A schoolgirl was shot dead and many others injured, and property worth millions of naira destroyed when commercial motorcycle operators (Okada riders) and tricycle operators (Keke) clashed in Iyana Ipaja, Lagos State, yesterday.
The riders were protesting the state government’s restriction order on some routes and local government areas, which took effect on February 1, in a bid to enforce the state’s traffic law.
Early yesterday, Okada and Keke riders converged on the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway and made bonfires in protest of the ban, preventing vehicles from passing through the road. When the police stormed the scene to disperse the protesters, the angry riders resisted the police.
A witness, Sunday Bakare, said: “We are in a big trouble. The Okada riders were armed with guns, machetes, broken bottles, daggers, charms and cudgels. They were destroying vehicles when the police came. It was at that time that they opened fire on the police and the police started firing back. Many people were shot, but I can’t really say the casualty figure.
“The protest turned to a riot. Hoodlums hijacked the protest and started robbing stranded passengers. The riders retreated to some street, where they continued their protest. At Aboru, some police accosted the protesters. Policemen opened fire on the protesters and, in the process, a bullet hit a schoolgirl in uniform and she died on the spot.
“At that point, hell was let loose. The protesters chased after a van belonging to the state government, set it ablaze and destroyed a BRT bus. The Okada riders, chanting war songs, have vowed to continue with the protest till the government rescinds its decision to ban them.”
The clash occurred barely 24 hours after Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu vowed to intensify enforcement on the ban of operations of Okada and Keke on specified roads in some local government areas of the state.
According to a resident of Iyana Ipaja, who chose to remain anonymous: “This is my area. I got several calls while on the way to my office about this riot. Even my staff, who was sent on an errand, came back with swollen eyes. We can only plead with the state government to help us so that peace will reign.”
Reacting to the clash, Lagos State police spokesman, Bala Elkana, said: “On February 5, 2020, at 10:20am, Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences and some teams of police officers carried out enforcement on restriction of motorcycles and tricycles at Aboru, where 86 motorcycles were impounded.
“The riders of the impounded motorcycles and thugs in large numbers advanced to Iyana-Ipaja and attacked police officers on duty at Iyana Ipana roundabout, Alaguntan junction and Aboru junction. The hoodlums injured one Inspector Salifu Umar but no life was lost in the attack.
“The injured Inspector was rushed to hospital and he is responding to treatment. One LASTMA vehicle and two Neighbourhood Watch patrol Bicycles were burnt by the hoodlums. The windscreen of a police patrol vehicle was also damaged. Reinforcement was sent to the affected areas by the command’s headquarters and the situation was brought under control.
“Thirty-four suspects were arrested in connection with the violent attacks. The Commissioner of Police has condemned the attack on police officers carrying out their lawful duties and vowed that the perpetrators of such dastardly acts would face the full weight of the law. The suspects would be charged to court.”