It is often said that one man’s problem is another man’s blessing. To commercial motorcyclists, a.k.a. okada riders, the recent restriction on some Lagos roads has been a major setback to their business, but to the men of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies, it has been an opportunity to make quick money.
Reports reaching P.M.NEWS indicate that policemen and other security officials have been extorting money from okada riders that fall victim of the new traffic law. P.M.NEWS investigations revealed that okada riders arrested by police officers for flouting the new traffic law in the state are often made to part with between N5,000 and N10,000 before their motorcycles are released to them.
Immediately they see an okada rider, they will pounce on him and drag him to their station or a quiet corner where negotiation takes place. Offenders who refused to pay the stipulated amount, usually N5,000, on the spot are taken to the station where the amount will be increased to N10,000 to accommodate the interest of the Divisional Police Officer of the station (DPO).
Some riders told P.M.NEWS that in arresting them, some policemen will hit them with an iron rod or a big stick while on motion, causing them to suffer injuries. They cited two or three instances in which riders were killed as a result of this crude method of arrest by policemen.
Investigations also revealed that following the coming into operation of the new traffic law, all manners of government officials have been posing as law enforcement officers to arrest and extort money from offending okada riders.
These officials, it was learnt, usually act as fronts for policemen and any rider who refuses to play ball is dragged to the station and made to pay a hefty amount before his motorcycle is released. “These policemen are wicked. They will hit you with a big stick on the road and seize your okada. If you cannot pay them N5,000 immediately, they will take you to their station where you will be made to pay N10,000. The extra N5,000 is for the DPO.
“If you refuse to pay the money, your motorcycle will be taken to the Task Force office at Alausa and you will never see it again,” narrated a rider who identified himself as Sunday Effiong. P.M.NEWS also gathered that police officers now call okada riders ‘ATM’, a source of quick money.
Another okada rider, Ajose Yusuf: “I ply Aboru to Iyana Ipaja. Last week, some policemen patrolling Iyana Ipaja to Oshodi arrested me. They claimed they came from the Lagos State Police Command. They took my bike to the Command headquarters at Ikeja when I couldn’t cough out the N5,000 they requested. In the night, I approached one of the officers who arrested me, he asked me to come back the following day before 6.30 a.m. with N10,000.
“The following day, he rode the bike to PWD bus stop and handed it over to me after collecting N10,000 from me.” A dispatch rider with a Korean company in Lagos, Tajudeen Aiyegbami, narrated that he witnessed policemen collecting N10,000 each from more than 50 riders whose bikes were seized by the policemen.
“Two weeks ago, the mobile policemen stationed under the bridge at Iyana Ipaja arrested about 50 motorcycles and asked them to pay N10,000 each before their bikes will be released to them. That’s a huge sum of money. The new traffic law has given them the opportunity to feed fat on okada riders. Government should be blamed for this because they are not monitoring their men. The police are not enforcing the law at all, they are extorting money from us.
“Yesterday, some officers appeared in mufti, claiming to be from Area ‘G’ Ogba and seized about 20 motorcycles. They drove through Daddy Salvage, Fagba, Agege area of Lagos State. They later released the bikes to their owners after collecting money from them. I heard an officer calling okada riders ‘ATM,’” he stated.
Another rider in Obawole who identified himself as Taju accused policemen of enriching themselves through the state traffic law. “Some policemen arrested okada riders at Ifako Ijaiye. When I approached them to know where they were from, they claimed they were from Pen Cinema Police Station. They took those arrested to a corner and threatened to take their motorcycles to Alausa if they refused to pay. After much begging, they asked us to pay N10,000 each,” he narrated.
"I ply Iyana Ipaja to Ayobo, but the way policemen are arresting okada riders is bad. They arrest anybody found on the road. It doesn’t matter even if you are not on the roads where our activities have been restricted." P.M.NEWS gathered that the former DPO of Ipaja was redeployed because the authorities found 15 new motorcycles in his compound.
Olukayode Amadi, Branch Chairman of Motorcycle Owners Association of Lagos State (MOALS), Ikeja branch ‘A’ accused the police of corruption in the way they go about enforcing the traffic law. “Policemen are milking us. Now, they see us as their ATM. They will just appear on a street and begin to seize motorcycles found there. They will take all the seized motorcycles to their stations and ask riders to come and pay before the motorcycles can be released.
“As a branch chairman, Ikeja Unit, I know how much we have paid to the police to secure the release of motorcycles seized. At least, I pay between N15,000 and N20,000 a day to the police. It is not everyone of my member that can afford to pay this money and if you don’t have any at all, they will impound your motorcycle. You can see the way the police are killing us in Nigeria.
“Policemen are the most corrupt government officials I have ever seen. Government should find a way of monitoring their activities. They have been abusing the traffic law in the state and something should be done to check their activities,” Amadi stated.
When contacted, spokesperson of the Lagos State Police Command, Ngozi Braide, condemned those extorting okada riders. “If what you have told me concerning some policemen extorting riders is true, then it is bad. It’s totally wrong. Any officer caught would be brought to book. “Nobody sent them. The Commissioner of Police will never send them. Even the Area Commanders will never send them. The Command will not take it easy with those people if they are caught in the act,’’ she said.