying one-way and those operating on highway, Okada riders mobilised themselves and attacked officers of the agency.”
Taofiq said: “They damaged beyond repair two of our vehicles with one of our trucks. A paramilitary officer attached to the Agency (Ganiyu Mustapha) was wounded with broken bottles and cutlass because he mistakenly ran into the mob.
“Since the EndSARS protest, motorists, including Okada riders, operate with impunity, thereby, causing serious traffic gridlock across the State.”
“We had a stakeholders’ meeting with their Okada leaders and they made us understand that all those flagrantly disobeying the laws are not responsible for any association in Lagos.
“We must all join hands to salvage the state from the hands of these notorious criminals who use Okada to perpetuate evil”, he said.