By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Bose Adelaja and Esther Onyegbula
At least over 180 motorcycles were impounded yesterday, when commercial motorcyclists, popularly called Okada riders attacked men of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Enforcement (Taskforce) Unit, in Idi-Iraba, Mushin, and Surulere area of the state.
Inn the ensuing melee, several commercial motorcycles were impounded in the process at Ojuelegba Road down to Idi-Araba area, a boundary between Mushin and Surulere in Lagos.
Eyewitnesses’ accounts said nobody died during the incident which started at about 9 am, with some persons sustaining minor injuries in the cause of scampering for safety.
A petty trader in the area, identified as Mama Ibrahim, said the area was thrown into chaos when men of the state taskforce arrived and in apparent show of resistance, the Okada riders went wild.
“Unfortunately for them, the enforcement took them by surprise as the team came prepared and hundreds of commercial motorcycles were impounded.
“Before the arrival of the enforcement team, some of us told the riders to suspend their activities for a while but they boasted that nothing will happen.
“They tried to attack the enforcement team but things didn’t work out as planned and many of them abandoned their bikes and took to their heels.
“After the exit of the enforcement team, the riders angrily returned to the scene, barricaded the road, made bon-fire and attacked people in reprisal thereby causing chaos in the area.
“This caused apprehension which paralysed commercial and vehicular movement for hours,” she said.
Also, a trader in Idi-Araba, Alhaji Musa Usman, said the crisis lasted for about three hours as people ran helter skelter while residents locked themselves inside in apprehension.
“Transporters in the area hurriedly called it a day to avoid been caught up in the incident,” he said.
Alhaji Musa said he escaped the scene by jumping the wall of a building, “Infact, I abandoned my wares and ran for safety. It is when I am alive that I can think of any other thing,” said the trader.
Recounting what transpired in the area, Sade Odejobi who was to visit a patient at Lagos University Teaching Hospital LUTH, said she ran out of the scene in fear saying, “Okada riders went on rampage today at Ojuelegba Road to LUTH was deserted after the fight. Infact, I have suspended my visit to a patient. I was approaching the hospital gate when people started running and I joined them. I have returned home safely and the visit has been suspended,” she said.
As of the time of filing this report, security operatives were at strategic areas and normalcy had returned.
Reacting to the incident on his Twitter handle, the Spokesperson, Lagos State Police Command, Superintendent of Police, Benjamin Hundeyin said, “They can’t fight because Taskforce went well prepared. They were just causing a scene after the Taskforce left with some of their impounded [email protected] and men from the Area Command have since been drafted there. Absolutely, nothing to worry about,” he said.
Also, commenting on the Idi-Araba clash,Spokesman for Lagosd taskforce, Mr Raheem Gbadeyanka, said there was no cause for the larm as the situation was immediately brought under control.
He disclosed that over 180 motorcycles were impounded in the process.
According to Gbadeyanka, “Recalcitrant okada riders attacked our officers during enforcement at Idi-Araba this (yesterday) morning, but our men were able to repel the incursion and immediately brought it to a halt. In the process over 180 motorbikes were seized and taken to our yard for crushing soon.
”I use this medium to appeal to okada riders to obey the Lagos traffic law and desist from their illegal operations as anyone caught would be arrested and prosecuted accordingly. No sacred cow.”
Recall that the state government commenced enforcement on ban of Okada in six local governments and nine Local Council Development Area, LCDAs on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, following the death of a sound engineer, David Imoh, who was killed in an attack in the Lekki area of Lagos on May 12, 2022.
The six local governments are Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Apapa, and Surulere.
Over 3,000 impounded motorcycles were crushed by the state government in Ikeja, last weekend.
Meanwhile, despite the ban, Okada riders have continued to operate freely in some of the prohibited routes, like: Apapa, Agege, Egbeda, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, among others.
On Lagos-Badagry Expressway which is among the routes affected by the ban, a few numbers of operators still operate on the route, particularly in the evenings when they feel the taskforce men are off the road.
The road construction and unending traffic along Lagos Badagry route is also responsible for the presence of Okada riders in the area as commercial bus drivers hiked transportation fare.
Lamenting, a commuter, Esther Chinyere, who works at Apapa said since the ban, “commuters often get stranded while going to their various place of work. The cost of transportation has gone up. Bus drivers have taken advantage of the situation because there are no alternatives, the Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, buses no longer come to Barracks. The suffering is overwhelming. The government needs to do something urgently.”