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Lagos vs commercial motorcyclists: And the winner is … 

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Okada

Seized motorcycles being transported to task force office, Oshodi

Lagos State Government doesn’t appear to be winning the war against the recalcitrant commercial motorcyclists popularly called Okada, despite the daily onslaught on their activities by law enforcement agencies.

On daily basis, hundreds of the motorcycles are allegedly confiscated by Task Force and other security personnel assigned for the purpose. But what still looks like an unresolved riddle is how the motorcycles still populate Lagos roads.

Recall that on Tuesday, January 27, 2020, the state government announced a restriction on Okada, tricycles, and, by extension, bike-hailing services, which took effect from February 1. Out of 20 Local Councils and the 37 Local Council Development Areas, the ban affected six — Surulere, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island, Ikeja, Eti Osa and Apapa.

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With a combined population of 6.8 million, these six areas account for 28 per cent of the population of Lagos. These six areas are also the commercial centres of Lagos, with thousands of big businesses offering high-quality jobs in Ikoyi, Marina, Ikeja and Victoria Island.

The state government claimed it had genuine reasons to impose the ban. The principal concern was safety. Citing records over the last decade, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Taiwo Salaam said motorcycles killed over 11,000 people in the state between 2011 and 2019. The Commissioner for Transport, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, said at least 600 deaths between 2018 and 2019 are attributable to motorcycles.

Security was another issue raised. It was learnt that in the last few years, Lagos had witnessed an influx of informal Okada riders from other states and even neighbouring countries.

But 14 months after the law took off; the motorcycles are back to base. Currently, it is business as usual as the Okada riders have taken over every part of the state.

The Guardian observed that the Okada riders have taken over the Agege motor road, constituting traffic threat to other road users. The Ikeja-along section of the highway is the worst hit, especially at night as the riders are fond of blocking a section of the road while scampering for passengers.

Though the popular Oshodi bus stop has a fewer number of riders operating from that flank, discreet investigation revealed that 98 per cent of motorcyclists operating from the bus stop are uniformed men-comprising mobile policemen and soldiers, among others, while the task force personnel look the other way.

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Despite the onslaught on activities of the motorcyclists at the Toyota bus stop, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway a fortnight ago, the riders, majority of who are northerners have returned in their large number. The Guardian observed they always ride against traffic while conveying their passengers to Mile 2, Ijesha and other parts of the axis.

It was learnt that the story is the same in other parts of the state, as it appears the task force and other law enforcement agencies have given up on them.

The Guardian learnt that their activities became worse immediately after the EndSARS protest that ravaged the country, when aggrieved Nigerians laid ambush on the police.

Several factors have been attributed to the increasing menace. Some claim the influx was caused by motorcycles ban imposed on some states in the north to fight off banditry and other crimes. These states include Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara and Abuja, as they are restricted to satellite towns and some large estates.

Others claimed the task force and other security agencies have been collecting as much as N10, 000 to N15, 000 on each bike to release seized motorcycles. It was also alleged that task officers often sell the seized motorcycles, reason why the number of motorcycles is rising.

One of the Okada riders in Oshodi, Yakubu Kazeem alleged that the task force was being tipped on daily basis to look the other way reason some of their members have returned to business.

“They always have their agents who interact with us. Since we have been giving them money on daily basis, including the police, they have been allowing us to operate without hindrance. It’s only when some of them who are unknown to us come to this area that we usually have problem, but immediately we pay them N10, 000, we’ll be left off the hook.”

Ojo Olalekan, who operates around Ikeja axis, revealed that he and colleagues have devised other means of outsmarting the task force and they only depend on the business for survival.

He added that the war against Okada operation in Lagos might not be won, as the traffic situation in the state has made many to be addicted to the mode of transportation, adding that Okada riding has also become sources of income to majority of unemployed youths.

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The Police Public Relations Officers, Ademuyiwa Adejobi, who told The Guardian that many of the Okada riders are recalcitrant, said they are always not law abiding. “On daily basis, we have been making arrests but we cannot cover everywhere in a day. So, we’ll continue to arrest them and we’ll continue to do this.”

On the allegation of extortion leveled against the task force, the PPRO said: “The task force will not do that except some individuals who parade themselves as task force officials. We cannot rule out that fact. So, we are not aware of that and I am sure the task force will not do that because it is working for the government and they know the importance of enforcing the law of the land, so they can’t do otherwise.

“I am sure that is a wrong allegation and the Okada riders might have been dealing with the wrong people. Anybody on the road can do ‘shua shua’ but that is not known to the command. The chairman of the task force has been debunking this and it is really in the news that he has been debunking the allegations. Don’t forget that the task force comprises not only the police but also other security agencies, even civilians. So, the Okada riders cannot know those they are relating or dealing with.”

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