Lagos State Government led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu may have solved a major security threat staring the state in the face by banning commercial motorbikes operators, popularly known as Okada and tricycles (Keke NAPEP) in some of parts of the state, but security experts and stakeholders want the ban extended to other areas in order to achieve a desired result across board. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
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• Dispatch, power bikes exempted from ban –CP
he ban on Okada and Keke in some parts of Lagos State is currently being extolled by some Lagosians including the common masses even as there are others who feel the government should have provided an alternative before rolling out the restrictions.
Nevertheless, the experiences of many Lagosians in the hands of these operators and fear of constituting themselves into a major terror against the society, may have spurred the wide acceptance of bitter pill though they appealed to the government to find lasting alternatives to the situation to cushion the effects of the hardship as a result of the ban.
Last week, a motorist in Festac Town hit an Okada rider. The motorist was trying to negotiate a turn, while indicating with his blinker. Unfortunately the motorcycle rider was going too fast, and did not know his road signs.
The result was an accident which damaged both the car and motorcycle, and injured both rider and passenger. Before the driver of the car could come out of his car and offer assistance to the injured, about 30 Okada riders appeared out of nowhere and descended on the driver, screaming for his blood and chanting Islamic slogans.
As onlookers stared, the Okada mob-beat the driver of the car mercilessly and damaged his vehicle. He only escaped with his life after he parted with N15, 000.
Also, in December 2019, a woman was making a turn into her compound, when an Okada rider ran into her car. When she came out of her car to assess the damage, a mob of Okada riders attacked her and tore her clothes.
By the time help came from people in the area, her purse and phone had been stolen and her children watched in horror as their mother was beaten and fondled by hooligans. This is becoming a regular occurrence in and around Festac area.
Who are these Okada riders? Where do they come from? Why are there so many of them? How come we cannot identify them? Where do they sleep at night? These are questions begging for answers in the minds of many Lagosians.
Sunday Telegraph observed that the influx of Okada riders parading themselves as northerners, trash packers, tomato sellers, fruits and vegetables, shoemakers, tinkers (Water Vendors), and other petty items vendors is alarming in the last one year.
These men come to Lagos in droves and settle wherever with no identification, no address, no documentation. Nobody knows their real names; where they come from, or how to monitor them.
They parade around as cart pushers and steal drainage covers and man-hole covers, leaving gaping holes in the road. They steal generators and air conditioning units from houses and flats, and under the guise of Okada riders, they rob innocent men and women at night or in the early mornings.
“You cannot catch them because they have no identity and no one seems to know them,” security expert, a service chief, who pleaded anonymity.
He said: “What you may find most alarming is this; they know you. They know where you live and how many children you have, but you know nothing about them. Most of them are not even Nigerian. They come from Niger and Chad and sleep outside your streets or roam around at night looking for what to steal.
“I overheard a group of them joking that if any of their members is killed, they will spill blood before anyone knows what is happening. They did not know that I understand Hausa, so they spoke freely.
“If you live in or around Festac, you need to be extra careful. It’s high time we checked this massive invasion and force these people to identify themselves. This is why I’m in full support of what the state government is currently doing.
“Let 1966 and 1967 not repeat itself again, because these men all carry weapons and are just waiting for a signal to use them. Before my very eyes, a policeman at Mile 2 tried to impound a motorcycle for parking on the expressway, and a dozen of them drew daggers and threatened to stab him and his colleagues.
“This happened on Monday at Mile 2. We are in danger and we don’t seem to know or care. By the time this message gets to the LG Chairman and the State Governor, perhaps they will be forced to extend the ban to other areas so that these people will return to where ever they are coming from and force others who do certain jobs to carry ID.
“I am not a bigot, and I don’t have anything against any tribe. But I value the lives of my family and neighbors, and I don’t want to wait until something disastrous happens before I say something.”
There is no doubt that Lagos may have solved this major threat, yet there is more work to do inorder to sustaine this feat and permanently keep down any threat that might arise as a result of the ban.
Following the ban, Sunday Telegraph witnessed a number of these Okada riders returning to their respective locations.
At 7th Avenue Festac Town, adjacent the Brotherhood of Cross Church, nearly opposite 72 junction, Sunday Telegraph saw a 40 foot trailer on Wednesday till Thursday morning, loading Okada.
It was gathered that the truck was hired for N700, 000 to return the Okada to Adamawa, Nassarawa, Abuja and other locations by Thursday mid night.
Further investigation revealed that most of them have been promised military job, the reason they are returning in droves. It was learnt that there is one northern governor that sponsors them as long as the person is a Moslem.
Asked what will be their reaction if police should intercept the truck in the night, Musa Umaru, an Okada rider said, “We will kill that policeman. You didn’t hear the one that happened at Apapa, where they injected injury on two police men that stopped them. They said they don’t want us they should let us go.”
According to Mr. Igale Osase, the police and security operatives will be more vigilant to nip in the bud, every reactions or threats that the ban might throw upeven as he called on the state government to extend the ban to other LGAs and LCDAs to completely sanitise the environment and tackle crime.
He said it’s only relatable that those whose means of livelihood were taken away due to the ban would want to react in different ways including going into crime, saying this calls for vigilance in order for the state not to lose the war against crime.
