• Shun gov’s order, ply restricted routes
The overbearing attitude of the commercial motorcycle operators, popularly known as Okada riders is increasingly causing upheavals in the country, especially to the Nigerian police. They do not respect orders or the police and as a result, attacking police stations and vehicles has become a regular crime in the state
The crisis between the Nigeria Police Force and commercial motorcycle operators popularly known as Okada in Lagos, which started last Friday took a dangerous twist on Sunday as audacious Okada riders attacked the police, vandalized 7th Avenue Police post and burnt three of their vehicles in Festac.
The Police, also, in their reprisal attack, swooped on them in the early hours of Tuesday, raided and dealt a huge blow on them in company of alleged area boys, wielding hazardous weapons, according to some of the victims.
What the residents of 7th Avenue saw early that morning was droplet of blood and blood stains all over the makeshift houses where the Okada riders, which many residents, who witnessed the terror the Okada riders unleashed on the police on Sunday, said such was the best treatment for the audacious riders to learn their lessons. Many of them were seen leaving in droves with their bags and non-affected residents made jest of them, asking them where they were running to.
The environment was calm and many shop owners didn’t open their shops that Tuesday morning for the fear of the unknown. Seventh Avenue was like a ghost town.
Some of the Okada riders were seen with broken heads and arms, nursing their wound while many of them were said to have escaped by jumping perimeter fencing into other people’s houses, seeing what was bigger than them.
“That morning, we couldn’t sleep because the police fired some tear gas into our compound when they noticed that some of the escaped riders jumped into our compound.
All those makeshift houses, where they sell things were destroyed in that attack,” said a mother, Chidiebere Agbasi, to Sunday Telegraph. She noted that when the alleged area boys came to their house, pushing at the door, she and her husband were terrified but they held on to the door in such a manner that no one could gain access into their house.
“It was while we were pushing through the door that my daughter cried and they heard her cry and moved away, saying that it’s like this is a family house. That was our saving grace because seeing and hearing what they did to other people, we thanked God,” she said. “You can hear the sound of machetes as if it’s being used on somebody.
At a point, I started wondering if it was a human being that was being beaten with that or something else. But by and large, the Okada riders are daring the police and everybody. I think I like what they did to them so that their foolishness will stop,” she added.
According to Hammed Ibrahim, an automobile mechanic, who was servicing a Toyota Camry when the crisis started, the police from Alausa came to 7th Avenue and impounded some motocycles and took them away in the police truck. Hammed said that the riders were displeased with them and came out enmass to recover and stop the police from carrying more bikes; they fought back, blocking the leavroads with big logs, which got the police vehicles trapped in between.
To him, it was as a result of this road block and gathering against the police that made the police use tear gas canisters on them in order to disperse them. Unfortunately, their vehicles – two danfo buses and one pickup van – were trapped and set on fire.
During Sunday Telegraph’s visit to the scene in the late afternoon while the unrest had abated, the remains of the three burnt vehicles were seen being feasted on by the riders.
Perhaps, the Okada riders seemed to have pushed their luck too far and decided to burn the vehicles as they have always done. In the past, they had also vandalised the police post on the 7th Avenue and killed a police officer.
While they were throwing parties and celebrating their short-lived victory over police, the police were strategising for the mother of all assault by the night until they enveloped them and took the majority of them away with their bikes.
One of the fighters, a rider, said that the police were at fault for coming to their house to raid them, saying that if they had come while they were on the road, it would have been better but coming to their houses was not good.
However, Sunday Telegraph observed that where he called their house was actually somebody’s frontage where they usually gathered to celebrate every Sunday causing nuisance on the streets and environment.
Meanwhile, this fleeting victory turned into a horror early Tuesday morning. Sunday Telegraph learnt that at about 3am, while the residents were still rolling from one end of the bed to the other, constant gunshots and clanging of machetes woke them up to behold yet another terror.
The police in the company of soldiers and alleged area boys had stormed the area where they slept in their makeshift apartments and dealt a huge blow on them.
What the residents saw in the morning was bloodstains here and there. Some people claimed that there were a number of deaths that night but this claim couldn’t be substantiated. But it was confirmed that many more bikes and riders were arrested in connection with the burnt vehicles.
Others sustained machete cuts, while few ones, who saw them on time, scaled walls to escape into the canals. It was learnt that the night raiding was spurred by the insult meted to the police and boldness of the riders to attack a police post and burn three vehicles.
“The police really showed them that the government does not succumb to criminal activities; instead they will take their time before attacking the uninformed,” Ephraim Okolie said in support of the police action.
It would be recalled that the police had warned Nigerians against the act of burning police vehicles and stations, saying that the force will not tolerate it anymore.
Two commercial motorcyclists, Jimoh Lasisi and Femi Ajayi, were recently brought before an Ejigbo Magistrates’ Court in Lagos State, for allegedly beating up two police officers and damaging two police patrol vans. Lasisi, 43, and Ajayi, 35, are standing trial on a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy, assault and breach of public peace. The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The prosecutor, Inspector Benedict Aigbokhan, told the court that the defendants and other commercial motorcyclists at large committed the offences on November 22 and November 25, at Jakande Estate Gate at Ejigbo.
He said that the defendants conspired and inflicted injuries on the police officers on duty.
According to the prosecutor, the officers included Inspector Alulu Tunde and Wasiu Isiaka from Ejigbo Police Station. Aigbokhan said the defendant also damaged two police patrol vans.
