Commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as okada riders, in Lagos State are set for a face-off with the police as they declare another mass action, on Wednesday, to protest the state government’s restriction of their movement.
Last Wednesday, hundreds of okada riders, joined some civil society activists to embark on a peaceful protest. They were stopped by dozens of police officers armed with AK47 rifles.
“We have strong information that they (the police) are determined again to repress the protest tomorrow,” said Abiodun Aremu, Secretary of the Joint Action Front, JAF, the organizers of the mass action.
While breaking up their march last week, the police stated that some hoodlums had planned to take advantage of the protest to unleash violence on residents.
But Mr. Aremu insisted that it was the police who “planted those hoodlums.”
And despite a Lagos High Court striking out a suit brought by a faction of the okada riders seeking to reverse their restriction, Mr. Aremu stated that the protest would go ahead.
“That ruling was fraudulent and criminal. Once there is conflict between a federal and a state law, the federal law subsists,” Mr. Aremu said.
“And there was no was way anybody could have gotten justice at a Lagos High court,” he added.
While throwing out all the requests of the okada riders, Justice Aishat Opesanwo maintained that the roads, which the commercial motorcyclists termed federal highways under the Federal Highway Act, were a “misconception and misrepresentation of the Act.”
Mr. Aremu, however, said that a peaceful protest is one way to fight a “bad law.”
“We are not fighting the validity of the law, but the rights of Okada riders themselves. People cannot use public law to punish the poor,” said Mr. Aremu.
“We don’t see Okada as the ultimate, but when government has failed in its responsibilities to the citizens….
“We cannot be deterred by the resolve of the police to repress us,” he added.
The Lagos State Police Command said on Monday that it had impounded 6, 972 motorcycles in the last three months for the violation of the Lagos traffic law by the riders.