By Bose Adelaja & Esther Onyegbula
After the Tuesday clash between commercial motorcyclists popularly known as Okada and officials of the Lagos State Taskforce at the Second Rainbow Bus Stop, along Apapa Oshodi Expressway, Lagos, there was another clash, yesterday, at Dopemu and Ikeja Along Bus Stops along the Agege Motor Road.
Just like the Tuesday clash, yesterday’s clash created tension in the area as the commercial motorcyclists set bonfires on the road resulting in a heavy traffic jam.
It was gathered that the task force officers stormed the area, yesterday morning, to enforce the state traffic law but, as soon as the personnel arrived Ikeja-Along in their operational vehicles, the commercial motorcyclists had strategised before their arrival.
A commercial motorcycle operator, Ibrahim Sarafadeen, told Vanguard that some of his colleagues from Amuwo-Odofin joined by miscreants had liaised with others in Ikeja, while those from Iyana-Ipaja also called for reinforcement from SangoTollgate.
But as soon as the personnel arrived Ikeja-Along, the riders did not give them any breathing space.
The riders were said to have taken over the road, made a bonfire and attacked the personnel with pebbles, sticks, broken bottles and other dangerous weapons.
Also, they were said to have attempted to set the operational vehicles ablaze but for the fact that the personnel took off on sensing danger.
However, the defiant riders were said to have launched a chase after the personnel.
The aftermath of the attack saw the personnel retreating to their operational vehicles which zoomed off immediately.
A food vendor at Dopemu, Olubunmi Doyin, who decried the clash, said: “We were going about our daily activities when the task force officers parked their vehicles at one corner and started arresting okada riders.
“This is not the first confrontation between commercial motorcycle operators and taskforce officials in this area, but Wednesday’s confrontation was something else as the okada men threw stones at the officers while the officers kept shooting sporadically into the air. They also used teargas on the okada men.
“You know the Ikeja-Along route is one of the roads where okada has been banned. As usual, task force officers early this morning (Wednesday) stationed their trucks at Dopemu/Ikeja Along and started impounding erring motorcyclists’ bikes and arresting okada men.
“The okada riders mobilised themselves to resist the officers and they started shooting sporadically not minding who their bullets would hit. We had to leave our goods and ran for safety when we noticed that it was getting tensed up.”
Calm restored to area
Relative calm returned to the area with the arrival of military personnel in their patrol vans.
Vanguard checks revealed that most of the motorcycles plying the restricted routes are allegedly owned by law enforcement operatives and as soon as traffic rules are to be enforced, they put a call across the owners of the motorcycles to foil presumed arrests or impoundment of the motorcycles.
A union leader of the commercial motorcycle operators, Ridwan Azeez, said the various riders’ associations in the state had cried out to the government to assist them to curb the excesses of some unregistered riders who have been flagrantly disobeying the state traffic rules by riding against traffic or plying restricted routes and expressways.
Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers NURTW, in Lagos State, did not respond to his calls.
Also, the Public Affairs Officer of the Taskforce, Adebayo Taofik, could not be reached at press time.
We won’t be deterred —Lagos govt
Reacting to the clash, the Lagos State government has insisted that it will continue to enforce its traffic laws to maintain sanity on roads.
In a statement, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, expressed worry over the attacks on taskforce officials, saying perpetrators of the violence would be identified and made to face the law.
Omotoso said: “The State Environment and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit (Taskforce) will keep enhancing the enforcement of the Lagos Traffic Law 2018 with which it has been checking the excesses of commercial motorcyclists and others who drive against oncoming traffic and ply restricted routes. The action is to halt the resurgence of impunity and violation of traffic regulations.
“Amid the enforcement, which began on Tuesday, commercial motorcyclists have taken laws into their hands and attacked the Task Force team, injuring officers carrying out their lawful duties. The perpetrators of this violence will be identified and made to face the law.
“However, the officers were undeterred by the criminal activities of the motorcyclists; 131 motorcycles were seized; 15 riders arrested and prosecuted; and 150 vehicles impounded in various areas of the State.
“The Task Force subsequently arraigned and prosecuted 35 drivers of impounded vehicles, who had to forfeit their cars to the State for driving against oncoming traffic; 62 drivers who plied the BRT Corridor were fined N70,000 each; and 28 tricycle owners were also arraigned in court.