Joe Effiong, Uyo
It has been a rough couple of weeks for public transport motorcyclists commonly known as ‘Alalok’ in Ikot Ekpene local government area of Akwa Ibom State, whose daily income, already cut short by the COVID-19 lockdown, is reportedly being mugged by policemen who prey on them.
The police say their duty of maintaining the state-declared lockdown has been seriously hampered by the recalcitrant motorcyclists, who have refused to obey the lockdown order thus making them look incompetent to their superiors at state headquarters.
Motorcyclists who spoke to the Sunday Sun in Ikot Ekpene said they are being levied between N5,000 and N20,000 to be allowed to pass some of the many roadblocks in the town and its environs since the lockdown was declared more than three weeks ago.
“They don’t listen to any excuse, however genuine, even if you are carrying a sick person or a pregnant woman to the hospital; if you are not ready to pay, you either go back or your bike will be impounded,” a motorcyclist, Sunday Ekpo, told our correspondent.
“We are really suffering here. It doesn’t happen like this in other towns. The police have turned us into their farm, not only during this lockdown but even before now.”
According to other motorcyclists, those who fail to pay the amount demanded by the police have had their bikes impounded by the police which is why there are so many motorcycles rotting away at the Ikot Ekpene Police Station.
Chairman of the Cyclists Union Mr Kufre Idio said he was yet to be informed by any of its members of such a development.
According to Idio, union members as responsible citizens obeyed the restriction earlier placed on the use of motorcycles from 6 pm to 6 am even before the lockdown.
He said people who were arrested might have been other users of motorcycles who are caught in some form of violation and not necessarily members of the union.
On happenings during the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, Idio said the union will assess the situation after the lockdown with a view to determining the appropriate steps to take.
Some police officers who spoke with our correspondents said some of the bikes impounded were without genuine papers and have been abandoned by the riders at the station once they are impounded.
But the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ikot Ekpene, Benjamin Achegbeani (AC), lamented to our correspondent that outlaw motorcyclists in Ikot Ekpene have almost ruined his career due to their recalcitrance.
“What I’m seeing here, I have not seen it in any town before. The cyclists here do not obey any law. If you come to Ikot Ekpene, you wouldn’t know whether there is a lockdown or not because of the activities of the cyclists,” he said.
“It has got to a point that the state headquarters demanded to know whether we have enforced the lockdown. And they (cyclists) have also petitioned us to the state headquarters,” the DPO said.
He admitted impounding about 50 motorcycles and arresting about ten of the motorcyclists who would be charged to court.
“I have told them: if you know that you are doing the right thing, come and claim your bike and go to the mobile court and pay the N10,000 fine. I am a Christian. I wouldn’t want to miss Heaven because of this work. I treat everybody equally,” the DPO said.
A release by the state police headquarters indicates that as at Friday, April 24th, 385 motor vehicles, 336 tricycles and 474 motorcycles have been impounded in the state, while 126 defaulters have been arrested and arraigned in the special courts between Monday the 20th and Friday the 24th.
“One hundred and nineteen (119) convictions have so far been recorded,” the release stated, promising to provide a further a breakdown with regard to the location of the violators.