…How they connive with security agents to buy seized bikes at cheaper rates revealed
By Evelyn Usman
They are seen in every nook and cranny of Lagos State, meandering their ways through, between cars that are locked in perennial gridlock, which the State is known for. They can easily navigate narrow and bad roads and remote areas that are inaccessible to vehicles.
The use of motorcycle as taxis or commercial motorcyclists popularly known as okada, spread to Lagos through a group of individuals in the Agege Local Government area of the state but became more popular about three decades ago, with very few people involved. But as time went by, especially with the rapid urbanization of Lagos State and dwindling economy, more people ventured into it, as it became a means of livelihood for most families.
It will not be out of place to state that today, the number of motorcycles in Lagos state has gradually outnumbered other vehicles. This became so due to its influx into the state, following its ban in some other parts of the country.
Surprisingly, some of these riders are graduates , who were either laid off from their respective places of work, or unemployed youths who ventured into it as the last resort. But a higher ratio of these riders are illiterates and retirees.
Unfortunately, a good number of commercial motorcyclists have constituted a nauseating nuisance and disorderliness which makes Lagos State a mockery of its self acclaimed Centre of Excellence.
For instance, some of these Okada riders, block major highways, without consideration for other road users, even when the affected motorists hoot their horns non-stop.
Areas where this eye sore are predominant include, on top the Mile Two bridge , inward Oshodi; Second Rainbow, along Oshodi Apapa expressway, Cele bus-stop(inward Okota); Alakija, Volks, Barracks, , Abule Ado and Okokomaiko, all along the Mile-Two/ Badagry expressway.
Other areas include: Iyana Ipaja, Ikotun, Boundary round about in Ajegunle area of Lagos, Ikeja, by National, Dopemu, Railway crossing, Apple junction, Jakande gate Oke-Afa, Ago palace round about, Ojodu Berger, Lawanson, Ojuelegba bus-stop, Tejuosho, Costain, Sabo Yaba among several other areas.
As if blocking the roads which they use as their illegal parks is not enough, they exhibit arrogance and are quick to haul insults on any motorist who attempts to order them to leave the way. One major characteristics about these commercial motorcyclists is that they assist their colleagues to fight a common selfish goal, whether right or wrong. If one of them engages a motorist in a verbal confrontation, others will support him, without caring to find out what the cause of altercation is all about.
At times, these altercations result in gang beating , where motorists are battered and at times their vehicles either destroyed or set ablaze. Thereafter, they would flee the scene before the arrival of the Police, leaving the motorist to nurse his wound, that is if he is alive.
Most of the commercial motorcyclists , especially those from the northern part of the country, carry on with an air of ‘I am untouchable’, always ready for fight at the slightest provocation. Such uncanny attitude had been there but got worse from 2015.
Most of them flagrantly violate laws by refusing to comply to traffic rules. They do not pay attention to road signs, traffic lights, as some of them can not even read or write. They display total disregard to constituted authority and whenever any one of them is arrested, they easily misconstrue it and paint ethnicity conflagration.
Clash with policemen
Their brazen disregard for constituted authority played out when they attacked security agents in a free –for-all. An instance was a clash between motorcycle riders and operatives of the Lagos State Environmental Task Force, in Mushin area of Lagos, two years ago. .
Earlier, these riders resisted policemen attached to the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation from leaving Oke-Afa area with some seized motorbikes.
The task force team as gathered were out to enforce the restriction of commercial motorcyclists, around the axis. However, as they were leaving with some seized motorcycles, at Ilamose Estate , Oke-Afa, some okada operators reportedly made access into Ajao Estate difficult. In the process, a police van belonging to the Ejigbo division, was burnt.
Also in 2017, commercial motorcyclists blocked the Lagos-Badagry Expressway to protest the ban of motorcycles from the expressway. They made bonfire , thereby preventing motorists from plying the road.
Not done, they hauled stones at policemen from the Ojo division, who tried to disperse them, all because they were prevented from plying a restricted area.
Another crucial characteristic about these commercial motorcyclists is that some of them are minors who started riding motorbikes after two to three hours of training session. Unfortunately, this has resulted in accidents which either claimed lives or left the victims maimed till date.
Most times, as early as 6am, when they start operating, some of them would have taken alcohol , drugs and other substances to boost their energy. Unfortunately, some of them get intoxicated and end up in accidents.
For instance in Lagos State, motorcycle accidents accounted for 457 cases or 36 per cent of the total number of cases of accidents in Lagos State according to the Road Traffic Collision Statistics for October 2016.
If the accident is between a motorcyclist and a motorist , the latter would be at the receiving end as other riders would stop at the scene to assault him.
The fear of okada rider is the beginning of wisdom to any discerning motorist in Lagos State , as they avoid them like plaque , for fear of falling victim of being lynched in the event of any untoward incident.
The use of motorcycles has increased crime rate in Lagos. Many of the riders are into robbery, as it was considered the fastest means of escape after operation. It was also used for other criminal activities such as rape and kidnapping. Special motorcycles are used for robbery.
