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.
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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Bus Services Ltd. (LBSL) yesterday deployed additional 65 buses on Lagos roads.
LBSL Managing Director Idowu Oguntona, who addressed reporters at the firm’s office in Yaba, said the deployment was in addition to already existing buses on the roads.
The 65 buses, the MD said, are deployed to seven roads which are: Oshodi to Ajah, Inner Marina to Ajah, Obalende to Ajah, CMS to Ajah, Ikeja to Ojota, Ikeja to Ogba, Berger to Ojota.
He also said there were plans to have mini buses to ply the inner/feeder roads.