Some commercial motorcycle riders in the Ikeja area of Lagos have expressed sorrow over constant harassment by the state Task Force officials despite wearing uniforms to operate.
Just like commercial bus drivers, the Lagos State government had directed that commercial motorcycle riders wear reflective vests with identification numbers to curb crime and ensure safety of public members.
Speaking with Newsbreak.ng, the riders who ply the Allen, Opebi, Toyin areas and registered under two different associations, MOALS and ANACOWA, said they have had to abandon their parks repeatedly due to Task Force invasions.
Motorcycle Operators’ Association of Lagos State (MOALS) and All Nigerians Autobike Commercial Owners and Workers’ Association (ANACOWA) are groups under the aegis of National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW.
Yakubu Abass, a rider registered with ANACOWA and based at First Bank Bus Stop, Allen, said he had hoped wearing of uniform would put an end to the hassle but “as you can see it has not stopped Task Force from disturbing us. Whenever they come, we (motorcycle riders) start running from our parks for fear of getting caught because once you are caught, that is N20,000 fine and some of us don’t even make up to that in a week.”
Tahiru Matir, registered with MOALS at Olowu Bus stop, said he considers task force invasion as an “infringement on his right” to operate commercially. “I abide by the laws of the state not to operate on major roads like Alausa, Mobolaji Bank Anthony, Oregun and others, so I don’t see why task force should come to the parks where we pick our passengers. I think it’s for their pockets,” he added.
Ibrahim Zakariya, a 34-year-old father of four, corroborated his colleagues’ statements. He said: “What is the essence of making us wear uniforms if we are still being harassed by task force men. They make us run from them (task force) in fear and some of us even get injured in the process.”
For Abass Bukar, who fled from the insurgency in Borno State, the situation had become a normal occurrence. "When task force people come like that I just take off on my bike. Since Boko Haram drove me from Maiduguri to Lagos, maybe they (task force) will also chase me out of Lagos," he said.
While riders registered with ANACOWA, which is controlled by the branch chairman, wear an orange coloured jacket, the ones under MOALS, controlled by the state government, wear a lemon coloured vest. Also, identification and official phone numbers are inked on each rider’s jacket.
Moreover, Newsbreak.ng observed that only commercial motorcycle riders who operate in the Ikeja axis wear the reflective vests.
But Abubakar Ramadan, treasurer of ANACOWA at First Bank Bus stop, said riders in Ketu area also wear the vests. He added that the display of identification numbers on the jackets is to enable public members report a rider who is found engaging in illegal activities.
“The number is given to the riders as their means of identification, that way nobody will commit a crime and get away with it. For instance, if a rider goes against the law, people have the opportunity of calling either of the phone numbers displayed on the jacket to report the rider. But above all, the jacket symbolizes safety,” he said.
Ramadan added that the jackets are made available to the riders at affordable prices. When asked how much, he said: “the jacket cost N1500 and the sticker is N500. The ID card given to each member of the association is also N500. The sticker is pasted on the motorcycle to indicate membership of the union.”
However, in November 2017, the state Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi urged union heads to make the vests available to the commercial riders for free.
Clarifying the CP’s statement, Bukar Yerima, the union secretary said “the jacket was free before but we were told by the government that it finished, so the union had to start making more vests for the members. And of course we need funds to do so, which is why we sell it to them at affordable prices.”
Yerima said the union renews worn out vests or old ones for its members at no cost adding that the stickers and ID cards are valid for a year.
The secretary also addressed the issue of invasion by Task Force. He said: “that seem to be the only challenge we are having. The police don’t harass the bike riders when they are wearing their vests as long as they stay away from restricted routes. But the task force people arrest us (motorcycle riders) on the roads and even raid the parks. The union has gotten a lot of complaints from the riders about what they face and we have been talking with the authorities to ensure that the bikers can work without being harassed by task force.”
“We also caution the members from time to time not to engage in illegal activities and respect the law”, he added.