They operate in either one or more motorbikes, with two to three of them on each. The situation assumed a frightening dimension in 2011, with residents calling on then State Commissioner of Police, CP Yakubu Alkali and former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola to urgently rise up to the challenge.
These bandits are usually armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, among which are scissors, with which they briskly cut the handle of the victims’ bags and zoom off even before an alarm is raised.
Policeman, politician shot dead
Sometime ago, a Police Sergeant attached to one of the commercial banks along Ogunlana Drive, Surulere, was shot dead by two armed men who rode on an Okada while fleeing a robbery scene. They had robbed some Bureau de change operators of an unspecified amount of money.
Prior to that bloody operation, a similar incident happened along Ikorodu road by Anthony bus stop where a Lagos socialite and politician who was trapped in traffic, was double-crossed and shot point blank, through his windshield. Thereafter, his assailants collected a brown brief case in his boot and escaped in their operational okada, leaving the victim to bleed to death.
Same period in Apapa area of the state , an unnamed business woman who had gone to withdraw over N1 million from a bank on Warehouse road was ambushed while the handle of her bag which contained the money was cut with a sharp scissors and taken away. An eyewitness said the woman who also rode on a motorbike , did not know that the two occupants of an oncoming bike were men of the underworld. They rode close to her, brought their scissors and slashed the handle of her hand bag and zoomed off.
At Mafoluku, Ikeja, Orile-Iganmu and other suburbs in the metropolis, the story is not any different. Social joints are also constantly being raided by these Okada armed robbers who usually take their victims by surprise.
The use of motorbikes to monitor those who go to the bank to withdraw cash is also common in different parts of Lagos. In this case, while a member of the gang would go to the banking hall, looking for those who are withdrawing large sums, others would position outside, waiting for their colleague inside to give them the description of their target. Immediately the unsuspecting customer leaves the banking hall, he or she would be accosted and dispossessed of the withdrawn cash.
They raid with motorcycles at bus-stops, isolated areas, especially at nights and as early as 5am.
The worrisome dimension of this means of robbery and other misgivings compelled the administration of former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, to sign the Lagos Road Traffic Law in 2012, which restricts okada operations in some parts of Lagos.
The forbidden routes in the Lagos Island, Ikoyi and Victoria Island axis include the entire Lagos CBD, Ozumba Mbadiwe, Awolowo Road, Bourdillon Road, Gerard Avenue, Alexander Road, Osborne Road, Alfred Rewane Road and CMS.
In the Lagos Mainland are the entire stretch of Funsho Williams Avenue, Eko Bridge, Apongbon, Muritala Muhammed Way, from Jibowu to Yaba, Oyingbo, Iddo, Idumota and Ikorodu Road up to Ikorodu town Roundabout.
The rest are entire stretch of the Third Mainland Bridge from the Toll Gate, Badagry Road, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, the entire network of roads around the Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa, Awolowo Road, Mobolaji Bank Anthony road down to Maryland junction, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway/Agege Motor Road – the stretch from Moshalashi to Oshodi – Abule Egba, Boundary of Ogun and Lagos State and all Lagos bridges.
Regrettably, the laid down rules and regulations for Okada operation have been flouted. For example most of them are riding without valid rider’s license. Some operate beyond 8.00pm in Victoria, Ikoyi and Ikeja and 10.00pm in other areas. Rules such as wearing standard crash helmet, not carrying load or more than a passenger, not carrying pregnant women, school children and women with babies strapped on their backs are disregarded.
Several arrest of robbers who used okada to rob have been made by the Police in Lagos.
One of the recent arrests was that of 26-year-old Mamud Mohammed, last month, in Mushin area of Lagos, by the Divisional Police Officer in –charge of Olosan division, SP Ayodele and Sergeant Omosaye Akinjopo. The policemen as gathered, were on a routine surveillance around Olorunsogo area of Mushin, when they sighted a motorcyclist conveying a man with a bag.
Crime Guard gathered that Sergeant Akinjopo accosted the motorcyclist, with an intention to conduct a check on the bag he was carrying. This resulted in an argument, as the passenger vehemently resisted and directed the motorcyclist to move on . However, he was over powered and whisked into the Police van to the station, where four pistols with 22 cartridges were discovered in the bag. During interrogation, the suspect , revealed that he was on his way to Ikotun to meet other members of his gang , from where they were to proceed to a bank , where they intended to attack customers who went to withdraw cash.
4,650 okada impounded
Seven months ago, 109 commercial motorcycles were impounded for operating on restricted routes at the Second Rainbow end of the Oshodi-Apapa express-way, by the Lagos State Task Force, led by the Taskforce Chairman, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi.
As at Tuesday, additional 134 motorbikes were seized between Monday and Tuesday . Aside this number, 4,500 motorbikes that were confiscated by the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation, were awaiting the directive of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu , for onward destruction, at Olusosun dumpsite, in Ojota area of Lagos. With the latest arrests , a total of 4,65o motorcycles have so far been impounded.
With these strict measures taken to checkmate excesses of okada operators,, one would have expected some sanity among riders . But no! Rather , some of them as gathered, connived with some security agents to buy the seized motorbikes at cheaper rates , only to return back to the road and continue to constitute nuisance .