New Telegraph

Bikes’ Crushing: Unleashing sledgehammer against masses’ lawlessness

Caleb Onwe, Abuja


The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has said its harsh policy of impounding and instantly crushing bikes of lawless commercial motorcyclists, also known as Okada riders, was a last resort, after many other measures had failed. This position has, however, been disputed and called out by residents who have tearfully witnessed the pathetic events. They have likened it to using a sledge hammer on rampaging termites from an anthill. Crushing of the bikes, usually done in the public glare at different strategic locations, after laboriously chasing and impounding them, by combined forces of different security agencies, have always attracted sympathy from onlookers. Watching the angry bulldozers rolling over and crushing the bikes, in some cases, brand new ones, opens the floodgates of emotions and tears from onlookers who can only imagine the huge losses the crushing portends for the owners. Though the public sympathy has always come in torrents, onlookers and sympathisers have always ended their mournful mood for the victims of the policy, with sarcastic comments like, “but these Okada riders don’t hear words, they deserve this punishment”. This sudden mood swing may not be far-fetched from the ‘universal’ perspective about the mischief associated with the Okada riders. “Can you imagine that the day Director of Directorate Of Road Traffic Services (DRTS) and some Senior Officers went to Durumi to hold a sensitization meeting with leaders and members of the Okada Riders Union, warning them to desist from operating in restricted areas, in less than 15 minutes we left the place, these same people had returned with their bikes to Area 1 Bridge, one of the prohibited zones,” an official told New Telegraph. The above lamentation of the officer of the Services, who pleaded anonymity, could be instructive in trying to understand why some people believe that Okada riders need stiffer punitive measures. Commencement of the judgement Making real the threat, FCTA’s DRTS, on March 20, 2022, commenced the actual process of pounding the lawless Okada riders’ bikes starting with 1,500 of the doomed impounded bikes. These bikes had earlier been impounded at various times and places, and subsequently kept in the purgatory, at the Services’ car pond in Wuye district, waiting for the crushing. The Director of the DRTS, Dr. Abdulateef Bello, who had just resumed office then, apparently wanted to justify his appointment as the head of the Directorate. According to him: “Like we did the last time, these motorcycles have been impounded and awaiting crushing exercise, they are motorcycles that were arrested, contravening the law and regulations, driving against the traffic within the Federal Capital City (FCC). After crushing the first set of impounded bikes in an enclosed environment, within a secured facility of DRTS located in Wuye district, officials of the taskforce felt that the purpose was not achieved. Determined to make the exercise a deterrent factor to errant bike riders, the subsequent crushing exercises were taken to public places, where even onlookers, passers-by and would-have-been violators, will see and probably take precaution. In all the exercises, about 2,472 bikes have been impounded and crushed before their sorrowful and mournful riders and sympathisers. The massive raids leading to the impoundment of the bikes were conducted by a combined task force of military and Para- Military through Guzape, Durumi districts, Airport road-Lugbe and Kubwa. To underpin the necessity of the exercise, Senior Special Assistant to the FCT Minister on Monitoring, Inspection and Enforcement, Ikharo Attah said the situation which the minister is most worried about, is the flagrant attitude of these operators to abusing traffic rules, and incessantly driving on the wrong lanes. He said the administration only allowed them to operate in interior villages and estates, where possible, but they have continued to violate the restrictions with serious arrogance and incessant violent attacks on enforcement officers. According to him, the new policy of impounding the bikes and immediately crushing them was a signature project initiated to serve as deterrent and also eliminate the crowd that always besieges the office of Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTs) to beg for the release of the bikes. Attah disclosed that FCT Minister has given a marching order that the bikes should be impounded and crushed immediately, and this may not be unconnected with reports of Okada riders attacking people and also committing serial crimes in the city. He said: “This operation is a signature project and a decision of the FCTA Security Committee; they agreed that we should go back to massive enforcement of the ban on commercial motorcycles in the Federal Capital City as well as some strategic locations, like the airport road and Kubwa where they have become a big threat to the people. Not sledgehammer approach Attah refuted the narrative that the hard-line approach adopted by FCTA was a sledge hammer judgement. He further explained that since 2006, the FCT Administration then had launched a strategic warfare to curtail the recklessness of bike riders. He noted: “The operation cannot be said to be high handedness because since 2006 when the ban started, the impounded bikes hardly get back to them. The minister has given us a marching order to impound and crush in the full glare of everybody to avoid the allegation that the bikes were seized and given to somebody else. “They have been asked to leave the Federal Capital City and they have remained here wreaking havoc, committing crimes and killing people.” Also speaking, the Mandate Secretary, FCTA Transport Secretariat, Abdullahi Candido noted that if the commercial motorcyclists continue to defy all government’s entreaties to them, by allowing them to operate within designated routes, they will continue to suffer losses. Candido also disclosed that the Secretariat will never succumb to pressure from any quarters to allow any form of illegalities in the nation’s capital. Stakeholders’ reaction Since the commencement of the exercise, there has been mixed reaction from different quarters of the society. While some accuse the government of using a very “unpopular” policy to unleash untold hardship on the people, others argued that the bike riders were getting the deserved penance for their unruliness and lawlessness. Reacting to the development, Chairman Taxi operators, Car Wash Bus Stop branch at Airport road, Lugbe, Adebola Oluomo, said without the exercise, Abuja would have become something else. He said the popular Airport Road has become very chaotic, due to the activities of the intransigent Okada operators. He said: “They are always on the expressway riding recklessly against the traffic, and nobody could control them, because if anyone talks, they will stab you. “The taskforce is always coming around, but the Okada operators will be throwing stones at them. “So, the government should continue with the exercise, so that Abuja will be very clean and the road will be safe for all.” Economic implications Though, there has been a convergence of opinion from different stakeholders, agreeing that the recklessness of the bike riders should be checked, there are those who are constantly looking at the economic implication of the policy. An economist, Saidu Suleiman observed that the number of bikes that have been crushed amounts to colossal economic loss. Suleiman said that many of the bikes were brand new ones, and that an average cost price of each is estimated at about N450, 000. According to him, considering that about 2,472 or more bikes have been crushed, over N1 billion has been lost to the policy. He went further to state that about 2,472 bread winners have been displaced and thrown into the labour market, while over 4,000 dependants have also been exposed to untold hardship

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