The arrest and detention of Okada riders and economic migrants from Jigawa State by the Lagos State Government is deeply humiliating and insulting. The right to movement is a fundamental constitutional right for all Nigerians. Every Nigerian has the right to move and settle anywhere.
What’s even more insulting is the description of the Okada riders as suspicious looking northerners, which is merely a bigoted attempt to profile Nigerians based on how they look or the language they speak. Everyday, people fly or drive to Lagos in their thousands, it is only the poor who could not afford the luxury of decent transportation that arise suspicions.
Granted that local authorities have a duty to exercise vigilance over strangers in their communities, but the decision of the Lagos State taskforce to arrest and detain them even after certifying them security risk-free exposes the LASG’s gross unprofessionalism and institutionalized bigotry.
Whether it is the case of deportation of ‘igbo destitutes’ by Fashola in 2013 or this, the sentiments are similar. But Lagos didn’t become Lagos through this bigoted policy of selective targeting of poor Nigerians coming from other parts of the country. Lagos became Lagos because it prides in its legendary cosmopolitanism and rich diversity.
What’s even more appalling is the conduct of the Nigerian police led by the utterly incompetent Lagos police commissioner in abetting this injustice and giving it official cover. This shows that even with federal control, the police are willing tools of arbitrariness at the hands of reckless state governments, making the prospects of a state police even more gloomy. Also, the silence of human rights and civil society organizations is quite deafening.
This is not a north versus south or Arewa versus Yoruba issue. This is at the heart of Nigeria‘s constitutionalism where every Nigerian has the right to seek legitimate means of livelihood anywhere. Allowing this travesty to go unchallenged will set a dangerous precedent that will augur very badly for Nigeria’s cohesion and unity.
Lagos State Government should not only apologize for this assault on innocent Nigerians exercising their freedom of movement, it should also be made to pay damages for the mental and physical torture it put them through. This is because, no Nigerian individual or group, no matter where they are coming from, deserve to go through this type of humiliation.
We are waiting to see what actions those whose responsibility it is to right this wrong will take. In the meantime, we are taking notes and we will neither forget nor forgive.
By Ahmed Musa Husaini.