Goodluck Idele, the transition committee chairman of Isoko South local government area of Delta State, as well as other officials have been accused of running an illegal ticketing deal on motorcyclists (“Okada” riders) within the council.
The others accused of participating in the scam include Mr. Idele’s vice, Fineboy Ebegbare, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the area Lawrence Ogoegbulem and a transition committee member from Emede, John Akpobome Ejeje. Our sources also disclosed that the council’s revenue staff as well as “area boys” played their parts in the extortion of motorcyclists. “They even use the name of the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, to extort money from us. They also use the police and army to intimidate us,” said one motorcyclist.
The deal involves forcing motorcyclists (“Okada”) in the area to pay N50 daily for permits to operate. Several “Okada” operators told our correspondent that the fees are extracted from them under duress. “Those who refuse to pay are beaten, arrested and taken to the Oleh police station where they will later bail themselves with N5,000,” said one motorcyclist, a reported victim of such intimidation and arrest.
Several sources disclosed that the council boss, his vice, and the transitional committee member each receive N100,000 every month as their own share from the scam. The DPO and his subordinates reportedly collect N50,000 each per month.
One of the ticket collectors used by the council and the police told SaharaReporters that they have the backing of the council authority and the police. He alleged that the state government, through the Ministry of Transport, authorized them to collect the daily N50 ticket from the Okada riders.
But the state’s Commissioner of Transport, Ben Igbakpa, described the fees as fraudulent. He denied that his ministry authorized the collection. “Delta State government does not collect ticket fee of any kind from Okada riders, tipper drivers, or taxi drivers across the state,” said Mr. Igbakpa. He added: “There is nowhere in the state that the state government is involved in any ticketing and anyone who does it, it’s fraudulent and they should be treated as criminals too.”
Yesterday, the state commissioner of police, Ikechukwu Aduba, addressed the issue at a press conference in Asaba. He stated that the Okada ticketing was illegal, adding that any of his men found to be involved in the scam should be prosecuted.
Shortly after the press conference, the deputy commissioner of police, Taiwo Lakanu, issued a strong-worded warning to the DPO and his men to forthwith desist from such fraudulent and illegal act which he said had embarrassed the police commissioner and the police command. He directed the DPO to arrest the men issuing the tickets and report back to the CP.
SaharaReporters learnt that the DPO subsequently chased away the men from various parts of the council. He also reportedly arrested two of the men issuing tickets, but released them after a few hours. Several motorcyclists told us that the released men immediately returned to their illegal business.
“Okada” riders protested the extortion and illegal ticket fees at Oleh, the headquarters of Isoko South local government area of Delta State. The protesters said the extortion scheme disrupted economic activities. They accused the council chairman, Mr. Idele, and the DPO, Mr. Ogoegbulem, of using area boys who are not members of any recognized union to extort money from them in the name of motorcycle tickets.
The Isoko South chapter of the Okada Riders Association stated that “The council, DPO and others are behind the N50 daily extortion which is been tagged as ‘welfare ticket.’”
Speaking to reporters during their protest, the chairman of the Okada Association, Isaac Egbedi, and the treasurer, Akpoturu Iruoghene, described the tickets as fraudulent and lamented that the illegal collection was been carried out by a group of hoodlums who not only collect tickets but also block roads in the name of collecting tickets, only to rob Okada men and their passengers of their belongings.
The protesters called on Governor Uduaghan to come to their aid, adding that they were prepared to resist further acts of extortion in the area.
Contacted by our correspondent, the council boss, Mr. Idele, denied any knowledge of the scam. He claimed that, as soon as he heard about the act, he directed the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area to stop the collections in the interest of peace in the area.
However, the DPO, Mr. Ogoegbulem, denied the chairman’s claims. He said Mr. Idele only briefed him of the situation but did not direct him to stop the collection of tickets from Okada riders.
Also reacting, the council’s vice chairman, Mr. Ebegbare, denied his involvement. He said that the “collection of Okada ticket is not included in our council revenue drive.” Even so, several sources within the council told SaharaReporters that the vice and others were working round the clock to see that the collections continue.
Despite the warnings issued by the state police commissioner and the state government, our correspondent observed that the council’s officials as well as the police in Oleh continue to lend their support to the hoodlums harassing motorcyclists to pay the illegal ticket fees. “Every okada (motorcyclist) is still being forced to pay the ticket today,” one of the motorcyclists told SaharaReporters.
A spokesman of the Okada Riders Association stated that the state government and police authorities should demonstrate their seriousness by firing those involved in the criminal extortion scheme.