Officials of the Lagos State task force and motorcycle operators, popularly called ‘Okada’ riders, yesterday clashed at Second Rainbow area of Mile 2 on Apapa-Oshodi expressway during a raid by the agency around 12:15p.m.
According to eyewitnesses, the Okada riders resisted the task force officials from impounding their motorcycles. In a bid to express their displeasure, the riders set bonfires on the expressway, leading to gridlock. The clash also paralysed activities in the Amuwo-Odofin local government area.
Trouble started when officials of the task force stormed the area in the morning and seized scores of motorcycles, according to Mr. Joshua Emmanuel, chairman, Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN), Second Rainbow branch, Mile 2.
Emmanuel said majority of the riders in that axis were from the north and had come to Lagos to hustle legitimately to eke out a living. “Some of us are not the owners of the motorcycles because most of the motorcycles are on hire purchase, and many of us are still owing.
“The task force came with hoodlums in their vans brandishing cutlasses and they have killed three of our members, just because we are legitimately making a living in the city,” he said.
Abass Muritala, treasurer of the association, said the task force officials focused mainly on impounding brand new motorcycles and left the old and rickety ones. “Now that we are trying to make a honest living, they are making life miserable for us. Please, we urge you to return our bikes to us because we cannot turn to armed robbery,” Muritala said.
Lawal Gida, one of the riders, said three of his motorcycles had been seized in the past and whenever he went to claim them at the agency’s office, he would not meet them there again. Gida said the government should provide jobs for the poor populace if they do not want them riding motorcycles in the city again.
“Nothing has been done to go after Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, armed robbers and kidnappers who are operating with impunity in the northern part of the country. It is innocent citizens trying to make an honest livelihood that they would be oppressing and this is unfair.
“Lagos task force has seized three of my bikes this year alone. Am I working for them to be seizing my bikes and auctioning them at meager amounts whenever they feel like? After graduating with no work, and trying to get work for ourselves, we are still being oppressed by the government. This is a crime against humanity,” he said.
Reacting, the Head, Public Affairs Unit, Lagos task force, Adebayo Taofik, said the agency carried out the operation based on series of complaints against their excesses from the public. Adebayo said people complained about activities of the Okada riders using their bikes to rob them of their valuables, and plying restricted routes as well.
“After impounding about 74 Okadas caught plying one-way and those operating on the highway, the riders mobilised themselves and attacked officers of the agency. They damaged beyond repair two of our vehicles with one of our trucks.
“A paramilitary officer attached to the agency, Ganiyu Mustapha, was wounded with broken bottles and cutlass because he mistakenly ran into the mob,” he said.
Adebayo said since the #EndSARS protest, many motorists, including Okada riders, were operating with impunity, thereby causing serious traffic gridlock across the state.