By Ike Uchechukwu
CALABAR— FOLLOWING the newest 7.00 am to 5.00 pm regulation on operations of commercial tricycle (keke Napep) operators at Calabar and environs in Cross River State, by the State Government due to security challenges, commercial motor cycle (okada) riders, whose activities were banned, eight years ago, in the Paradise City have resurfaced, raising fresh security concerns among residents.
Return of okada riders
Before now, okada riders plied at night in the Paradise City, but since the restrictions by the Governor Ben Ayade administration, two weeks ago, motorcyclists, who relocated to rural communities in the state after they were banned, November 2009, by a previous government, had resumed full activities, working both at night and daytime, worsening the very problem government set out to address in the first instance.
Worried residents have called on the state government to step up security before the situation gets out of hand, saying the motor cyclists operate at Ediba in Marian, Parliamentary, Ikot Ishie, Ikot Ansa and many other places in Calabar Municipal local government area, Watt Market to Anantigha, White House, Palm Street, Target, Chamley, Ekondo, Goldie Street and others in Calabar South local government area.
Some of the motorcyclists claim to be security agents, but a source said: “They are mainly hooligans, who took to commercial motorcycle transportation because of the difficult times, but they use it as cover to carry out various notorious activities. They dispossess market women going to market in the early hours of the day of their money and other valuables or those coming back during the wee hours.”
Commercial motorcycle transportation was barred eight years ago by the government Liyel Imoke, following perceived criminal activities perpetuated by the operators.
However, since the re-emergence of okada riders, there has been an upsurge in snatching of handbags and armed robbery, especially on shops and small businesses around White House, by Maple, Ebuka, Chamley by Edgerly and more.
Residents recount attacks
According to a shop owner and food vendor, Mrs. Monica Ironbar Effiom, who sells cow-leg, rice and stock fish at the White House, by Maple: “I have been in Lagos all my life before coming back to Calabar in 2006, I have not experienced anything like this before, once I see a bike at night I always panic because I feel they want to come and rob me again.
“I have lost four phones, likewise my customers in some cases and they are so fast because it is a motor bike, this is the aspect the government of Prof. Ben Ayade should look into, not banning keke be-cause since their ban, two weeks ago, there are more okadas on the road and crime is on the rise.
“But we thank God for the idea to use the combined team of the military to sanitize the city, I learned they arrest anyone with tattoo and interrogate them ,but they should take a step further to stop the proliferation of motorbikes in the metropolis, “ she asserted.
Another victim, a teacher, Miss Judith Idonegsit, who lost her salary, hand bag and phones to the hoodlums, said: ”We closed at about 8.00 pm because we had a Parent-Teacher Association, PTA meeting that day; I went to the ATM to take money, but I had to go back to school to pick my umbrella.
“So it was about 8.00 pm, just around Ebuka, I saw three guys on a bike ,two of them just jumped off the bike and accosted me with a locally made pistol and a knife ,I gave up everything I had to them ,just within seconds they zoomed off, it was not the best of experiences for me.”