By Sodiq Yusuf
Commercial motorcyclists, popularly called okada riders have cried out over an alleged extortion by policemen enforcing the ongoing 5 pm – 6 am curfew declared by the State Government of Osun as part of the measures to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Findings by OSUN DEFENDER in Osogbo metropolis and other parts of the state revealed that the police officers who man several checkpoints during the curfew do demand money from disobedient okada riders to allow them move freely during the curfew period.
It was gathered that as from 5 pm, security operatives designated to monitor the situation extort from the commercial motorcyclists in a bid to enable them operate.
In Osogbo, the state capital, OSUN DEFENDER reporter witnessed the act at the Osun Groove junction end of the Workers Drive and the Oke-Ayepe axis of Ilesa Road as the security operatives detained the concerned motorcyclists while negotiations lasted.
At the Osun Groove end, the Okada Riders who operated in defiance to the state laws were made to pay between N100 and N200 as settlement to allow them while operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) stationed at the Olutimehin Estate junction, Oke-Ayepe area told their victims to pay N100 to be freed.
“Bros, give me my pure water money jare. You will not go if you do not give me my money,” a female police officer said.
To avoid further confrontation, the Okada rider said “Please ma, help me manage this N100. I just came out. I quickly just want to make small money before I go home to break my fast. Thank you Madam.”
Just as he did, others were made to pay some amount of money before they were released after several minutes of plea.
A motorcyclist, Mr. Tade Aliu told OSUN DEFENDER, “This is too bad. They should not be doing this. I have paid up to N300 this evening alone. There are some of us who were into this business in the evening period before COVID-19 came. Of course, we are against the rule but some of us have a lot of responsibilities to cater for. This is not good at all.”
“I take several alternative routes to my various destinations to avoid these policemen but some areas and checkpoints are impossible to run away from due to the peculiarities of the location a passenger is heading for.”
Corroborating him, an Okada Rider, Kayode Adewale stated that the security operatives were making brisk business from the exploitation. He noted that he was still made to pay after being detained for several hours.
“I live in Ota-Efun. I had tried to comply with the directive of the government to close for business at 5 pm. On my way home, I tried to carry a passenger who had intended to drop at a location close to my house. As we got to Power line area, we were stopped for contravening the curfew regulations. I appealed to them but they detained me.”
Kayode added “After detaining me for several hours, they released me to go but not without collecting N500 from me. I am saddened by this development and I hope the authorities can find something to do about it. There is no checkpoint that police officers do not do this.”
The Public Relation Officer for the Osun State Police Command, Mrs. Yemisi Opalola saidthe matter has not been reported to the police as at the time of filling this report.