THREE persons were on Monday morning feared killed during a violent clash between commercial cyclists and policemen in Ijora, Apapa, Lagos.
Two of the victims were hit by stray bullets allegedly from the police team that attempted to disperse a riotous crowd of the operators. The third victim was a tri-cyclist alleged to be among those stoning commuters in commercial buses in protest of the ban on commercial motor and tricycles across six local government areas of the state which took effect on Saturday.
The operators engaged the policemen who moved early morning to enforce the ban placed by the state government.
They were said to have lit bonfires on the roads, pelted stones on commercial and private vehicles plying the road, including that of a policeman.
Many other people were said to have sustained injuries in the chaos while business activities were grounded for several hours.
Operators hundreds held a protest march at Ikeja and Ogba axis where they appealed to the government to reconsider the decision.
The protesters were led by members of the civil society and a pan-Yoruba youth group.
Shouting in Yoruba language, one of the protesters said: “Please help us beg Sanwo-Olu o! Does he want us to start stealing or snatching people’s bags? He did not give us any work as an alternative. Please help us beg him o!”
Although the march was peaceful, policemen were said to have fired gunshots and teargas into the air to disperse them to possibly avoid a recurrence of the Ijora incident.
According to a witness, Busayo Afolabi, people ran in different directions when the cops started shooting.
She said: “Ikeja is in shambles. These policemen are parading the streets with guns in their hand. They are shooting and throwing teargas in Ikeja. People are running.”
The ban also had its toll on commuters as many were forced to trek for long distances following their inability to afford the hike in fares introduced by commercial buses who saw a window for quick wealth.
Police spokesman Bala Elkana denied any death was recorded at the Ijora incident, adding that 24 persons were arrested.
“It is an ongoing situation. Reinforcement has been deployed and calm restored. But I do not have full details yet. Though, I do not think anyone died in the clash.
“The operators attacked innocent citizens and destroyed properties. The police cannot fold their arms in such a situation. They were dispersed. I cannot say for sure how many were arrested since it is still going on,” he said
Elkana said the police responded to a distress call that hoodlums armed with cutlasses and suspected to be commercial cyclists and thugs blocked major roads around Ijora Oloye, Amusu, Ijora 7Up, Underbridge, Sifa Junction and Gaskiya Road around 7:45am.
“The hoodlums caused major obstructions on the roads, burning tyres, looting and stealing from unsuspecting road users. Police Officers from Ijora Badia, Area B Command and Special Strike Force on Social Miscreants were promptly deployed to the scenes.
“The situation was brought under control. The obstructions were cleared for free flow of traffic. No life was lost. Twenty suspects were arrested. Investigation is ongoing. The suspects will be charged to court,” he said.
Elkana said he was not aware of the Ikeja protest, adding that the Commissioner Hakeem Odumosu has warned operatives to avoid harassment and extortion of courier riders.
According to him, policemen have been warned to ensure that the enforcement was only executed in areas announced by the state government and they must exhibit utmost professionalism in doing it.
Elkana said any cop caught harassing cyclists on courier service would be dealt with, as the directive exempted them.
“Operators of courier services must strictly obey traffic laws and ensure that they do not drive against traffic (one way). Dispatch riders must put on their crash helmets and should have the dispatch box fixed at the back of the motorcycle.
“The bike must strictly be used for courier purposes, no carrying of passengers. Power bikes are also not affected by the restrictions. The Commissioner of Police (CP) Hakeem Odumosu has issued circular to that effect to all the Area Commanders, DPOs and Police Officers across the state.
“The CP also warned police officers on enforcement to strictly abide by the rules of engagement as contained in the extant laws. The exercise must be free of harassment and extortion. Erring police officers will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
“Members of the Public with genuine grievances and complaints against police officers should call any of the following numbers: 08063025274, 08063104759, 08113615350, 08113615350,” he said.