INVASION: Lagos, Abuja suburbs under siege by Okada riders

 
Sat Oct 12th, 2019 - Abuja (FCT)
 

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When Femi Ojualope left his office penultimate Tuesday in the central area of Abuja and was rushing to Lugbe, a suburb of the city to meet his young wife and two little children, he had no inkling that he would end up in the morgue.

But few metres to his house in the FHA Extension layout, Lugbe, a young man, ostensibly high on intoxicant, recklessly riding a bike rammed into his car. Because of the speed and the impact of the accident, the young rider died instantly.

Dumbfounded and deeply shaken by what just played out before him, Femi came out of his car and joined the few people that had gathered to see how the boy could be revived. When it became obvious to the Okada riders that had begun to gather in their numbers that their colleague was dead, hell was literally let loose.

They pounced on a dazed Femi who was initially too shocked to comprehend what was going on. When it became obvious that his life was in danger, Femi ran the few meters to the safety of his house.

Unfazed and now baying for blood, the Okada riders, mostly young men from a particular part of the country dragged Femi out of his house and stabbed him to death right before his cowering wife and children.

The above incident represents in a poignant way, the threat posed by Okada riders, especially in Abuja, Lagos and other major cities in the country where their operations are still allowed. Though the essence of motorcycle as a means of transportation was intended to bridge the transportation gaps, especially areas of towns and cities hard to reach, Okada riders have gradually become a threat not just to those that patronize them but also to the society they operate in. Most times, Okada riders collude with criminals to perpetrate crimes and in this era of rampant cases of kidnapping in urban centres, Okada riders are sometimes informants to kidnappers.

While some states have taken the bold step to ban the operation of Okada riders, others have been less forthcoming. The result is that there is a huge influx of Okada riders to those states that still allow the operation of commercial motorcycles.

In Abuja for instance, commercial motorcyclists are kings in Lagos and Abuja suburbs like Lugbe, Karu, Nyanya, Kubwa, Gwagwalada and Kuje. In Kaduna, though the state government banned the operation of commercial motorcyclists in the city centre, they hold sway in some of the adjoining suburbs like Narayi, Barnawa, Rigassa and Kawo.

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As it is typical where Okadas are allowed to operate, crimes using motorcycles are more prevalent in such places, accidents involving Okada riders are more rampant and fatal encounters between Okada riders and members of the public are more frequent.

With the escalation of insecurity in Katsina and Zamfara states, thousands of young men who have been driven from their villages troop to Kaduna, Abuja and as far afield as Lagos and with little or no education and skill to offer, they resort to commercial motorcycle riding.

With little or no training, they constitute risks to themselves and the society as they are very prone to accidents. They are moving in their numbers into Lagos. It’s like an invasion. In Lagos, they are free to do anything and they are enjoying absolute freedom, blocking roads, occupying parts of roads, disobeying traffic rules, causing mayhem including beating up police officers who try to check their excesses. In Lagos, they are above the law.

They are responsible for more than 90 percent of the accidents on Lagos roads and nobody checks them, not even the government. In trucks, they are moving into Lagos, a city degenerating into a nightmare to those who once found organised even if it were rowdy. The Okada experience in other cities has not been a pleasant one.

PLATEAU

Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos.

In Jos, the then governor, Jonah Jang banned the operation of Okada in 2010, as a way out of the escalating insecurity in Plateau State. in order to mitigate the effects of the ban on the people of the state, especially the greater Jos where the ban was targeted, alternative means of transportation like taxis and the tricycle also known as keke napep were introduced.

Nine years after the ban came into effect, Okada riders have gradually crept back to operation in some parts of the state with security agencies who are expected to enforce the ban turning a blind eye to this violation.

Expectedly, when the ban was in full effect, the casualty figure as the result of accidents caused by okada riders had reduced greatly but with their return to operation in parts of the city, their notorious knack of sending passengers to the orthopedic wards of various hospitals also returned.

