By OBINNA EZUGWU
G9, a group of select Southern and Middle Belt opinion leaders, has raised the alarm over what it called “Okada riders invasion of the South,” warning that the increasing influx of Okada riders from the core Northern states, particularly the North West, poses potential threat to peace and stability of the regions.
The group which raised the concern in a statement signed by its convener, Akogun Tola Adeniyi, noted that although every Nigerian is free to reside in any part of the country, a situation where there appears to be a deliberate policy of certain political leaders to relocate the mass of their youths to another location could pose threat to security of lives and property.
“G9 is alarmed at the sudden invasion of the Southern and Middle Belt states by Okada riders from the core North, particularly from the North West zone of the country,” the statement said.
“Ordinarily there should be no cause for worry as Nigerians are free to move to, relocate to, and settle down in any part of the country. In fact it is what should have been encouraged long ago as a way of promoting integration which was faintly adopted by Gowon’s Youth Service Corps scheme in 1973.
“What is worrisome and seriously suspicious is the arrival in droves by young and not too young adults from Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and other areas in that region all of them engaged majorly in Okada transportation business and mushrooming together in enclaves in the host communities.
The group said it discovered through interactions with some of the okada riders, that they were mobilized and relocated to the Southern and Middle Belt states deliberately.
“When interviewed, majority of them admitted that the auto-cycles they use were mass purchased and distributed to them and were directed to move south. An average city like Ago-Iwoye in Ijebuland has almost 1000 Okada riders massed in the town and the inhabitants of the town are getting scared that what happened to indigenes in Plateau and Benue states may happen to them someday.
“The question on the lips of many discerning observers in the south is ‘why this sudden wave of Okada riders?’ Herdsmen colonies had been resisted. May be the new ploy is to use Okada riders settlers in place of cattle herders. And in some ten to twenty years, a thousand Okada riders would have multiplied to ten thousand with wives and children and they may begin to challenge owners of the land over proprietary rights.
“Unfortunately, there is no way indigenes of the communities being invaded can assess or ascertain the security status of their new migrants. And Nigeria is so porous and security and intelligence apparatus are so weak that hardly could anybody sleep with their two eyes closed. And with double speak by government of the day regarding the origin of herdsmen terrorists, Nigerians are worried that the people arriving in droves and masquerading as Okada riders may in fact be on intelligence gathering mission.
“The attention of the Federal Government is invited to this new trend while host states in the South and the Middle belt should be on permanent alert and report suspicious movements and activities to the nearest Police and to their community leaders.
“There is enough suspicion, mistrust and tension in the country nothing should be done to aggravate the situation and those who may be harbouring insidious motives and plans should know that they are being watched.”