Okada ban: Fear of attacks by foreigners spreads in Lagos

•Task Force activates Operation Kogberegbe •We will go beyond okada seizure —Police •Hausa communities lobby Sanwo-Olu •We can help govt end okada menace, crime —Vigilante Group of Nigeria

FOLLOWING the stand-off between the Lagos State government and okada riders in the state over the latest ban on their operations, residents are expressing concerns that the aftermath will see a sharp rise in crime, especially armed robbery and kidnapping, in the state.

They are also worried that the sustained bloody confrontations between state officials enforcing the ban and defiant okada riders will increase insecurity in communities with heavy presence of the riders.

Residents expressed worry that the state government’s inability to check the influx of the riders, who are mostly foreign nationals and from the Northern part of the country, had made making them accountable for their crimes very difficult, especially when they engage in extra-judicial killings like the recent one involving a sound engineer, David Imoh, in the Lekki area of the state.

Added to these concerns is the claim, both official and unofficial, that most of those counted as Northerners among the unruly, murderous riders are actually foreigners from neighbouring countries like Mali, Niger and Togo.

Being of Fulani ethnic stock, like most of their counterparts from Northern Nigeria, has reportedly made it difficult for state agents to properly identify them as foreigners and the alleged porous land borders are said to be a contributory factor in the ease with which they come into the state and blend almost unnoticed with the populace, despite not carrying valid migration documents.

Since Wednesday, when Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu re-imposed the ban which was first introduced in February 2020 by his administration, the riders have been putting up a bloody resistance against enforcement.

On Thursday in the Oojo area of the state, irate riders clashed with policemen, causing some of the uniformed men bodily harm. Determined to rescue their seized motorcycles, the commercial cyclists, chanting war songs, made a bonfire on the road and pelted the state agents with stones, broken bottles and other dangerous weapons.

Beer Barn, the last employer of Imoh, the latest victim of the cyclists’ regular jungle justice, disclosed that a mob formed by the okada riders burnt the engineer to death, a similar treatment handed the late Sokoto College female student, Deborah Samuel, for alleged blasphemy.

In the statement put out after the lynching, Beer Barn said: “While we were engaging the mob, David, who was alleged to have used the charm, came out of our facility and was forcibly taken away from our premises by the mob, which insisted he was a Yahoo boy (internet fraudster) trying to use the victim for a money ritual.

“Our internal security men couldn’t stop them in spite of their best efforts.  Noticing that the military men were not making any headway in their efforts to bring the situation under control, we called the RRS because the number of angry motorcyclists was increasing. The RRS team arrived, but said the crowd was too big for them to control. At the time of their arrival, nobody had died. The victim of the altercation with the band boy had also regained consciousness.”

The centre added that the mob was getting bigger and it had to contact the Divisional Police Officer in the area for reinforcement.

“Before his team could get to our facility, the mob had already burnt David and was on the verge of doing same to his colleague, Philip Balogun, when policemen arrived and dispersed the crowd by firing in the air,” it said.

 

Mixed fortune


Despite the obvious absence of strict enforcement of the earlier ban in 2020, many residents of the state are still enthusiastic about the latest development and almost united in their conclusion that stopping okada operation in the state was long overdue.

Saturday Tribune’s interaction with the civil populace also revealed deep concern that if the government stops at just seizing and crushing the motorcycles of errant riders, the affected operators will become a real menace to their immediate communities and the state at large.

An educated trader in the Shangisha area simply known as Alhaja, expressed mixed feelings when told on Wednesday that the government had banned okada.

“Ko ni kalu ku ya lo mura, ole ma gba igboro laipe” (let everyone be battle-ready, armed robbery will soon spike) she said in Yoruba on the fear and anxiety as the news of the ban spread.

Many residents of the state want government to go beyond banning the riders and enforcing the ban, asking that the security of lives and property should become a major part of its transportation policy, considering that the menace the riders constitute to the civil populace is the main reason for the ban.

A Mainland resident, Emmanuel, wants the state government to upgrade community-driven state-backed security arrangement to ensure that the affected okada riders do not resort to terrorising communities in the state, especially the foreigners amongst them, who usually disappear into thin air after committing crime.

Emmanuel wondered if it is possible for the government to use the ban to begin a profiling system by arresting errant riders with their bikes and run security checks on them as well as others.

Security expert, Juliana Francis, told Saturday Tribune that beyond the physical attacks, the commercial motorcyclists are waging a psychological warfare against the populace using the fear factor.

“They have tried out their theory of using intimidation and fear to cow people and they found out it works for them, so they continue unchecked. If the government fails to arrest the escalating tendency among these cyclists soon, we shall start sleeping with our two eyes open. Moreover, most of them are not Nigerians.

“However, the law is the law. Someone that kills should be charged for murder. The person should be prosecuted and it should be in all national dailies and Hausa radio stations so as to serve as deterrent to others. If they know there are consequences for their actions, they will begin to act with restraint,” she said.

A governorship aspirant on the platform of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdul-Ahmed Olorunfemi Mustapha, told Saturday Tribune that he would rehabilitate the affected cyclists if elected governor.

He also promised to improve on the capacity of patrols of highways and major roads while relying on the Neighbourhood Safety Corps to work with CDAs/CDCs on local security.

 

We can help govt end okada menace, crime –Vigilante Group of Nigeria

Area Commander, Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Area ‘F’, covering Yaba, Lagos Mainland Local Government, Surulere Local Government and Itire-Ikate Local Council Development Aarea, Mr Omisore Akande, warned of the coming surge in crime rate following the ban but lamented the lack of equipment by his men to handle it.

