There are indications that the fragile peace existing in Lagos may be threatened following the renewed vigour by the Lagos State Government to enforce the ban on operations of commercial motorcyclists in the state.
Recently, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had vowed to impose stricter measures to stop the operations of commercial motorcyclists known as okada riders in the state.
Sanwo-Olu said the total ban on commercial motorcycles, popularly called okada, would take effect from June so that the First and Last Mile Buses (FLM) could take over inner roads because of some criminal activities related to motorcycle operators as well as fatal accidents.
But the riders, under the auspices of the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN), said they would not leave Lagos routes and would act in defiance of the order if not included in the state’s empowerment plans.
Some of the riders accused Sanwo-Olu of marginalisation, claiming the government has no consideration for their economic welfare.
They also urged the government to initiate a welfare scheme that would take care of the citizenry before the commencement of the enforcement.
One of the riders, who plies the Ejigbo-Iyana-Isolo route said: “Before I started to ride okada, I had done many things to survive. I wrote applications for jobs, upgraded my certificates, still, I couldn’t get a job to feed my family. It was even my friend that introduced me to where I was able to get the motorcycle through hire purchase.
“Now they want to take it away from us without giving us anything. How does the governor want us to survive, does he want us to become criminals and they want us to leave the road, to where?”
Another rider, Seye Omikunle said: “Because of the way the police were disturbing us, we don’t even work during the day. They said we are using the bike for illegal activities. I want to ask, is it all of us? Why can’t they do investigations to fish out those involved and allow us to continue with our businesses in peace since they can’t give us jobs.”
“I have three children and a wife who I pay their school fees and give them N1,000 in the morning before leaving the house. I pay rent and bills. How do they want me to be there for my home? Most of us don’t even go through the expressway so what are they saying,” Oriyomi questioned.
Some of them have called for the indictment of police officers who own bikes. They alleged that some policemen would impound bikes to enforce the restrictions order and give the bikes to Hausa riders requesting for daily returns.
Baba Blessing revealed that: “30 per cent of okada in Lagos State is owned by policemen. Most of my friends’ motorcycles they impounded were given to some riders from the north. Some of them work at night while some work during the day.”
When The Guardian engaged riders whose bikes were allegedly owned by security operatives, some of them said the bikes were given to them by some mobile policemen as empowerment.
“They gave me the bike to help me in Lagos. Whenever I am caught, I will call the owner, who will speak with them and the bike will be released. Some will just look at the bike, once they see the inscription of the police on it, they will allow us to go. They also know which bike belongs to officers,” one of the riders said.
Clashes between okada riders and the enforcement task force have been rife over the impounding of their motorcycles by the task force.
The bone of contention has been that most of the motorcycles were on hire purchase.
With the continued resistance from motorcycle operators in the state, a clash with the task force is imminent as enforcement commences in full.