Motorcycle riders staged a protest on Friday against police extortion and brutality in Akure, capital of Ondo State.
The motorcyclists, popularly called “Okada men,” are members of the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN). They protested Nigeria Police Force (NPF) officers’ continual extortion and maltreatment of their organization’s members.
The protesters paralyzed business and commercial activities on a major road leading to Akure’s Ijapo Estate for several hours without police intervention. A SaharaReporters correspondent reports that the protesting motorcyclists refused motorists entry into the Estate and obstructed traffic on the main street for the duration of the demonstration.
The demonstration berated disgruntled officers of the NPF, accusing them of unnecessarily intimidating and harassing hundreds of motorcyclists.
Furthermore, the Okada men say the police posted to the street mercilessly beat one of their innocent colleagues.
State Police Public Relations Officer Oluwole Ogodo denied the motorcyclists’ claims.
Many of the motorcyclists who spoke to a SaharaReporters correspondent in Akure pointed to daily extortion by traffic warden officers who monitor the thoroughfare.
Mr. Idowu Babatunde, a commercial motorcyclist, told SaharaReporters that the police demand sums of money from them almost everyday.
“They would seize our motorcycle and start demanding outrageous money ranging from N1,500, N2000, and N3000 from us. These Policemen are all thieves,” said Idowu.
He maintained that any attempt not to pay would lead to an officer confiscating the motorcycle.
The protesting cyclists confirmed to SaharaReporters that the officers also have made their work into a “moneymaking venture” with frivolous traffic offenses.
“It’s sad that police officers in Akure have turned commercial motorcyclists (Okada men) into their Automated Teller Machine,” protesting motorcyclist Ayo Oyebanjo told SaharaReporters. “Despite collecting their salary, many of the police officers now depend on commercial motorcyclists for daily living through extortion from our members.”
They vowed to embark on a ”mother of all protest” if the police authority in the state wouldn’t respond to the action by warning its officers not to extort, intimidate, unlawfully arrest or harass motorcyclists.