Commercial motorcycle operators, also known as okada riders, in Festac Town have cried out over extortion by policemen attached to the Area 'E' Command.
Some of the riders, who spoke to the corresponents, bemoaned the molestation they suffer in the hands of the policemen who extort money from them on the flimsiest of excuses.
They stated that Festac roads are not part of the roads Okada riders have been restricted from plying by the Lagos State Government, adding that apart from extorting money from them, they still get beaten up if they refused to part with money whenever the policemen demanded for it.
Recounting his experience in the hands of men from the Area 'E' Command at Festac First Gate, Umoh Ekanem said he was trying to drop a passenger when a man in mufti accosted him asking for the key to his motorcycle.
Ekanem stated that when he asked for the man's identity the man started beating him. but as he tried to put up a fight, some policemen in uniform came and took his motorcycle away.
Another operator had a close shave with death. Issa Halimi, who hails from Nasarawa State said: "I was just riding on my bike along 22 Road when an unmarked vehicle hit me from the rear. I was still writhing in pains when it dawned on me that they were policemen on patrol. That was at about 6pm. But rather than take me to a nearby hospital for treatment, I was left to my fate. A good Samaritan later took me to the hospital."
It was also a similar tale for Hassan Umar but the only difference was that he and the passenger that he was conveying ended up in the hospital with broken legs.
Painting a vivid picture of how they were hit by a police patrol van on 3rd Avenue, Umar said it was as if the policemen wanted to kill them, in order to confiscate his bike.
"We are suffering in the hands of operatives of the Area 'E' Command because they now see us as prey. If they arrest you, they ask for money and if you fail to give them, they'll take your bike to their station."
Emeka Ezim while telling his own story disclosed that the bike that he uses to fend for his family of four was almost seized. He said he had to quickly put a call through to his wife to bring some money to bribe the policemen before he was allowed to go.
"I had just come out to hustle, but it was unfortunate that the first passenger that stopped me was a police personnel. After mounting my motorcycle, he showed me his identification card after which he ordered me to pay N4,000 or consider my bike gone. I pleaded with him but he was adamant, so I had no choice than to call my wife to come along with the money."
Ezim said what baffled him most was that he was not taken to the police station but to a joint close to the station, where he and his bike were detained until the arrival of his wife.
When contacted, the Area Commander Area 'E' Command Festac, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Damian Okoro, said if the commercial motorcyclists are not happy about the law, they should go to Alausa.
"The Lagos State government made the law on the resricted area and I cannot change it.
"There are lots of motorcycles seized which I have taken to Alausa.
"I am a no-nonsense man, because if you check inside my cell, you will see policemen detained for certain offences, but if any Policeman is caught in the act, then the officer should be ready to face the music.
"My office is open to everyone; if the riders are having any complaints, they can come to me and they should let me know the team and the patrol van number, then they will see what will happen to them, because I have not received a kobo from anybody.
"My question is that how much are the Okada riders going to give me that will be up to my salary? I must tell you that I am very much okay with my salary," he added
When contacted the Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Lagos State Police Command, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP Ngozi Braide, asked: "How can you go about this kind of a story? Two times in a week, we will go with our trucks to all the stations to move all seized motorcycles, and they are all on record.
"We render accounts on a daily basis,we send a report to the Commissioner of Police; and we also send the duplicate to the Ministry of Transportation. I must tell you that there is nothing like that."