When the Anambra State Government banned the operations of commercial motor cyclists known as okada riders, the chief reason given was that it was aimed at curbing the rate of crimes committed by those people. Indeed, the activities of some of those people really left much to be desired as they used their bikes to rob people and make quick get-aways. Their ability to meander through the heaviest of vehicular traffic enhanced the success rate of their operations. Barely a week passed without news of their activities filtering out. They no doubt constituted a great menace to public peace.
When therefore the Anambra State Government banned their operations in Awka and Onitsha, many were not surprised. However, following the ban of okada in parts of the state, a new dimension of crime has been introduced and it is believed to be masterminded by former okada riders. This new dimension involves the use of commercial buses, shuttle buses and tricycles known as keke, to rob unsuspecting victims of their possessions. There is no particular time for their operations as they can strike any time of the day. Their modus operandi involves taking their victims at gun point to lonely spots, especially in the bush, where the victims are dispossessed of their possessions.
In a particular case, two young men who boarded a bus supposedly heading to Awka from Onitsha, were overpowered by other occupants who turned out to be working together with the driver and taken to an uncompleted building inside a bush in Igbariam. There, they were undressed and left only in their underwear before being forced at gun point to use their phones to do mobile transfers to an account given to them. After this, one of the young men braved it and jumped down from the one storey building where they were held and managed to escape. According to him, as he ran, he heard a gunshot, which, he said, could either have been directed at him or at the remaining captive.
In another case, a young woman entered a shuttle bus from Abagana en route to Awka, not knowing that the occupants of the bus were working in cahoots with the driver. While they distracted her by engaging her in a discussion, one of them stole her money and two phones from her bag. These two incidents are among many of such cases as reported by victims. It is thought that those behind these robberies are former okada riders, being that this phenomenon increased after the okada ban.
We are therefore calling on security agencies in the state to be on the alert, while the concerned unions (buses, shuttle and keke) should devise foolproof ways of authenticating the membership of their unions in order to curb this new trend before it spreads as it has done in Lagos and other cities across the country where they are called ''one chance buses''. Commuters are also advised to be careful of the vehicles they board, especially when such buses, shuttles or keke are not full. They should also avoid patronising such vehicles outside designated.