At least 40 suspected commercial motorcycle operators were yesterday arrested for allegedly attacking policemen at Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos State, over current steps to stop them from operating in the metropolis.
The suspects were among hundreds of commercial motorcycle operators also known as Okada riders who joined in the violent protest that erupted in the area yesterday morning.
Scores of Okada riders took to the streets to protest the ban on their operation by the state government. The government had penultimate Tuesday proscribed the use of motorcycles and tricycles as means of transportation in six LGAs of the state.
Confirming the arrest, Bala Elkana, State Police Spokesman, said that on Wednesday at about 10.20am, officials of the State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences, and teams of Police Officers carried out enforcement on restrictions of Motorcycles and Tricycles at Aboru area, where 86 Motorcycles were impounded.
He said riders of the impounded motorcycles and thugs in large numbers advanced to Iyana-Ipaja and attacked Police Officers on duty at the roundabout, Alaguntan junction and Aboru junction. “One Inspector Salifu Umar was injured by the hoodlums but no life was lost in the attack.
The injured Inspector was rushed to hospital and he is responding to treatment. One of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) vehicles and two bicycles belonging to the state Neighbourhood Watch patrol team were burnt by the hoodlums.
”The windscreen of the Police patrol vehicle was also damaged. Reinforcement was sent to the affected areas by the Command Headquarters and the situation was brought under control. 34 suspects were arrested in connection with the violent attacks,” he added.
In a related development, the police also debunked the news of a schoolgirl and policeman reported to have been killed during the raid.
The schoolgirl, who was reported to have been sent on errand during the time was hit by stray bullet.
In its response, Elkana denied a schoolgirl was killed.
He said: “The hoodlums injured one officer, Inspector Salifu Umar, but no life was lost in the attack. The injured inspector was rushed to hospital and he is responding to treatment.”
“A reinforcement team was immediately sent to the affected areas by the Command Headquarters and the situation was brought under control.”
He added: “The Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, condemned the attack on the police officers who went to carry out their lawful duties and vow that the perpetrators of such dastardly acts would face the full weight of the law.”
According to eye witness, the trouble between the motorcyclists and the policemen started when some commercial motorcyclists, whose motorcycles were confiscated about 8a.m. within the neighbourhood, gathered to resist the operatives of the task force at Iyana-Ipaja from taking their bikes away. This led to a serious altercation.
“The task force had already impounded about 200 motorcycles, which they were about taking into their trucks but the owners of the commercial bikes resisted them. Before the motorcyclists realised what was happening, the policemen had started firing canisters of tear gas into the air to disperse them,” a witness said.
A commercial motorcycle, who identified himself simply as Chibueze, said that the task force had become a threat to the efforts of the state government to sanitise the roads, regarding the restrictions.
He said: “They are not taking it as a restriction. They are simply behaving as if it is a total ban of Okada on Lagos roads. We were at our park, when men of the task force came to Alabede, Raji Razak and Oju Odo on Akinola Road all in Aboru where we usually park to confiscate our motorcycles.
“Curiously, some of the motorcycles were even parked. The riders parked them and converged on the spot to eat, only for men of the task force to storm the place in a commando style. Fortunately, the spot was not part of the road banned by the state government.
“What is happening in Lagos currently is no longer restriction but an outright ban on motorcycles and tricycles as Aboru residents are left with no means of transportation to Iyana-Ipaja and what we are doing is the only means of our survival.”
A commercial bus driver, who identified himself as Dele, also said it was as if the Okada riders were fully prepared for the policemen.
He said: “It was a ‘tug-of-war’ between the policemen and the motorcyclists as everywhere became rowdy.
“I was at our motor park when the task force operatives were going with their trucks. Suddenly some of them who were in mufti started jumping down from the trucks and went straight to where the motorcycles were parked and started moving them into their trucks.
“Angered by the policemen’s action, the Okada riders came out and resisted the policemen from taking their motorcycles away. That was how the policemen started firing at the defenceless motorcyclists while the riders were throwing bottles at the policemen.
“When the situation became tensed, some hoodlums in the neighbourhood also joined the motorcyclists and they were hurling stones and other dangerous weapons at the policemen. While the policemen were shooting indiscriminately, several passers-by sustained varying degrees of injury. Government should call the policemen to order.”
A motorcyclist, who did not want his name in print, said some of them got the motorbikes on instalment and they were still paying.
He said: “What the policemen did to us was unfortunate. We are not plying the restricted roads; we complied with the restriction. I don’t know what else they want from us. We are Nigerian citizen. Some of our members and a lot of passers-by sustained injuries.”