- Some kidnap victims shared their thoughts on how Okada riders have been used as a stooge to launch kidnap operations
- Further probe revealed that some of the commercial motorcyclists in communities are used as informants and surveillance to monitor police operatives
- It was gathered that the recent attack on Kaduna Airport by some suspected bandits was aided by Okada riders
The current state of insecurity has been largely attributed to incessant attacks by suspected outlaw militants in the east and south-south, suspected Fulani herders in the west and north-central, and incessant bandit and Boko Haram attack and kidnapping in the core north.
However, there seems to be a question about how these forces mobilize or recruit their disciples that they use to perpetrate their daredevil activities.
In this special report, some kidnap victims narrated how bandits and kidnappers use the services of Okada riders (commercial motorcyclists) to perpetuate their evil activities.
"When we were kidnapped close to Ajaokuta in Kogi, we were taken deep into the forest," a kidnap victim, Ameh Onoja narrated to Legit.ng.
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He narrated further:
"At some point, the woman that was kidnapped with me could no longer walk. But the kidnappers seeing that I was still strong told me to back her.
"I did that for several hours until we arrived at their camp late in the evening. We were all hungry, including the kidnappers themselves."
He narrated further that in about 10 to 15 minutes of their arrival in the camp, one of the kidnappers instructed one other to call the okada guy.
"He just told his colleague to call the okada guy. He dialed the number and the only thing he said was "show". In less than 30 minutes, the okada arrived with some loaves of bread and water. We all ate. We were all tired. We slept off after the okada left. It was when I woke up and saw that the kidnappers were deep asleep that I escaped."
Legit.ng reports that this narrative indicates that despite the good intention associated with the establishment of the okada business across Nigeria, suspected men of the underworld have infiltrated the business.
How Okada started
Okada is a popular motorcycle business used mainly for intra-transport purposes. A local name given either to the owners of the business or the motorcycles.
The word Okada is a name of a popular town in Edo state. It is the headquarters of Ovia North-East Local Government Area.
Legit.ng gathered that the Okada business was introduced in the 1980s when transportation within towns and cities was becoming a major issue.
Besides that the motorcycle business became more popular in Okada town, it is historically linked to the famous Okada airlines owned back then by Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion.
While the name is generally accepted as Okada in most states of the federation, some northern states like Kano refer to the business and those engaged in it as Achaba.
Legit.ng cannot confirm as at press time why it's called Achaba in some northern states.
But there have been debates in different states on whether to ban Okada or allow them to operate freely.
While Okadas are free to operate in some states, the Lagos State government has restricted the business of Okada to some areas. Operators are not allowed in big towns and major commercial areas.
In Abuja, due to some noticeable criminal activities allegedly perpetrated by Okada riders, they only operate in satellite towns. The business is not allowed in the main cities and other adjoining satellite towns like Gwarinpa and Galadima. The ban on Okada and Keke NAPEP was recently lifted in Kubwa. Legit.ng could not verify if the ban was officially lifted or the riders just decided to resume operations.
In Imo State, activities of the unknown gunmen have forced the state to place restrictions on the operations of commercial motorcyclists (Okada) in the city of Owerri.
The Plateau State government had on several occasions banned Okada from the city of Jos, the state capital due to the activities of criminals. Even though the enforcement of the order has always become a challenge, the state is poised on ending the activities of okada in Jos.
Attempts to ban the operations of okada in most states of the federation have been strongly resisted by commercial motorcyclists and some users of okada. They had anchored their reason for opposing the policy on government's failure to provide an alternative and affordable means of transportation.
But governments of different states have been able to provide justified reasons why the ban on okada is imperative, citing the security threat posed by the business.
Bwari kidnapping and use of Okada
Legit.ng recalls that during a kidnapping incident in a remote area of Bwari Area Council (name withheld) the kidnappers escaped through the use of okada. It was alleged that most of the okada operators within the area were into kidnapping. Consequently, the authorities demolished some makeshift shops by Okadas and others in the area.
A community leader in Kwali Area Council of Abuja told Legit.ng that during the collection of ransom, the kidnappers use okadas to monitor if policemen are around on not. He said some commercial motorcyclists are informants, who pretend to be okadas in the day but criminals at night.
The community leader who does not want his name in print said:
“The same okada people supply bandits and kidnappers bread, water and cigarettes. Most of them know about these people."
How bandits invaded Kaduna airport on Okada
Legit.ng recalls that during the invasion of the Kaduna airport, majority of the bandits came on motorcycles.
They were able to access the airport with their motorcycles and escaped into the forest with their bikes.
Their escape through the use of motorcycles made it a bit difficult for security operatives to catch up with them. There are, however, claims by the security operatives that 12 of the bandits were killed in the attack.
Security expert speaks
According to a security expert who does not want his name in print as he was not authorized to speak on the matter:
"Ban on okada can be a good support for security operatives fighting these guys, but you don't just wake up to ban what people use as a means of transport.
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"You need to provide an alternative. Naturally, by providing an alternative and affordable means of transport, you have solved a major problem of the masses. This is even a major relief to Nigerians who can now engage in business without much stress. So the use of kinetic force some times may not be the answer. We need to employ some other tactics to fighting insecurity.
"Yes, the ban will help, but it's not going to solve the problem if we ban okada without empowering these young men. Such will lead to more crimes."
But a popular comedian, Koboko Master told Legit.ng that the government needs to identify the flagged areas before banning okada.
"The issue of kidnapping for ransom is a major one today and anything that aims at ending it should be encouraged.
"A military friend had told me before that okadas are aide kidnapping. He said that these guys apply mud to their tyres and ride in the forest and bushes successfully.
"But one thing the government needs to do after a discreet investigation on the matter is to ban flagged areas and not in the entire country because there are people who still carry out genuine okada business. You don't need to send those ones out of business. "
As the debates on the total ban of okada in some states continue, it is yet clear if such a ban will have a significant and positive impact on the fight against insecurity.