By Bayo Bernard
The very lucrative Okada business has taken a new dimension in Lagos. The development is coning on the heels of ban of commercial motorcycle riders by the Lagos state government on some major roads in the state. The hostile environment under which the commercial motorcyclists ply their trade has recently become so unbearable for the riders who have now abandoned the business.
In their stead members of various security agencies, particularly the police have taken over, making cool cash from the business despite the fact that it has been outlawed by the state government. How did this happen?
The state government under the leadership of ex-Governor Babatunde Fashola had passed the law banning the business due to the nuisance they constitute to other road users. Basically, the state government had also cited many road accidents involving Okada riders as a major reason for moving against them.
The incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on assumption of office has stepped up the ban by directing the state Traffic Task Force, led by the police to arrest any okada found in the metropolis of the state.
Since he came into office, thousands of motorcycles have been arrested by the no nonsense and riffle wielding members of the task force. But rather than hand over the seized Okada to the government, the members of the Task force have devised a way of allocating to themselves some of these motorcycles, which they in turn use for the same business.
Even though the state government had destroyed thousand s of seized okada, the magazine discovered that the policemen have retained some for themselves, while those that cannot come down from their high horse of being seen to be doing the business, have donated their own to some family members and relations.
Some of those who have had their okada seized informed the magazine that they have found their motorcycles with some uniformed men using them for business. To make it easy, they say, the policemen normally change the plate number of the motorcycles to avoid being discovered by their former owners.
Well meaning Lagosians have expressed the shock with the number of motorcycles seen on the road everyday across the state, despite government clampdown. The answer is very simple, the policemen stationed across the state have simply turn the blind eye to their colleagues who have taken over the business in the name of expirit the corps.
Along the Lagos Abeokuta expressway for instance, it’s not unusual to find men of the Force clad in their various uniforms doing the business. All they need to do, at times when in mufti is to present an identification that you are working in the Force.
Speaking with the magazine, some of the ‘oppressed’ okada riders told the magazine that it’s wrong for law enforcement agents to rob them of their belongings in the name of seizure. One of them who simply identified himself as Musiliu Ajadi stated that the issue has become that of the thespian, robbing Peter to pay Paul. He called on the state commissioner of Police, Imohinmi Edgar to quickly look into the matter.
When the magazine sought to know the response of the state police command Public Relations Officer, Chikwe Godwin Oti, his telephone line were switched off.