By Bose Adelaja
CLASHES between policemen and commercial motorcyclists popularly called Okada riders are as common in Lagos as traffic jams. More often than not, such clashes have led to injuries and death of innocent residents, especially commuters. The situation worsened about two years ago when the State government announced a restriction order on Okada riders, especially on major routes in the State.
The restriction order prohibits the Okada from plying 475 roads, including major bridges. Since the order came into force, several commercial motorcycles have been seized by policemen in a bid to ensure compliance. The restriction order which commenced in July 2012, was, according to the State government, to minimise commercial motorcycle-related accidents on the roads.
Meanwhile, reports from various quarters have it that policemen took advantage of the situation to make life unbearable for the average Okada riders in the State by extending their enforcement to routes the state government did not designate as restricted.
About a year ago, residents of Oke-Afa, Ejigbo, heaved a sigh of relief when rehabilitation of the Kudirat Adenekan Way was completed by the State government as this has reduced the usual bumper-to- bumper traffic jam in the area.
However, Vanguard Metro, VM, gathers that the joy associated with this development might be short-lived. There reason was borne out of the constant extortion and harassment of Okada riders by policemen from both Ejigbo and Isolo divisions who allegedly regard the riders their “ATM machines”. Attempts by the riders to refuse being thus used have led to several clashes resulting to destruction of lives and property in the area.
The residents, through their Community Development Association, CDA, have appealed to both the State government and Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umaru Manko, to save them by restoring peace to the area.
Investigations by VM revealed that no fewer than 12 persons, including three policemen, were injured, while a building and two police vans were vandalised during one of the clashes between the riders and policemen from Ejigbo division which occurred on Tuesday August 19, 2014.
Investigations also revealed that the clash during which dangerous weapons were used was the outcome of the resistance by Okada riders to constant harassment and extortion by policemen. Presently, many Okada operators in Oke Afa now ride with reckless abandon, believing that they now have the upper hand following their clash with the police.
The CDA in a statement signed by its Chairman Mr Oyedipe Dapo, and titled ‘’Ilamose under siege”, wants government to address security situation as well as illegal conversion of roads and walkways to markets and motor parks.
‘’We strongly believe that government has decided to play politics with our well-being by ignoring the security of our lives and properties. The Lagos State Police Command(Ajao Division), the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Duties, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and the Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, have all compromised their professional integrity for financial gains. The unfortunate violence unleashed by commercial motorcycle riders on Tuesday August 19, against the Police over extortion within and around Kudirat Adenekan way, January 27 bridge and Chivita Avenue all in Ejigbo and Isolo LCDAs was a show of shame,” the statement read in part.
The CDA also said in the statement: “We understand that some Okada riders are responsible citizens and that the state government’s policy on transportation has conformed with international practice, hence we want a situation where they are identified and membership also pegged for ease of operation and identification. We also want to see visible government intervention through the Ministry of Transportation in this regard as many of them have converted our streets, drive ways and properties into parks while constituting nuisance and security risk to our lives and properties. Through investigations, it was revealed that 95 per cent of these riders do not have vehicle licence. We would also want to see the removal of these foreigners, who do not have no respect for lives and property. The illegal street market activities which cause serious traffic gridlock and dumping of refuse in the canal are threats to human lives.”