By Tola Gbadamosi
As car theft has drastically gone down in the recent time, across the country, the snatching of commercial motorcycles and killing of the operators, popularly called Okada are now taking a frightening diamension, as Yuletide approaches, The Hope has gathered.
Findings revealed that many commercial motorcycle operators in the last few weeks have lost their lives after being robbed by snatchers who disguised as passengers to carry out their dastard act.
The Hope gathered that the Okada theft cases were rampant at night and early in the morning, when the robbers often carry out their nefarious acts.
The situation is already taking a very worrisome dimension as many of the victims are mainly graduates, killed in the process of protecting their motorcycles from being snatched by underworld men.
Investigations also revealed that over 20 commercial motorcyclists have been killed, and their motorcycles stolen in the last 21 days in Ondo State.
Just last week, November 4, 2023, at Okedogbon area in Owo Local Government, one Ojo Adekanmbi suspected to be motorcycle rider was lynched by irate youths over alleged theft of a motorcycle.
“The deceased was alleged to be the person behind the stealing of motorcycles in the area and was set ablaze with tyres and fuel.
Some of the Okada riders who spoke with The Hope lamented the upsurge in violent attacks on many which have sent many to their early graves.
A victim of the attack, Olope Ahmed, while narrating his near-death encounter to The Hope, said he nearly lost his life few weeks ago when he carried a suspected Okada robber at Oba-ile and was heading to Ondo road around 11pm.
“When we got to Tipper Garage area, the passenger directed me to continue the journey through a lonely and deserted road. I tried to explain that it’s too late to go through such place. But he insisted I should drop him inside the dark street but I refused.
“After a hot argument, the passenger attempted to snatch the key of my Okada from me and we wrestled for sometime. But I managed to zoom off and escaped.
“I make more money at nights and that is why I usually work till late hours. But I have vowed not to work till late hours again because of the inherent dangers,” Ahmed narrated.
Also, an Okada rider Adegbami Niran decried the situation whereby a graduate who could not secure a job after many efforts and trials, settled for a hire-purchased motorcycle and only for such to be forcefully snatched by thieves at gunpoint.
“A motorcycle sold for about N600,000 is given out to us at the sum of N1, 100,000 on a hire-purchase agreement and that’s almost double the price. This condition accounts for why most of us struggle with these robbers to prevent them from snatching our okadas, but sadly, some get killed after being shot or being hit with iron on the head.
On his own, Mr Chidioke Amukoko who is also a commercial motorcyclist pleaded with government to ensure they spend more money on security to protect her citizens.
“The security challenge is not only peculiar to Okada riders, but cuts across every sector of the country. Before you push your motorcycle out on daily basis, one will have to pray against running into the hands of these thieves who are out to attack and take away what puts food on our table,” he said.
The Okada man advised governments, to make the security of all and sundry their priority and create an atmosphere where everyone would carry out their legitimate jobs freely .
“Most Okada riders are liars as we in the profession know ourselves. The real Okada riders know themselves and they are the ones that can eradicate the bad ones”, Amukoko stressed.
A security expert, Major Charles Olubodeyun (rtd) who spoke with The Hope, blamed the infiltration of hoodlums into the Okada business to the inability of the Okada association to be regulated.
According to him, in the licence office, there is a column tagged category ‘A’ that captures motorcycle riders. But as I speak, there is hardly a rider in the state that is licensed.
“Be it a learned person or not, anybody can take up an Okada and ride and also use it for commercial purpose untaxed which is a potential means to perpetrate crime and that is the uptake all over the federation.
“Let’s take a look at what is happening around. If we look at the North east, Okada is used for smuggling and banditry. Since it is not regulated, anybody who wants to buys a motorcycle can easily purchase an already registered motorcycle even without the transfer of ownership. That means a motorcycle can be bought in Adamawa state and come down to Ondo state and be used for whatever purpose.
There is no information captured about them. If they perpetrate crime with such Okada, such would not be traceable.
The security expert explained that Okada has only two wheels and can move into any area. It is very easy to ride in the middle of any crime area. They use Okada to commit heinous crimes.
“They don’t have obstacles in anyway. An Okada is a very handy tool to carry out criminal activities. Whatever fare they charge, their passengers who eventually turned them to their victims are always ready to pay, some even use these Okada riders for ritual purposes.
“You see them in trafficked areas going in and out engaging pedestrians and passengers, at the end of the day, you end up being their victim”, he lamented.
They, however, appealed to the Ondo State government to continue to support the Amotekun Corps as well as other security agencies who have been performing wonders towards curtailing crimes and criminality in the state.