The Magistrate, Mr E. O. Ogunkanmi, granted the defendants bail in the sum of N500, 000 each, with two sureties each in like sum. Furthermore, the Sunday crisis continued till Thursday as there was fear all around FESTAC and people were advised to avoid the area for their safety. As at 8am, on Tuesday, the crisis started again resulting in many Closes on the 7th Avenue locking their gates, at least, to protect the residents.
Also, the business owners locked up their stalls in avoidance of possible looting of their wares. It was so bad that some schools in the FESTAC had to contact their wards’ parents, telling them to remain calm as they were still monitoring the situation.
This was done to relax the parents’ minds that may be scared of their children’s safety. One of the schools, Radiance Nursery and Primary Schools as well as Radiance High Schools on First Avenue and 41 Road respectively, sent messages to parents and guardians to reassure them of their wards’ safety.
The message sent in the School’s official Whatsapp platform reads, “Good morning all. We are getting information of unrest between the police and Okada riders within the FESTAC axis.
But be assured that the school is calm and we are monitoring the situation.” While this was going on, the police had placed a roadblock on the 2nd Avenue, a few distance away from the Divisional Police Station to prevent any attack on the station.
According to Mr. Jimmy Solanke, a tailor at 7th Avenue, K Close, Okada riders would have killed him on Sunday morning if not for his friends coming for his rescue. Solanke, popularly known as Awilo was, last Sunday, beaten to a pulp by Okada rioters, while videoing the crisis.
According to him, he was in his shop when his wife came back from the church and told him that there was a crisis between the Okada riders and the police on the street.
On getting outside to wash his face, he saw four Okada riders running into the Close. He challenged them to go out as bikes were not allowed into the Close but they threatened to stab him to death with an already unsheathed Hausa-made dagger.
Fortunately for him, some residents of the Close had been alerted by the altercations that ensued between them and they joined forces with him, pushed them away and locked the Close’s entrance gate.
Having done this, he decided to go out to observe what the situation was. He started recording what was happening in order to post it to his Close’s Whatsapp platform to inform others on the development.
It was in this course that the boys swooped on him with slaps, beating him with a flat surfaced plank and prevented him from videoing the mayhem they unleashed on the police. He narrates his ordeals: “After chasing out the Okada people, I said it’s not good for me not to go outside to know what was happening around.
“So, I went out and started videoing it in order to post it on Close’s platform. From nowhere, a stone landed on my mouth and those Adamawa boys rushed me with slap and planks. See my back (Showing our Correspondent, the scar on his back as a result of the plank used on him), what they did to me.
“It was while they were beating me that 23 Road boys, my then neighbours at 23 Road saw me and guarded me out of their hands. One of the elderly people told them to check what I was videoing. So, they checked my phone and deleted the videos. “These people are bad.
They do not have respect for the police. Look at how they vandalised the 7th Avenue Police Post and all the vehicles parked there were destroyed. They vandalised and burnt three police vans.”
Recounting his ordeal, Jideofor Nelson said: “At about 11:47am, while I was about leaving the church premises, after a successful church service, my mother called me and said that there was a crisis around my house and asked me to go to my pastor’s house instead of coming home. “She said my neighbour was discussing that with his wife. I responded okay. I called my neighbour, so that he would explain the situation.
When he dropped the call, I called him and he said 7th Avenue is not a place I would like to come to at the moment. He said there was a serious riot going on between the police and Okada riders.
“Already, I have carried some elderly women whom I wanted to drop off their houses before going home with my family. After dropping them off, I advanced to my house but on getting to 72 Road Junction by 7th Avenue, the road was blocked and I saw some people shouting no road, no road, wielding dangerous weapons coming my direction. I quickly engaged my gear and sped off.
“Meanwhile, before getting to that point, I saw thick dark smoke in the air indicating that something was wrong. I tried to drive towards the First Gate, before the police station on the 2nd Avenue; there was another roadblock without a sign of any being.
“The roadblock was placed by the police to prevent the rampaging Okada riders from accessing the station. As a result of the roadblock, all the vehicles that were leaving FESTAC had to follow Third Avenue through 21 Road.
“There, I was headed but with the volume of traffic I witnessed, I decided to go back since the traffic on the other side was flowing. I drove back with my family and was forced to go to an eatery on 22 Road, where I spent the money I never planned to spend.
“My child, after seeing other children playing paid games in the place, forced me to register him for the game. I had no option than to register him with N5, 500 for 50 units’ game.
This is apart from what I have spent already on food and drinks. By the time I left there after three hours, my pocket felt it. “I decided to follow the other route to 7th Avenue, that is, 71 Road, and there I discovered that the thick smoke I was seeing earlier was from three police vehicles which had been set ablaze by the rioters. The FESTAC DPO had just visited the area where a Toyota Hilux pickup van and two danfo buses were burnt.
“There, I met one of the 7th Avenue’s residents, who told me that the other end has been opened while that of 71 road is still blocked with burn fire. The DPO that came couldn’t advance beyond the point where I turned to take another route. I quickly drove home to at least, secure my family first before any other thing.
“While my co-resident joined in the car and I asked what had happened, he said that the Alausa taskforce came to FESTAC to pack bikes, where the owners packed them and this caused a serious demonstration, leading to the burning of police’s vehicles.”
However, despite the governor’s hard words on the restriction of Okada on certain routes, they still ply all routes including Highways. Recall that on last Friday, Alausa Taskforce came to Second Rainbow Express and arrested some okada due to noncompliance to the government restrictions order.