Again, task force, okada riders clash in Lagos
• Clampdown on traffic law violators will continue, Lagos govt vows
• Residents flee as cultists engage in shooting spree
For the second day running, scores of commercial motorcyclists popularly called ‘Okada’ riders clashed with officials of Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit, also known as Task Force, who were on a routine enforcement of the state traffic rules.
There was chaos yesterday morning in Ikeja Along bus stop, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, which caused panic in the axis as many road users scampered to safety.
The clash came on the heels of a similar clash between the riders and task force officials in Amuwo-Odofin and Mile 2 areas of Lagos on Tuesday.
In yesterday’s incident, a patrol team of the agency escaped death from the hands of angry Okada operators as the riders chased the patrol team and pelted them with stones.
In a video that went viral, the Okada riders were seen chasing the patrol team with dangerous weapons while armed policemen attached to the enforcement team of the task force were seen running for safety without shooting at them. The riders also descended on some BRT buses, which they pelted with stones and made bonfires on the BRT lanes, forcing the BRT to temporarily halt operation.
It was gathered that the Wednesday crisis started as soon the task force personnel arrived Ikeja-Along in their operational vehicles unknown to them that the commercial motorcyclists had strategised before their arrival and were ready to resist arrest.
A commercial motorcycle operator, Ibrahim Sarafadeen, told newsmen that some of his colleagues from Amuwo-Odofin joined by miscreants had liaised with others in Ikeja, Iyana-Ipaja and environs, calling for reinforcement from Sango/Tollgate axis to overpower the task force.
They had attempted to set the operational vehicles of the task force ablaze but for the fact that the personnel took off on sensing danger. The defiant riders then launched a chase after the personnel. The aftermath of the attack saw the personnel retreating to their operational vehicles and escaping from the scene.
However, about 26 of the riders have been arrested by the police. An official of task force, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the operatives left the scene to avoid a repeat of what happened in Mile 2 when officials sustained injuries: “We are doomed in Lagos. Criminals who parade as Okada riders have deceived the genuine ones to cause havoc in the state. They ride against traffic, cause heavy gridlock and use the opportunity to rob people. There is no agency, including the police and Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) to checkmate them. If not for task force, the Okada riders would have taken over the state.
“You could see how our armed policemen were running as if they were the criminals. If they don’t run and they shoot anyone, the public will blame us. The problem is beyond us. But I learnt that the state government has taken over the issue. It is now a state government matter. It is left to the government to decide whether Okada riders should take over the roads or not”.
The Head, Public Affairs Unit of the task force, Adebayo Taofiq, said: “Our men were attacked today at Ikeja Along, just as they did at Mile 2 on Tuesday, but all I know is that we are not going to be deterred, we won’t allow them to take over the roads.”
Reacting, the Lagos State Government yesterday said it would continue to enforce its traffic laws to maintain sanity on roads and save lives. In a statement, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, said the task force would keep enforcing the Lagos Traffic Law 2018 with which it has been checking the excesses of commercial motorcyclists and others who drive against oncoming traffic and ply restricted routes.
“The action is to halt the resurgence of impunity and violation of traffic regulations. Amid the enforcement, which began on Tuesday, commercial motorcyclists have taken laws into their hands and attacked the task force team, injuring officers carrying out their lawful duties. The perpetrators of this violence will be identified and made to face the law.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, commercial motorcycles and tricycles remain restricted from operating in six Local Governments and nine Local Council Development Areas – Apapa LG; Lagos Mainland LG; Surulere LG; Ikeja LG; Eti-Osa LG; Lagos Island LG; Onigbongbo LCDA; Ojodu LCDA; Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA; Iru-Victoria Island LCDA; Lagos Island East LCDA; Apapa Iganmu LCDA; Yaba LCDA; Itire-Ikate LCDA; and Coker-Aguda LCDA.”
MEANWHILE, some streets in Surulere area of the state were deserted as suspected cult members armed with locally-made guns stormed Cassette bus stop in Aguda, shooting sporadically to announce their presence.
An eyewitness who craved anonymity said he and others were currently hiding somewhere and could see the hoodlums parading the area with guns. The hoodlums were reportedly preparing to engage a rivalry group in intense gun battle in the area. Business owners locked up their shops abruptly as residents scampered for safety, the source who spoke from hiding around 3:14p.m. added.
“We saw more than 10 of the hoodlums gathering at Willy Omiyi Street, off Cassette bus stop. I also noticed that they kept the locally-made guns at open space that supposed to be a car park acquired by a church in the area. We are yet to see RRS men in the affected parts of Aguda,” the eyewitness noted.
It would be recalled that a similar gangs clash began in Mushin on Sunday night and lasted till midday on Monday, where three persons were feared dead and over 120 vehicles were vandalized and many shots looted.
The Police Public Relations Officer of the Lagos command, Muyiwa Adejobi, could not be reached for comments.