The Ugly Side of Okada Ban

Babatunde Fashola
Babatunde Fashola

Police in Lagos have taken advantage of the ban of okada operation on major roads in the metropolis to harass and extort money from riders operating on the roads not covered by the restriction order

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Dec. 17, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

IFEANYI Edeh, an okada (commercial motorcycle) rider based in Lagos, is both angry and frustrated. Ever since the police started implementing the ban of okada on some Lagos streets, he has passed through series of harassment. He told Realnews: “Words cannot express the frustrations I have passed in the hands of the police. Since the ban, I have limited my operations to Iba junction which is among the inner roads not covered by the ban. Even then, the police have arrested me twice and extorted up to N5000 in each of the arrests. Other okada riders have similar experiences with some of them paying even much higher amounts.”

Like Edeh many other okada riders in the state have similar stories to tell. The police have capitalised on the ban and taken undue advantage to harass okada riders even on roads not affected by the ban. Kingsley Chukwuka, an okada rider, said the ban of okada on certain roads was not bad but stressed that everything was wrong about its implementation. He accused the police and other law enforcement agents of extorting money from okada riders even on the approved routes. He suggested that for the law to be effective, government should provide alternative means of transportation, open new routes and repair bad roads. He also called for close monitoring of the activities of enforcement agents to check their excesses.

Police and 'Okada' riders
Police and ‘Okada’ riders

Adeyemi Ikuforiji, speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, has reacted to the several complaints of the okada riders by warning the state Police Command to stop its officers and men from harassing commercial motorcyclists operating on inner roads as recommended by the state traffic law. Ikuforiji said, “It has come to our attention in the Assembly that some unscrupulous men in police uniform have been molesting innocent and law-abiding okada operators who have actually restricted their operations to inner city roads as contained in the new Lagos State Traffic Law. It is therefore very apt to call on the Lagos State Police Command to properly educate its men and officers. No rider who is already obeying the law should be molested at all. And under no circumstance should the motorcycles of such riders be confiscated,” he said.

In spite of the ban, some okada riders are still plying the restricted routes. Recently, Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos State, arrested a policeman on a motorcycle plying the Lagos/Abeokuta expressway. Fashola, who spotted the policeman when his convoy was passing along the expressway, said the arrest was to serve as a deterrent to those who felt they were above the law and so could break the state’s laws.

“There is no one above the law in the state. People who are not prepared to obey our laws should leave the state. There is no society where laws are not broken, but the state government would continue to increase its enforcement so that there will be a high level of compliance,” he said.

The ban is also not helping the people, because it has compounded their problems. The traffic situation has worsened since the ban and residents have to sit inside buses for hours before getting to their destinations.  Some major routes have witnessed traffic gridlocks, especially Iyana Ipaja to Oshodi, Lagos/Ibadan expressway, Ikorodu road, Oshodi-Apapa expressway, Lagos/Abeokuta expressway among others in recent times.

All efforts by Realnews to get the police command to react to the allegations levelled against its personnel by okada riders and the Lagos state government failed. The Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO Lagos, refused to answer Realnews calls on her phone.

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