Okada riders protest police harassment, vandalise BRT buses

Commercial activities were disrupted for hours in Onipanu, Fadeyi, Mushin and Ijora areas of Lagos State on Monday after scores of commercial motorcycle operators otherwise known as okada riders went on the rampage to protest against police harassment and the state’s traffic law.

The state government had on August 2, 2012, signed into law, the restriction of commercial motorcycles on 475 roads, specifically, bridges, expressways and double-carriage roads.

Last Monday, the police began a clampdown on okada riders resulting in seizure of motorcycles and harassment of the riders.

Our correspondent, who was in Onipanu, reported that the rampaging okada riders vandalised five BRT buses, causing a stampede among passengers.

One of the BRT officials, who refused to identify himself, said the riders wielded dangerous weapons and forced passengers out of the buses.

He said, “Around 10am, some motorcyclists accosted some of the buses that were filled with passengers. The riders wielded cutlasses, sticks, canes and even catapults.

“They smashed the windscreens of the buses and many of the passengers even sustained injuries while trying to escape.

“After sometime, some policemen came but the okada riders used catapults to hurl stones at them. They even overpowered one of the policemen and seized his gun. Before the policemen could call for back-up, the okada riders drove against traffic and sped off, making it difficult for policemen to chase them.”

Agege Motor Road, Palm Avenue and Idi Araba in Mushin area were also deserted following similar protests.

An okada rider, Paul Okon, accused the police of extorting money from them under the pretext of enforcing the law.

Okon berated the state government for not protecting okada riders from police harassment and for not creating alternative jobs.

He said, “The traffic law restricts okada operation from majorly expressways and bridges. Most of us have accepted to obey the law but the police are not enforcing the law the right way.

“Policemen now arrest motorcyclists on backstreets and minor roads and use it as an avenue to extort money from us. Why can’t the state government protect us from police harassment?

“If a policeman arrests a rider on a non-prohibited road and the policeman claims he arrested the rider on an expressway, who would believe the rider? Just yesterday, (Sunday) policemen seized four motorcycles on Fashoro Street, Surulere and collected N5,000 from each of them. It’s very unfair.”

Different police patrol vehicles, some of which were inscribed with Rapid Response Squad, OPS Attack were seen patrolling Mushin area. Some policemen were seen shooting into the air.

Perhaps, the most affected area was Ijora Olopa where the riders were said to have vandalised a large number of BRT buses.

Our correspondent, who visited Costain, saw a red Daewoo LAGBUS with registration number Lagos XR159-AKD and route number D087 that was badly damaged.

In the bus, there were shoes, a lady’s handbag and some items suspected to be belonging to passengers who fled when the bus was attacked. It was later towed to Iponri Police Station.

Meanwhile, no Lagos State Traffic Management Authority official was seen in the affected areas as most were said to have fled.

When our correspondent visited BRT park, Ojota, it was learnt that five newly refurbished blue buses were among the vandalised vehicles.

The number of the red LAGBUS vehicles vandalised could not be ascertained but it was learnt that most of them had been conveyed to Tafawa Balewa Square.

Public Relations Officer, BRT, Nonye Onwumere, urged the state government to bring the perpetrators to book.

“These buses are expensive to maintain and members of the public need to understand that the buses are for public comfort,” she said.

The PRO said five blue buses were vandalised and no member of staff was injured. Punch

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