MATTHEW DIKE, looks at the modus operandi of ‘Okada’ robbers who attack bank customers and other people, in Apapa area of Lagos State, the efforts of the police in curtailing the incidents, the major constraints and why the state government should order outright ban of commercial motorcycle operation in the area.
Apapa has the highest number of seaports in the whole country. Join all the whole number of ships that bathe in other ports in Nigeria, they won’t be not up to half of the ships that bathes in Apapa. No wonder Apapa is a very busy place where clearing and forwarding agents, commercial banks, insurance, haulage, , security agents, thrive in their various interests.
It is a very good place for business, liked by both foreigners and Nigerians. But that was then and not now. Things change with time as government changes.
Reason and how: ‘Okada’ robbers attack and escape with their victims’ cash and other valuables easily.
The incessant robberies in Apapa area of Lagos State perpetrated by motorcycle riders who hide under the guise of commercial motorcycle operators, otherwise known as ‘okada’ riders is scaring away many residents and business men, including foreigners who live or do their various businesses in the area.
The residents are complaining that the menace of armed robbers who operate on motorcycles are increasing by the day. They said there is no day that Apapa would not record up to three armed robbery cases carried out by these sets of hoodlums.
Today, Apapa is like a shadow of itself, liked by nobody. Pray you don’t drive into any of the major traffic gridlock in the area. Such gridlock usually defies all strategies unless it is controlled from different angles which usually take hours or a whole day. Such traffic gridlocks are what the ‘okada’ robbers are praying to witness because it offers them the opportunity to dispossess victims of their cash, mobile phones, jewelry among other valuables.
It creates room for easy escape for robbers who operate, using motorcycles. Before the police would hear about the robbery, they have vanished into thin air. The riders seem to be experts on wheels as they usually ride on top speed even during traffic gridlock. The ‘okada’ robbers pray for such gridlocks that make their escape easier.
Many people have been robbed during traffic jam. In some cases, the robbers would smash the windscreen of motorists and after showing the driver and occupants gun(s), they would dispossess them of their cash, mobile phones and other valuables.
The dare devil robbers usually open fire at their targets and this has inflicted fear in the hearts of residents and business people in the area, including security men.
Some of the robbers that operates on motorcycles target bank customers and in some cases trail bank customers to the banks, which usually occur if there is an insider, either among the bankers that is an agent of the men of the underworld or the insider is a relation or friend of the victim(s).
Recently, a Lebanese was shot in the leg at Apapa. A police Sergeant attached to Apapa police station disclosed that the victim just withdrew cash allegedly running into millions of Naira from a commercial bank and was walking along Adele Road, in Apapa, but never envisaged that danger was lurking around the corner. The sergeant said the robbers hardly waste up to one minute or more to carry out their operations.
His words: “My brother, journalist, Apapa is no longer as it used to be. Everyday these people that parade themselves as ‘okada’ riders have been terrorizing the area, shooting their victims and carting away huge sums of money on daily basis. There is nothing anybody can do because the police are handicapped. The motorcycles that operate in Apapa alone should be over one hundred thousand (100, 000) commercial motorcycle operators.
“Their motorcycles look alike. Some operate without numbers because Lagos State government has stopped issuing the commercial motorcycle operators plate numbers so as to reduce the number of commercial motorcycles operating in the metropolis. Recently, I was told how a foreigner from Lebanon went to withdraw cash from a commercial bank.
“As the Lebanese was walking along Adele Road, two motorcycles were said to have trailed him as he walked. While one of the motorcycles stopped abruptly in his front, the man on the passenger seat got of the bike and pointed a gun at him. The Lebanese was said to have been perplexed and did not know what to do as the money was huge sum. It was as if the robber told him what to do when they shot him in the leg.
“The Lebanese allegedly surrendered the cash to the robber and they zoomed off. They were said to be two on each motorcycle. The other robbers on the motorcycle at the back usually provide backup during operation. So they all escaped easily on their motorcycles, leaving the wounded foreigner in the pool of his blood, writhing in pains. A patriotic citizen was said to have called the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Apapa police station, SP Rotimi Odutona, who in turn swiftly led anti- robbery policemen to the scene.
“Odutona was said to have rushed the wounded man to The Lagoon Hospitals, situated on Marine Road, Apapa. The victim told Odutona that the police should rush him to that hospital instead of General Hospital. The divisional police officer thanked God that the bandits did not shoot him in the chest or stomach. He prayed that God should keep the victim alive.”
Apapa Residents React
The residents of Apapa area have cried out to the Lagos State government to save them from this harrowing and terrible experience they are passing through in the hands of ‘Okada’ robbers who have been terrorizing the area everyday without a hitch.
One of the residents who lives at Payne Crescent, Apapa, and identified himself as Barrister Femi Adebami said, “It is sad that for so many years I have been living in Apapa peacefully but since just few years ago Apapa has changed so much for the worse. Instead of the security situation improving, it is worsening and seriously degenerating to the worst.
“Many residents, especially foreigners who live in Apapa have relocated to Lekki, Victoria Island, Banana Island, Ilupeju, Ikeja, among other areas because the population of armed robbers who attack people, mostly whitemen and bank customers have increased rapidly. Even as I live in Apapa, I cannot enter any bank in Apapa. Instead I will go to Victoria Island, Lagos Island or even Surulere to withdraw money, if there is traffic jam to Lagos Island. Many people have been dispossessed of their hard earned money.
“Some have been shot dead in Apapa or maimed by these ‘okada’ robbers. How long are we going to continue like this? How long will it take both the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government to know what to do? Some policemen had told me that they are handicapped. The human rights law is part of their constraint because it is better to allow one thousand criminals to escape than to kill one innocent citizen.
“They complained that even if armed robbers when they are fleeing will shoot at policemen or anybody on sight but if police release one shot on the robber, some people will send fake story on the internet, telling cock and bull story of how policemen shoot innocent citizen. Even when they are aware that robbers were the people that committed the act. But government should remove commercial motorcycle operation from Apapa.
“I don’t know why they are everywhere when they have restricted them. For me an outright ban is better in Apapa. The shooting of foreigners and dispossessing of their cash and valuables is denting the nation’s image. Apapa has more ports than all the ports combined in Nigeria. So the place should be well protected. It generates so much revenue for the country so the government should take cognance of that and ensure that Apapa is a safe place for both residents, businessmen, citizens and foreigners.”