There was pandemonium in Lagos on Monday as motorcycle and tricycle riders protested against the ban on their operations in 15 council areas by the state government.
Our correspondents gathered that the protests held in Ijora, Apapa, Ikeja, Maryland, Lagos Mainland, Yaba and Oyingbo areas of the metropolis.
While the protest in Ijora turned violent with the police shooting to disperse the rioters, the demonstrators in other parts of Lagos were reportedly peaceful.
PUNCH Metro learnt that a riot broke out in Ijora when men of the Ijora-Badia Police Division prevented the motorcyclists and tricycle riders from holding their demonstration.
The riders were said to have burned tyres at the 7up bus stop.
In a bid to restore normalcy, the police reportedly fired teargas canisters to disperse the protesters, which led to an exchange of gunfire.
Footage of the clash, which was recorded by an eyewitness, showed the police giving some of the protesters a chase.
Also, three tyres were seen burning as vehicles tried to avoid them amidst the tension.
When PUNCH Metro visited the scene, an eyewitness, who identified himself simply as Ope, said two policemen and three protesters sustained bullet wounds during the clash, adding that the police arrested innocent residents, who were not involved in the protest.
He said, “When the motorcycle and tricycle operators were protesting under the 7up Bridge, policemen from the Ijora-Badia Division fired teargas in the crowd. The protesters retreated to mobilise. They started burning tyres at the junction, thereby preventing vehicular movement.
“Some hoodlums joined them and when the police opened fire, they retaliated. Three people were hit by stray bullets, while two policemen also sustained bullet wounds. The police had to call the Area ‘B’ for reinforcement and when they got to the area, they started arresting people indiscriminately.”
A tricycle operator, Isiaka Atanda, who said the people were only exercising their fundamental human rights, said the police were not supposed to use firearms to disperse the protesters.
Atanda said, “The government should consider us; there is no job; a lot of us, who are commercial tricycle operators, are graduates. The government does not want people to steal or commit fraud, but are they now trying to force people into illegal deals? This job is what we are using to manage, but they are disturbing us.
“ A stray bullet hits someone at the Saka Alawo junction. Also, a pupil was hit by a stray bullet; two of our members sustained bullet wounds.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, who stated that no life was lost during the protest, said 20 suspects were arrested.
Elkana said, “On Monday, February 3, 2020, around 7.45am, the police received a distress call that some hoodlums in large numbers and armed with cutlasses, suspected to be okada riders and thugs, blocked some major roads around Ijora-Oloye, Amusu, Ijora-7up, Ijora under the bridge, Sifa junction and Gaskiya Gangare area, all within the Ijora-Badia Division.
“The hoodlums caused major obstruction on the roads, burning tyres, looting and stealing from unsuspecting road users. Police officers from the Ijora Badia Division, Area ‘B’ Command and the Special Strike Force on Social Miscreants were promptly deployed in the scenes. The situation was brought under control. The obstruction was cleared for a free flow of traffic. No life was lost. No fewer than 20 suspects were arrested. They will be charged.”
Meanwhile, some motorcycle and tricycle riders protested at the Allen roundabout, Ikeja, Maryland, Lagos Mainland, Yaba and Oyingbo areas of the state.
Some tricycle operators also urged the state government to reverse the ban, noting that their means of survival had been taken away.
The Chairman of the National Union of Tricycle Operators, Yaba branch, Seun Adeleke, stated that the state government’s decision had thrown the members into unemployment.
He said, “We are the ones who voted for this government and we need the government to support us. Look at everybody here now, they want to work. We have over 500 tricycle operators in Yaba and the Mainland, who pay N200 daily to the council.
“We contribute to the economy and we want to continue to do that. The government should please look into this decision.”
Commuters also lamented the difficulties in getting vehicles at the various bus stops in the state, saying they had to trek long distances and pay higher fares to their destinations.
A commuter, who identified herself simply as Parobo, said she was almost robbed while struggling to board a bus.
She said, “If not that I noticed it on time, I would have been robbed. I struggled to get a bus from Berger to Ikeja for N300, which I normally take for N150.
“After disembarking at Ikeja, I had to trek to the Sheraton Hotel and trek back to Ikeja under the bridge when I could not get a tricycle.”
Another commuter, Friday Atufe, urged the state government to have a rethink on the policy.
“Government needs to look at this in the overall interest of the people it is trying to protect. I had to pay a higher fare today,” he stated.
Some commuters were said to have resorted to using horses as a mode of transportation.
Some of them took to the social media to share stories of how they were stranded at bus stops and had to pay exorbitant fees to hire horses.
On Twitter, #Ohorse and #Otrek trended to indicate how people made it to their destinations.
One particular horse was reported to have collapsed in the Ikeja area for being overworked. This, however, could not be confirmed
“This #ohorse just collapsed around under bridge Ikeja after five minutes’ journey. What is happening?” a Twitter user, @OG_Umaru wrote.
The Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Lagos State chapter, Musiliu Akinsanya, aka MC Oluomo, in a statement, warned commercial bus drivers against increasing fares.
He said the warning was due to the complaints the union got from some members of the public, adding that drivers, who hiked fares would be sanctioned.
Oluomo said efforts were being made to resolve the issues surrounding the ban on okada and keke Marwa in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, maintained that despite the protests, the government was determined to defend the ban up to the Supreme Court.
Omotosho sympathised with residents, who were bearing the pains of the enforcement, saying the government had the interest of Lagosians at heart.
He said the government did not plan to review the ban.
The commissioner stated, “There will be no review of the enforcement. It will continue because some people have been commending the government for the sanity that has returned to parts of Lagos roads by this enforcement.
“If people are protesting and are being violent, that is entirely different. And I believe the security agencies are addressing that.
“Before these violent protests, there had been some other protests by people asking that the ban be extended to their areas. And I want you to know that there are many parts of Lagos that don’t want to see tricycles and okadas and these measures are being enforced.”
The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, has clarified that dispatch and power bike riders are exempted from the ban on motorcycles in the state.
In a statement on Monday, the CP warned that any policeman, who violated the order would be punished.
He said, “The Lagos State Police Command wishes to reiterate that motorcycles used for courier services are not included in the restriction placed on motorcycles in Lagos State. Operators of courier services must strictly obey traffic laws and ensure that they do not ride against the traffic.
“Dispatch riders must put on their crash helmets and should have the dispatch box fixed at the back of the motorcycles. The bikes must strictly be used for courier purposes and not for carrying passengers. Power bikes are also not affected by the restriction.”
Odumosu said the enforcement of the ban must be free of harassment and extortion, and urged members of the public with genuine complaints to notify the police authorities on 08063025274, 08063104759, 08113615350 and 08113615350.
Meanwhile, the Oyo State Government has promised to control the influx and operation of commercial motorcycles in the state.
The Chairman, Oyo State Road Transport Management Authority, Dr Akin Fagbemi, said in a statement on Monday that the agency was awaiting the decision of Governor Seyi Makinde on the proscription of motorcycles on major highways.
“The OYRTMA will continue with its special ‘operation one passenger’, which directs motorcycle operators within the state to carry only one passenger as against the common practice of two or more passengers,” he added.