*File Photo okada riders

Although they avoid major roads and areas where they may likely be impounded, but from Nasarawa Gwong, Tina Junction, Bauchi road, Mai Adiko, Tundun Wada, Building Material marker junction, Katako, Zaramaganda junction, Yan Taya, Zololo, Gangare to Yan Shanu areas of Jos North and Jos South local government areas which are parts of the greater Jos Master Plan, the riders operate unhindered.

A resident, Ezekiel Ntiem noted with disappointment the inability of relevant government agencies to strictly enforce the law and take commercial motorcycle off the streets saying, “Some people feel they move faster as they don’t get trapped in traffic but they cause more harm than good with their recklessness.”

NASARAWA

David Odama, Lafiya

Some people in the Nasarawa state capital believe that the state is the Okada capital of the world because of their prevalence. Though majority of the people in the state patronize commercial motorcyclists, they are however unanimous in their call that the operation of commercial motorcyclists in the state should be banned by government because of the dangers associated with them.

Some residents who spoke on the issue in Lafia, the state capital and other areas of the state, said activities of Okada Riders have brought sorrows and pains to many families, while some were of the opinion the presence of motorcyclists is responsible for increase of crimes and criminality in the state.

According to Mr. Ndubuisi Chukwuma, a petty trader in the state, the use of Okada should be recalled from the streets of Nasarawa because it has caused sorrows, permanent disability and pains to many.

“Operating a commercial motorbike is a big risk. Our lives and property are in danger. First, these thieves will sometimes arrange with their fellow robbers and then lure you to a place they will dispossess you of your belongings”.

“The police are not helping us. They don’t arrest them and even if they are arrested, the police will compromise as if they are working together.”

His views were supported by Mrs Caroline Odey, another victim of Okada attack in Mararaba, Karu Local government, close to the FC. She said apart from causing lots of injuries and sometimes death to many families, the presence of Okada riders in a particular place comes with increase in crime in such areas.

According to her, “we have lost many of our colleagues to motorbike operators. They have killed many of our colleagues. They will kill the person, go away with their belongings.” she said.

TARABA

By Femi Bolaji, Jalingo

Though commercial motorcyclists were banned from operating in Taraba , the difficult terrains in the state have made full implementation of this ban difficult.

But with the increase in number of motorcycle operators, criminals have infiltrated the trade, thus making life difficult for those patronizing them. Even those who make honest living from the trade especially in Southern Taraba where there have been various security threats from those criminals, have become victims to the crimes associated with Okada.

As a result of this, Chairman of Takum local government area, Shiban Tikari about five months back, banned movement of motorbikes from dusk to dawn to curb the excesses of these criminals.

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It has however yielded positive results as calm and normalcy have returned to the council area according to Vanguard checks.

The police in Taraba state, at different briefings had also paraded some of those causing heinous crimes using motorbikes.

Through various covert operations, the security operatives have clamped down on kidnappers and robbers who go about hunting unsuspecting victims using their motorbikes.

Jalingo, Taraba state capital on its part has been without motorbikes since 2012 following upsurge in criminal activities.

What led to total ban of motorbikes was the twin bomb blast that rocked the state capital during the early years of Boko Haram insurgents in the North East.

The then governor, Late Dan Baba Suntai took the bull by the horn by placing a total ban on use of motorbikes because those who detonated the bombs rode on motorbikes.

In recent times, there have been reports of criminal activities perpetuated by some Keke napep drivers, but the current registration of all tri-cycle operators in the state has curbed the excesses of those criminals to the barest minimum.

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KATSINA Bashir Bello, KATSINA –

In the recent past in Katsina State, series of attacks launched by armed bandits on villages were carried out using motorcycles.

This was confirmed by police in the state citing a worst case scenario where bandits operating on 150 motorcycles, each carrying three parsons attacked Gobirawa and Sabawa villages in Safana Local government area among others.

*File photo: Okada operator

Sensing that the situation was getting out of hand, especially since it was difficult, if not impossible to trace the Okadas, most of which were unregistered, the state government enforced a ban on motorcycle .