He said, “Some northern states banned Okada and nobody said no and Lagos now banned them and there are grumbles everywhere. Every state has the right to make its laws and this ban is not in all the local governments of the state.
“This ban is in only six local governments and LCDAs out of 57. So, Okada can still operate in the remaining 51. I’m okay with this ban and should be extended to other LGAS and LCDA. Lagos State government, please do your job. It’s only you that can save us from this menace to society.”
Corroborating him, Ebuka Nze said the ban is good riddance to bad rubbish, saying, “Dirty, lawless set of Okada riders. They have completely taken over Lekki Phase 1. I can’t stand them. They are so filthy and rude and they are gradually reducing the value of the properties in Lekki Phase 1.
“They should all go back to wherever they came from. Learn a trade and do something more useful. There is so much filth there, I hate driving out of my house.”
More so, in support of the government situation, Sola Ogundayo, a father of four and a businessman said: “Let them go. They have no regard for life no regard for law, extremely lawless bunch. They sleep anywhere, defecate everywhere. It’s hard, we will suffer it but it’s a worthy price to pay for our sanity and safety.
“I agree with Lagos State on this but please reconsider Gokada, Max and other taxi Okada; they have a thorough onboarding process for their riders. KYC is fully in place and you can track them.”
Also in support is, Joseph Ugwu: “A lot of these Okada riders can barely speak English, only use hand gestures or speak with a thick non Nigerian accent. It’s an influx of them from the North. Fulanis are not Nigerians, just invaders. The next step is to ban those alijimaris beggars and sellers.
“One shoved a penis enlargement tablet in my face and said to take it and deal with madam well. More embarrassing, the madam with me is my sister. The border in the North is porous, and it’s kept like that on purpose to allow more Muslims to come into Nigeria. Many of them are scattered across Nigeria. It’s an agenda. Lagos state government, you are on point.”
“Every decision has its positives and negatives. The decision is welcomed because the positives outweigh the negative impact. The major demerit is the gap it has created in short distance shuttle from homes to major busstops and increased unemployment.
“Yet these problems are business opportunity. People should invest in mini buses for short distance shuttle.”
Managing Director of Watertight Security, Dr. Mike Agambo said: “No body has asked one vital question, these Okada riders are mostly not Nigerians, most are foreign nationals, but for the fact they all look like the northerners, we assumed they are Nigerians.
“The northern borders are open for years and some smart foreigners used it as advantage. Some of them have joined our military, police, with the help of northern politicians. All the money changers in major cities of Nigeria are from Niger, a particular tribe called the ‘zabarama’.
“They hide in Nigeria. These people are a big security threat to our collective national interest and security; they have succeeded in destroying everything that made us a great nation. Unfortunately, these people will still find home in another Nigerian city, Ebonyi State to be precise.
“Moreover, because we have a bad government does not mean some of us are fools. Majority of these men are not Nigerians. Well, many of such foreign Okada riders have found their ways into our military, police and all para-military services even in civil service, no thanks to our very porous northern borders.
“Most of the politicians in northern Nigeria are the children of such immigrants, who used religion and the corrupt military regimes over the years to blend with the population. Violence is not a northern thing, nor does the north alone has monopoly of violence.
“Every tribe in Nigeria has waken up, you will be surprised to see the real Hausa populations away you Fulanis; they have hidden under Islam and Hausa to commit havoc.”
In light of the foregoing, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi warned the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, that the ban on motorcycle Okada and keke operators would amount to increase in unemployment and insecurity.
He said this when he appeared as a guest on a programme on Channels Television, Sunrise Daily, and monitored by our correspondent on Monday.
Amaechi consented that motorcycles were used to rob during his tenure as a governor in Rivers State, but he signaled that banning motorcycle operators has its consequences.
He said: “Speaking as a former Governor, when I was in Rivers State, they were using motorcycles to rob and kidnap people, and the police could never get them because they were using cars; so I banned motorcycles and we had peace.
“The number of accidents was also high – the orthopaedic hospital was full every day. I don’t know the reason the Governor of Lagos State banned it; only he can tell you. I am sure he made his decision based on the interests of a majority of Lagosians.
Lagos bans Okadas, tricycles, including Opay, Gokada“But he has a problem to face, which is unemployment and an increase in crime.”
However, the government promised alternative means of transportation in the areas where they are needed. Meanwhile, it’s trekking galore for most Lagos residents as the masses await the alternative transportation in the areas where busses cannot get to.
Government said in a statement, “The high level of compliance has shown that Lagosians agree with the government on the need to stop the danger that commercial motorcycles and tricycles have become – a big threat to safety of lives and security of our people.
“The little discomfort experienced by commuters on some routes due to the absence of motorcycles and tricycles is noted. This will not last as alternatives are being rolled out.
“Lagosians are peace loving and law abiding people, who will not embrace any disruption of their legal activities by failed politicians hiding under the evil of unwholesome activism.”
The councils where the operators are banned include Apapa LGA, Apapa Iganmu LCDA, Lagos Mainland LG, Yaba LCDA, Surulere LGA, Itire-Ikate, and Coker-Aguda LCDAs and Ikeja LGA; others are Onigbongbo and Ojodu LCDAs, Eti-Osa LGA, Ikoyi-Obalende, and Iru/Victoria Island LCDAs, Lagos Island LGA and Lagos Island East LCDA.