There was confusion on the 7th Avenue in the FESTAC Town area of Lagos on Wednesday after policemen raided commercial motorcycle riders (okada riders) in the area and impounded no fewer than 100 motorcycles.
Adelove learnt that an okada rider was also shot dead in the violence which greeted the raid, while some policemen sustained injuries from bottles and stones hurled at them.
The deceased okada rider was identified as Emmanuel Omofule, said to be from Calabar, Cross River State.
Our correspondent gathered that the operation, which was jointly led by policemen attached to the state task force, the Rapid Response Squad, the FESTAC, Satellite Town and Trade Fair police divisions, began in the area at about 12.30am.
The operatives, who reportedly stormed the place when most of the okada riders were sleeping, seized several motorcycles parked by the roadside.
Violence was said to have erupted when the okada riders put up a resistance, during which some of the officers were injured.
The policemen were said to have returned fire to disperse the motorcyclists during which Omofule was reportedly hit and killed.
When Adelove visited the area at about 10am, some trucks conveying the impounded motorcycles were seen in front of the Area E Police Command, FESTAC Town.
A security guard, who gave his name simply as Abdullahi, said the policemen opened fire on the okada riders after seizing their motorcycles, adding that the motorcyclists had hurled pebbles at the policemen raiding them at night, when they were not working.
He said, “It was at about 12am. Most of the shops were locked, and many people were sleeping under sheds and open place. The policemen just invaded the area, and they started packing motorcycles into their trucks.
“The commotion woke up the sleeping okada riders and they tried to stop the policemen from going away with their means of livelihood. That was how the violence started. The riders threw stones at the police vans.
“The policemen replied with gunshots. Emma (Omofule) was hit in the head by a bullet. We tried to rush him to a hospital, but because the police were arresting the okada riders, we could not move out of the area.
“What actually angered the motorcyclists was that the policemen came to harass them at night, when they were not operating on the roads. It is true that some of the policemen were also injured, but none of them died.”
A resident, who gave his name as Chukwuka, however, said the motorcyclists were notorious for robbery and road accidents in the area, adding that they killed a policeman in Alakija a few weeks back.
He said, “That area is very notorious and people’s lives are not safe because of the incidence of robbers operating on okadas. I think it is best that they should be cleared off the area.
A police source at FESTAC told our correspondent that the injured policemen were being treated in an undisclosed hospital.
He said, “The okada riders already got a leak that the police would be in the area. So, when operatives burst them, the hoodlums were fully prepared for a reprisal.
“They also used guns, so the victim could have also been killed by the riders.”
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Patricia Amadin, said the police arrested 20 suspects and impounded 72 motorcycles during the raid, adding that the exercise, which was a directive from the Commissioner of Police, would continue.
She said, “The command has commenced an operation to restrict okada riders. We discover that many of them operate without registration numbers, and use the opportunity to rob.
“The riders gathered and launched a reprisal on the policemen. We have arrested 20 suspects and 72 motorcycles were impounded.”