• No policy to arrest, harass registered motorcycles at night, say police
This is definitely not the best of times for commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada riders, operating in satellite communities in Ogun State, following reports of harassment and extortion by men of the state Police Command.
Operators said the harassment and extortion is worse at night, around Mowe, Pakuro, Lotto and Olowotedo in Obafemi-Owode Local council of the state.
Narrating his ordeal to The Guardian, a rider, who operates within Lotto-Pakuro axis, said the police officers often come out about 10:00p.m., posing as passengers only to seize their motorcycles.
The rider stressed that the officers collect between N5,000 to N10,000 to release seized motorcycles , depending on the manner of approach.
Last Friday, the officers also came out for a raid, during which many motorcycles were seized. While some of the motorcycles were taken to Mowe Police station, others were released to their owners, who paid between N3,000 and N5,000.
One of the affected motorcyclists, simply identified as Idowu, said the harassment was the reason behind lack of motorcycles at Pakuro, Lotto and other Bus Stops, immediately after 10.00p.m.
Idowu stressed that their operations were helpful to residents of the satellite towns, who often returned late from Lagos, where most of them work, due to the traffic situation along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Another rider, Musa said, he managed to escape the raid last week, because his brother was alerted of the policemen’s presence.
According to him, one of the officers in mufti approached him and while he was negotiating with him for the fare, his brother alerted him that he was a police officer and he zoomed off, while the officer targeted to collect his key.
For Mayo, who operates the Ofada axis, the harassment is too much, even when some of them have permits and proper registration.
He said: There was a time, we were asked to buy vests, we complied and paid N2,000 for it. Later it was abandoned. We are paying up to N1,500 every day as tickets and sometimes, we don’t make up to that.
“So, many of us operate at night to make up because customers are ready to pay any amount to get to their destinations at night.
“There is no other means of transportation at these satellite towns and many residents live about 10 kilometres from the expressway and have to get home.”
Confirming the situation, Matthew Edwin, whose house is in Toloto, one of the communities in the hinter land, said he normally leaves his office at the Island by 5:00p.m. only to get to Lotto Bus Stop by 10:00p.m. or 10:30p.m because of traffic.
He stressed that motorcyclists are his only means of getting home as there are no alternatives and the nature of the road coupled with construction work on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway does not encourage him to drive.
According to him, one of the riders he booked to always pick him from the expressway was recently arrested but was released after he intervened by assisting the officers involved.
He said: “ When I intervened, one of the officers told me they were doing that to check criminal activities in the area as some of the riders are robbers, who pose as Okada riders only to pick people at night for sinister purposes.”
Edwin also said before, he used to park his car near the expressway so as to drive home after work, but stopped after his car was vandalised. He urged the police to consider the residents, who bear the brunt of their action against the riders.
According to him, there should be a way to curtail their activities by registering them as there is no alternative for now in the satellite towns. Contacted, spokesperson for Ogun State Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, claimed ignorance of police’s activities in the area.
He stressed that there was no policy in Ogun State that allows policeman to extort or harass any Okada rider at night in the area.
According to him, the police only gave a directive that every Okada rider must be registered and they must have a valid plate number, because anybody riding an unregistered motorcycle will have his motorcycle impounded.
He said: “We don’t have any policy that stops Okada riders from operating after 10:00p.m. Maybe what caused the harassment could be the recent cult clashes we are having in Mowe.
“Those who came to unleash that terror, always came with Okada, maybe that is why they imposed that decision, at least for now, but that is not an excuse to harass and extort innocent riders.
“We will investigate this as we have not received such complaints, but we don’t have any policy that stops Okada riders from operating after 10:00p.m.”
This post was originally published on June 10, 2022.