Speaking with Saturday Tribune, Akande said: “The ban is long anticipated but it will come along with a spike in crime rate and the Lagos State government must be prepared for the task of combating the menace. In order for us not to be caught unaware, we are increasing our intelligence and operational officers to effectively secure our communities because it is definitely going to boost crime rate.

“The rate of unemployment is a factor. Many youth took to okada riding due to absence of unemployment but now that it has been banned, they have nothing to fall back on other than to go into crime. On the other hand, okada has cut short many lives and many others are rendered incapacitated apart from the robbery incidents occasioned by it. So, if we weigh the benefits of the influx of commercial okada riders into Lagos State, it is minimal compared to its disadvantages.

“There was massive crime when okada riders operate unhindered but now they have been banned, we should expect a geometric rise in crimes. The ban is good but we must be prepared to face the consequences.”

Recounting the series of crime perpetrated by okada but busted by its personnel, he said: “Some months ago, we arrested a gang of okada robbers at Herbert Macaulay by Adekunle Street, Yaba. The suspects specialised in robbing okada riders. We got the wind of their operation and we eventually caught up with them at Herbert Macaulay Street. And upon interrogation, the first suspect made confessional statement that led to the arrest of other suspects.

“He told us that his gang members who would take the delivery of the stolen okada from him are riding behind him. Their meeting point was Apena by Adekunle Bridge. We laid an ambush and they fell into it and they were arrested. They revealed that there was a dealer who specialised in buying stolen okada, was on standby at the Iddo bus terminal.

“He was there waiting to take delivery of the stolen okada which he would immediate load in the inter-state truck to be taken out of Lagos. They were arrested and taken to Sabo Police Station for prosecution. We have been complementing the efforts of the police but despite this, we are starved of the needed support by the Lagos State government.

“We are limited in our operation because we are not empowered to carry out investigation. We cannot prosecute and that is why we hand over our suspects to the police. But the truth is that we are faced with many challenges, including dearth of modern telecommunication gadgets and operational equipment. Our capacity to protect the lives and property in our neighbourhood is never in doubt.

“We have the capacity and manpower. We have competent personnel that are familiar with their immediate communities but we are not recognised by the Lagos State government. We know certain challenges would come in the aftermath of the ban on okada. It is expected that there would be a spike in crime rate but what has the government done to boost the capacity of the personnel of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria who are the closest to the grassroots?

“What has the Lagos State government done to boost our operation? All other South-West states have given approval for the operations of the Vigilante Group except Lagos. This lack of recognition is greatly affecting our operations.”

 

Lekki residents association bans okada, cites security breaches

Residents of Lekki Phase One and the Oniru Family have come out to raise the alarm on the increasing menace of commercial motorcycle operations in their different communities.

The Lekki Phase I Residents Association (LERA) announced on Thursday that it had banned commercial motorcycle riders from operating in the area.

The chairman of LERA, Mr Yomi Idowu, told newsmen that the ban was hinged on recurring security breaches in the community.

Idowu appealed to the Lagos State government to enforce the law banning okada riders in the state.

He also called on the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development and the New Towns Development Authority (NTDA) to flush out hoodlums and miscreants in uncompleted buildings in the community.

Idowu described the killing of a sound engineer, David Imoh, in Lekki as dastardly, animalistic and senseless.

He said: “Intelligence reports reaching us are that following the raid on okada riders and subsequent seizure of their bikes in Lekki Phase 1 by officials of Lagos State Taskforce, the riders, who believe the action was instigated by Lekki residents, are planning to attack the residents.”

He described as worrisome the menace of okada riders which, he said, recently culminated in incidents like robbery, kidnapping, assassination and ritual killing.

“This is not the first time residents have been terrorised by motorcycle riders in Lekki Phase I. Indeed, okada has been an environmental nuisance and many residents have had their fair share of their sheer recklessness. It is an obvious fact that security within Lekki Phase I has deteriorated. It is imperative that we all take a collective stance and formulate joint initiatives to avert a total exposure to imminent security threats to the lives and assets of residents,” he said.

He commended Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for banning okada riders in Ikeja, Surulere, Eto-Osa, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island and Apapa, with effect from June 1.

“We in Lekki Phase I cannot risk the lives our people further. We are, therefore, taking proactive measures by banning activities of okada riders with immediate effect. We choose to live and say no to okada on our roads and streets,” he said.

The Oniru Chieftaincy family also corroborated the account of the Lekki residents in a letter to residents of the area and estate, urging vigilance.

 

Police, Task Force speak

The police in the state said they would go beyond impounding motorcycles.

The spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin, told Saturday Tribune that the police had begun efforts to engage community leaders on how to prevail on their subjects to obey the law of the land and not take laws into their hands.

Hundeyin said: “We will ensure that the perpetrators of the Lekki incident are fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law as a deterrent to others, who may want to indulge in jungle justice.”

The chairman of the Lagos State Task Force, Shola Jejeloye, said days ahead would be significant in enforcing compliance under ‘Operation Kogberegbe’.

“Restoring sanity is not an easy task, neither is it a job for one man or the agency alone. If we join hands together, we will achieve our desired goals of ensuring that no one takes the law into their hands and get away with it, especially, not in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos,” Jejeloye said.

Days after the ban, leaders of Hausa communities in the affected areas have been pleading with the state governor to reconsider the policy, waving the voting strength of Northerners in the state as a bargaining power.

It was also learnt that the central leadership of the Hausa/Fulani community in the state might be raising a delegation to meet the governor soon.

Saturday Tribune was unable to confirm this as of press time.

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