Operators of commercial motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, have overtime become a darling to many commuters in Lagos. The riders are most useful in areas where traffic gridlock is a common phenomenon. From their swift movement to their ease of maneuvering through tight corners, Okada is almost impossible to phase out.
However, their operations have come under severe scrutiny in recent times due to the various vices common among the operators. In some areas, criminals have used the okada to kidnap, rob and perform other nefarious activities.
Sometimes, they have been caught to break traffic rules at will causing accidents which have been killed and maimed both riders and passengers.
To checkmate the downside of the okada, the Lagos government has restricted their operation to smaller roads.
The Lagos State Police Command has also directed all operators of commercial motorcycles in the state to register under their unions on or before June 15, 2018.
The directive came after a group of motorcycle operators set a police van ablaze in the Ipakodo area of Ikorodu, a suburb of Lagos.
The directive has evoked divergent views from the operators. Some who spoke to Newsbreak.ng said that the unions were only an added burden to them.
Babangida Umaru, who plies the Agege axis said, “We do not belong to any union, if joining the union is authorized by the state government then we can take it serious.
‘’We okada riders in this area operate illegally and can be arrested at any moment by the police.
“Joining the union is a waste of time as it doesn’t stop the police from harassing us” Umaru added.
John Ukah operating around Shomolu axis said joining the union is not the issue but that most riders that are registered under the union are yet to collect their vest and identity card which are paid N2,000.
“If the police want us to join a union, they(police) should tell the union leaders to give the members the stuff they paid for, If not I am not joining any union.
‘’The Police and the union leaders are all corrupt as they are the same people that break the rule they make,’’ he said.
Kabiru Adeleye, another rider around Onipanu said he is not aware of the mandate by the police to join a union. Adeleye said “I haven’t heard that we are mandated to join any union, I will go and ask my people at the union office but don’t think the police has the right to compel us to join any union.”
Other riders who spoke to this medium lamented that the police operatives of the state task force were harassing them despite belonging to unions.
Yakubu Abass, a rider registered with All Nigerians Autobike Commercial Owners and Workers’ Association, ANACOWA, and based at First Bank Bus Stop, Allen, Ikeja 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 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 the Motorcycle Operators' Association of Lagos State, 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.
Lateef Ibrahim, the state chairman of ANACOWA, told Newsbreak.ng that any association registered under the Cooperate Affairs Commission, CAC, is approved as there is a freedom of association in Nigeria, but the Lagos state government have their own policy.
Ibrahim said “Most riders belong to one union or the other recognized association, we are also ordered to restrain our members from plying restricted areas and always wear their vest as a form of identification, as their identification number is boldly written on their apron.”
He added that with the assistance from the Commissioner of Police other riders will be compelled to join the union.
Chike Oti, a Superintendent of Police, told Newsbreak.ng that the mandate was a joint communiqué.
‘’We agreed with unions that anybody that wishes to engage in okada riding must submit himself for background check and thereafter will be issued a code number by the union who must account for him at all time.”
When asked about the harassment claim by some riders, Oti debunked the claim saying, “Taskforce does not harass anybody, they perform their duties as required of them by the law”.
- Chinwe Aguobi