With Joke Adeniyi-Jackson
The calmness that pervaded Ilorin, the Kwara State capital was
disrupted on Tuesday, when commercial motorcycle operators, popularly
called Okada, went on rampage.
On the fateful day, hell had no fury as Okada riders scorned as they
bared their fangs to express their grievances.
For hours commercial motorcycle riders, who trooped out in their
thousands paralysed commercial activities within the metropolis. The
atmosphere in the state capital was tension soaked as panicky
residents scampered for safety while the melee lasted.
The Okada rider who protested against alleged extortion and
harassment from law enforcement agents in Ilorin, blocked some major
roads and busy junctions to register their grievance.
Aside taking their protest to the Government House, Ilorin as well as
the state police headquarters, they attacked the office of the Kwara
Traffic Management Agency (KWARTMA), destroying property and
inflicting injury on staffers.
The Okada riders complained of constant extortion and harassment by
law enforcement agents while carrying out their legitimate business,
and displayed placards with the message of ‘enough is enough’. They
claimed that the law enforcement agents made them part with thousands
of naira within the range of N1,000 to 7,000 when arrested over ‘trump
up’ traffic offences.
The Okada operators alleged that in the course of making end meets
they are accosted daily by the law enforcements agents who demand
bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of
extorting money. They claimed that those who fail to pay are
frequently threatened with arrest and sometimes had their motorcycle
They also alleged that the extortion has become a lucrative venture
for the law enforcement agents. It would be recalled that the
commercial motorcycle riders had in 2015 staged similar protest to
call attention of the erstwhile government to their alleged plight in
the hands of KWARTMA officials. It is, however, saddening that four
years after the issue has not been adequately addressed. No doubt the
scenario is avoidable if government and the state Police Command had
looked into the matter with the aim of laying to rest the protracted
issue. One must however condemn the resort to self help by the Okada
riders. The aggrieved commercial motorcyclist should have approached
the issue with maturity. A round table discussion would have saved the
ugly situation. The issue at hands calls for a jaw jaw and not war
war. The incessant destruction of public property and attack on
KWARTMA officials is condemnable. The leadership of the motorcycle
riders association should have encouraged members to exhibit decorum
in passing across their message to concerned authorities rather than
disturbing public peace and taking laws into their hands. Like the
popular cliché, two wrongs don’t make a right.
To forestall future occurrence of the ugly development, it behooves
the Kwara government and the State Police command under the
leadership of CP Kayode Egbetokun to tactically resolve the rift.
Though the police had denied the alleged extortion by its officers and
men, that notwithstanding, thorough investigation should be launched
into the matter and anyone found culpable should face wrath of the
law. The state command should also establish a public complaint unit,
where members of the public can make complaints of misconduct by
personnel in the course of discharging their duty. This will go a long
way to curb impunity among police officers. This will also restore the
pride of police and bequeath to the people a friendly police and
cleanse the command of bad eggs. It will as well restore confidence in
the police as a friend, protector and as men of honour. It is an
aberration for security agents to be perpetrating crime against the
citizens they are mandated to protect. The atrocious act by law
enforcement agents smirks of poor morals, lack of professionalism and
integrity. It as well a breach public trust in the police in
particular. Extortion by the police undermines the fundamental human
rights of citizens. Since there are outlined penalties for traffic
offences, law enforcement agents should operate within the confines of
the law. They should not be seen going off course their designated
responsibilities of enforcing the traffic law with the mandate of
ensuring public safety and maintenance of road discipline.
The leadership of the Okada riders should also school their members on
the need to always abide by traffic rules and regulation in order not
find themselves on the other side of the law. The Okada riders in
Kwara State should let peace reign as development can only take place
in a peaceful environment.