Unregistered motorbikes worsening Lagos’ security challenges
Wading through the intricate web of traffic snarl in many parts of Lagos State is becoming a Herculean task for many residents. Consequently, those among them that are tired of reporting late for work, meetings and sundry engagements, are increasingly resorting to the use of commercial motorcyclists to arrive at their destinations on time.
As a result of the increased patronage that commercial cyclists better known as Okada are enjoying, criminal elements are beginning to infiltrate their ranks. While masquerading as transporters, they use the opportunity to rob and kidnap unsuspecting members of the public, as well as commit other forms of atrocities and swiftly disappear from the crime scenes.
For instance, in June last year, an armed robber operating on a motorcycle, in the Ikorodu area of the state was arrested by officials of the Lagos State Rapid Response Squad (RRS). The robbery suspect, Sodiq Rasaq was arrested at Ijede Junction, Ikorodu, as he was fleeing the scene of the incident.
The suspect, in the company of an accomplice, Quadri Yusuph, had robbed a confectionery seller of N20, 000 at about 5 a.m. They thereafter stabbed their victim twice in the hand when he challenged them. Luck ran out of them when their victim raised the alarm (as they were fleeing), which led to their interception.
Again, in October 2019, in the same Ikorodu area of the state, operatives of the RRS arrested three suspected Okada robbers. The suspects, Emmanuel Michael, 24; Moses Ogeh, 27, and Ojonugwa Ojomeje, 29, were arrested in the Ita-Maga area of Ikorodu after they posed as policemen and hijacked a motorbike from its owner. As at the time of arrest, two of the suspects – Ojomeje and Ogeh were caught in Mobile Police (MOPOL) vests and police fez caps.
The trio while dispossessing the rider of his bike for not having “complete papers,” told him that they were police officers from a nearby police station.Last year, a Police sergeant attached to one of the commercial banks along Ogunlana Drive, Surulere, was shot dead by two armed men, who rode on a motorbike as they fled after robbing Bureau de Change operators.
In the last four years or thereabouts, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Okada robbers. Interestingly, most of the bikes used in the robberies are not registered.
Speaking in 2017 at a programme where motorcycles seized by the state government were crushed, the former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, said the clampdown on the motorcyclists was a fall out of the government’s resolve to address security concerns posed by their operations, saying that criminals were in the habit of using unregistered motorbikes to perpetrate crime and get away swiftly.
Almost all the motorcycles used for robbery and criminal activities were not registered. Even though the state government had banned motorcycles on some routes in the state, the ban has largely been observed in the breach. Also, a good number of motorcycles plying Lagos roads whether they are for commercial or private use are unregistered, a development that poses dire security challenges.
The Guardian visited some bus stops in different parts of the state, including Mile 2, Iyana-Iba, Orile, Toyota, Cele, Oshodi and Ikeja, where these unregistered commercial motorcyclists are either huddled waiting for passengers or are in operation without being registered. A resident of the state, Kunle Adebayo said he has observed with dismay, that the number of unregistered motorcycles used privately or for commercial purposes were not registered.
Adebayo, who said he feels very insecure mounting unregistered motorbikes, appealed to the state government to hurriedly curb the trend and prevent residents from falling prey to criminals using unregistered motorbikes.
Speaking on the implication of having hordes of unregistered motorcycles ply Lagos roads, a security expert, Colonel Hassan Stan-Labo (rtd), said since such motorbikes are not registered, tracing them when they are alleged to be involved in crimes becomes difficult, because the riders easily disappear into thin airs.
“Tracing the ownership of an unregistered motorbike, which has been involved in a crime to a particular individual is a very difficult thing to do. As a result of this, crime investigation and detection becomes extremely difficult and cumbersome once the perpetrators flee with such motorbikes.
“Therefore, it is important for the authorities to take note of the fact that we are beginning to have so many of such unregistered bikes within Lagos that were brought in by people from other states. Lagos is a place where Nigerians from diverse ethnic groups believe they can eke out a living, irrespective of their status, given the heightened level of business activities in places.”Stan-Labo asked the state government to mandate bike owners to register them before putting them to use because of the dire security implications.
“Then the various security agencies that are concerned with ensuring compliance must be awake to their responsibilities and not wait until unregistered bikes are involved in crime before they are apprehended.
“Let there be a policy where every motorbike that plies Lagos road, whether it is used for commercial purpose or not is checked to ensure that it is registered. If that is done, within two to three months, a lot of people would have no choice than to toe that line to avoid trouble.“Secondly, sanctions for not obeying the rule must be severe enough to deter those, who have not been involved in it to stay off, or make sure that they register their bikes.”
According to him, when sanctions are not severe, most people would not comply or show respect for the law. “The cost of committing an offence should far overweigh the gains,” he stated.When contacted, the Chairman of Lagos State Taskforce, Olayinka Egbeyemi, said daily unregistered bikes were being confiscated and it would continue for as long as they are found.
On his part, the Lagos Sector Commander of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Hyginus Omeje, said the FRSC has been synergising with the state government to check the trend. “There was a time, I enquired from the Motor Vehicle Administration Agency (MVAA) to be sure that there are enough number plates and they assured me that they have enough, and ever since then, we have been doing pockets of arrest, not only bikes, but also tricycles, to ensure that they are properly registered.
“The enforcement for commercial motorcycles is something that should be done with caution, because the moment an Okada rider knows that he is about being picked, he will do everything to avoid being arrested. In doing so, he may run into a vehicle and get injured or killed. “At that point, the public will not understand that, and the development could lead to the officers being mobbed. So, what we often do is to arrest in pockets.”
On her part, the General Manager, MVAA, Mrs. Lape Kilanko, said even though her agency is in charge of registering of number plates and issuing licenses, it does not have the authority to enforce non-compliance. “It is not within our duty to enforce because there are sister agencies that are in charge of that,” she stated.
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