• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Why we prefer night travels despite insecurity, warning – Nigerians speak

Why we prefer night travels despite insecurity, warning – Nigerians speak

…Transporters, FRSC react

With the harsh economic condition biting harder, many Nigerians have resorted to travelling at night when the need arises, to cut cost and for convenience.

In recent times, night travelling has become increasingly popular in Nigeria due to numerous check points by security agencies on Nigeria’s major highways which have made day travel across regions and inter-states a nightmare.

These days, many businessmen and women have adopted night travel as a critical mode of moving long distance, even their goods and products between cities across the country.

Investigation by BusinessDay reveals that several of the journeys are undertaken with luxury buses which are sometimes not in good condition, thereby endangering lives and property and inconveniencing commuters.

A check shows that the buses could appear to be in good condition from the outside but inside, some of them look rickety; with worn-out and torn seats, the lights not bright and unsteady while the sound of the engine is shaky.

But many of the commuters say they have no choice than to take a night trip, because it is fast, affordable and convenient. A few however, complained of poor road networks across the country.

The commuters noted that traffic congestion often results in delay, making journeys in the day to last extra day and in some extreme cases two days.

Commuters have increasingly seen night journeys as safer and faster despite warnings by officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and other relevant agencies about the dangers and risk associated with such trips.

Some commuters pointedly said that they had resorted to night because they could not afford the high fares charged by transport companies since the Bola Tinubu administration announced the removal of petrol subsidy last year.

Samson Okon, a Lagos-based teacher, said he decided to board night bus when he was travelling for the 2023 Christmas break with his family because he could not afford to pay the higher fare charged for smaller vehicles that ply in the day.

“Despite what you are saying, the night journey is helping people, I know there is risk, but life itself is a risk.

“I had a family ceremony on December 26th, 2023, so, I had to go home with my three children and my wife. When I got to the park to confirm the price. It was N35, 000 to travel to Akwa Ibom State and I wanted to buy three seats. Where do I get such money?

“I had to wait and go by night where I paid N20, 000 for each seat, you can see the difference,” Okon said.

Interestingly, such trips are taken despite the worsening security situation in the country which has led to many Nigerians being kidnapped, killed or maimed.

The security dimension is that such hitches often expose the passengers to armed robbery attacks and other dangers that come with the night.

Udu Oko, a manager of a transport company in Oshodi motor park, told BusinessDay that they do not go with security officials during such journeys.

He said such was not necessary because the security situation in the country was now better than before, adding that travelling with security could expose them to more attacks from armed gangs.

“Most of the time there is security, there is no more killing, we don’t carry security men; if you carry security men they would be firing that motor,” Oko said.

In Nigeria, there has also been increasing incidents of road crashes in the last one decade.

According to the FRSC, about 4,387 people were killed through road crashes from January to June 2023 across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The record shows that 14,108 sustained different forms of injuries during the period.

“I regularly travel at night because of my business, I supply goods to my customers in Aba and I can’t waste my time going in the day, the last time I tried it, I spent two days on the road.

“If you are going to the South East, because of so many check points by soldiers and bad roads, traffic is there. Night journey to me is faster,” Emeka Offor, a businessman, said.

Offor stressed that he was not bothered about the security implications of such a trip, adding that he has not encountered any problem on the road before.

“Even the day is not safe; there is even more security on the roads at night than in the day,” he added.

A visit to the Oshodi motor park at about 10am showed that there were several commuters who were coming to buy tickets for the night journey later that day to different states across the country, especially South-South and South-East.

Most of the transport companies seem to have dedicated their luxury buses for night journeys from Lagos to South-South or South East.

There were also transport companies who plied the Lagos-Abuja route but mostly used Sienna and coastal buses for their trip.

Similar situation was witnessed at the Jibowu motor park, where a large number of night commuters were seen buying tickets for journeys to several parts of the country, especially South-East and South-South states and Abuja.

It was also noticed that traders and businessmen preferred to convene their goods and products to their customers to different parts of the country through night trips because of cost and convenience.

Some of them told BusinessDay that it was only the luxury coaches that have space to pack leads.

Obinna Chukwu, an auto parts seller in Aba, who frequents Lagos to get spare parts, buy cars and equipment for his shop and customers, told our reporter that he prefers night trips by luxury buses because it is less stressful and fast.

He said the night journey had made it easy for him to get his spare parts and other things to Aba, with less cost.

Obinna noted that he would have incurred expenses through extortion from security agencies and other officials on the highway if he had taken the journey in the daytime.

According to him, “I frequent Lagos State to get auto parts, buy cars to sell in Aba and other states around there.