The government also went a step further by banning the sales of Boxer and Kasea brands of motorcycles, which were believed to be preferred choices for the bandits.

YOBE

Bala Ajiya, Damaturu.

Since Yobe state is one of the three states in the north east ravaged by insurgency, it was only natural that the state government should ban the use of motorcycles which were the preferred mode of movement by Boko Haram insurgents. In its stead, Tricycles popularly referred to as Keke-Napep were introduced in the state.

Although many people prefer the Okada to Keke-Napep , government’s zero tolerance for its operation has made many people to reluctantly accept the Tricycle as a means of transportation. Government ban on the use of Okada has significantly reduced the incidence of insurgents using Motorcycles to attack targets in the state.

ADAMAWA

UMAR YUSUF, YOLA

OKADA was one of the major means of intercity transport in ADAMAWA state for a long time. But with the coming of Boko Haram to the state, and their preference for motorcycles as means of transportation to attack their targets, government had to step in by banning the use of motorcycles as a means of transportation in the state. In place of the OKADA riders, tricycles were introduced. But as the insurgency reduced, the enforcement of the ban on the use motor cycle now appears relaxed.

BENUE

Peter Duru, Makurdi

In recent times, the people of Benue state have had to contend with the menace of Okada operators who have been fingered in some of the robbery incidents recorded daily in Makurdi, the state capital and other major towns of the state.

Okada operators have also been involved in several of the fatal accidents recorded within major towns in the state leading to serious injuries and loss of innocent lives.

This prompted the decision of the state government to impose restrictions on Okada operators in the state. The restriction is such that commercial motorcycles were barred from plying the roads from 8pm.

Though that order came into force about five years ago and it’s being enforced by security personnel, majority of Okada operators in the state have deliberately flouted the restriction and are always on collision course with security person thereby endangering the safety of other road users.

Aside flagrant violation of the state’s restriction order, more disturbing is the fact that most of those who ply the roads as Okada operators in the state know little or nothing about the rules governing road use and traffic signs to ensure their safety, that of their passengers, other road users and motorists.

Commenting on the menace of Okada riders in Benue state, the Chairman, Benue Motorcycle Association, BEMOA, Comrade Matthew Nyiutsa attributed the unpleasant development to unknown Okada riders who strayed into the state from other parts of the country.

Comrade Nyiutsa said, “this people have constituted themselves into security threats in the state, that is why our association is working closely with the office of the Security Adviser to the Governor to ensure that we all have security numbers and jackets with which anybody can easily identify our members.

“Our members are also trained and are conversant with the rules and the roads but we have a situation where these people who are mostly from the far north pick up motorcycles without knowing the rules nor the terrain, start plying our roads with Okada and endangering the lives of their passengers and other road users.

“Some of them go about with dangerous weapons. Only recently we caught one with a dangerous knife and he couldn’t explain why he carries the knife about. That could also be used to rob a passenger.

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“We however hope that in no distant time we will put a stop to all that. Our members will all be properly documented so that we can easily identify anyone of us that gets involved in crime or disobeys the restriction order or any other traffic rules,” Nyiutsa added.

File photo: Okada riders

Aliyu Dangida, Dutse

With the recent banning of okada riders operating in some part of the states in the North due to the activities of bandits and insurgents who used motorcycles to attack innocent citizen, most of the okada riders popularly known as ‘Yan Achaba have relocated their activities to Dutse, the Jigawa state capital.

Most of the okada operators in Jigawa conducting their daily businesses are strangers from neighbouring Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, Katsina, Taraba among other states whose state government banned the use of motorcycles for security reasons.

Since most of them are not familiar with the terrain, accidents are rampant. Data made available to Vanguard by one of the staff of accident and emergency department at the Rashed Shekoni Specialist Hospital in Dutse show that 80% of accident cases treated were by okada riders, as most of them are not professionals and qualified to ride motorcycle.

Okada riders also constitute security threat as they always engage in confrontation and physical combat with security personnel and road traffic officerswho they consider as their enemies.

Vanguard

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source: Vanguard