“I take a night journey because it is faster and more convenient for me to transport what I have. People say there is danger, but I have never experienced any problem.

“Most of the time, I put my equipment inside luxury buses and they deliver for me in the morning.

“Only on a few occasions do I go with my goods; I only wait at the park to receive them and they have been delivered. You can imagine if there was no night journey, what would I do?

“This security people, the way they are extorting people in the day is terrible; I had a terrible experience with them once; if you do not give them money, they would seize your goods no matter how much it is worth.”

Another night traveller, Akor Joseph, said he had to take a night journey to meet up with his appointment in Abuja the next day.

He said that though he understood the risk involved in such a trip, he had no choice because he could not afford to to go by flight, even when there was no functional railway transportation in the country.

“I understand that a night journey could be sometimes bad and dangerous, I have no choice; I have to meet up with an urgent appointment tomorrow afternoon in Abuja,” Akor said.

He stressed that he was not bothered about the security implication because it was only God that secures lives.

“I’m prepared for this journey, this is not the first time I’m taking this kind of trip, my brother; forget, it is only God that is guarding us.

“I can’t travel by plane, because I don’t have money for a ticket now; if our government had made railway efficient and available people would not be thinking of travelling in the night but they have messed up this country,” he added.

A transporter’s perspective

Chukudi Orji, a manager with one of the transport companies in Oshodi motor park, said commuters prefer night journeys for several reasons.

He said the cheap fare had also attracted people to travel at night, since fuel subsidy was removed and transport fare was increased.

According to Orji, “People are travelling by night now and it is because there are no more accidents since they widened some highway roads; some places that were one lane they have made it double lanes.

“Since 2023 to this new year, we did not record any accident with any of our luxury buses, unlike before. So, when people are see this kind of things they are happy.

“If these things are happening people would hear and know, and it would boost patronage. That is what we see now.

“Secondly, at night, it is very cool to travel; before day break you have reached your destination. There is also no disturbance or traffic congestion during the night.

“Businessmen and traders prefer to travel in the night and buy what they want and come back again to their business.”

Orji further said that the rise in cashless transactions had discouraged armed robbers and other criminal elements from attacking night buses knowing people don’t carry cash any more.

“We now have cashless transactions, people don’t carry cash again, so robbers know that people don’t carry money again; there is no point attacking buses and commuters.

“Also, the country is hard now; night bus fare is low when you compare it to buses that move in the day.

“Day buses can charge N29, 000, N27,000 for a journey to any South-East states and night buses can collect N18,000 or less to anywhere in the South East.

“People prefer night travel instead of paying this money, they can take a night trip that is cheaper and save the extra N10, 000 or more to eat and buy other things.

“It is luxury buses that we use for night journeys because of the bad roads; When a small bus enters bad road it can enter a bush, that can’t happen in a luxury bus, because they made it for long travel and people that are driving it are professionals.

“You can’t buy a bus of N250,000 and give to just anybody to drive. The drivers know that they are the first target to die; so they are careful when driving.”

He stressed that the high cost of diesel and gas has also affected fare and transport business in recent times, urging the government to intervene.

“If the government can reduce the price of gas and diesel it would reduce the transport fare. If they do it, prices of many things would go down, but if it is high it affects everything because you must enter the motor to buy things,” he added.

Senate fails to ban night travels

The Nigerian Senate had in 2011 rejected a motion to ban night travels in the country.

The motion, sponsored by Chris Anyanwu, a then senator from Imo State, had pleaded with her colleagues to ban night travels due to the bad state of roads and security implications.

Rejecting the plea, however, the lawmakers argued that such a ban would infringe on the people’s right to free movement.

The then Senate had stressed that night travels should rather be made safer and urged the federal government to properly equip the FRSC to help it ensure safety on the roads at night.

FRSC reacts

Officials of the FRSC have consistently warned Nigerians and transporters about the dangers of night travel, especially during the yuletide period.

The agency also warned luxury bus owners to keep their vehicles in good condition always and not to use them at night in view of the risk involved.

However, despite the warning, night travelling is gaining popularity among commuters in the country, especially in big cities like Lagos and Abuja.

A top official of the FRSC who spoke to this newspaper on the situation from the agency’s headquarters in Abuja, under condition of anonymity, said night travel often comes with poor visibility and in most cases, the drivers do not observe adequate rest in the day time before embarking on the trips.

“That is why the level of fatigue is on the rise and many would not park to get some rest because of security reasons.

“We have also deployed more patrol vehicles, ambulances for rescue and emergency cases, tow trucks, and bikes to formations nationwide.

“This deployment is among others targeted at increasing visibility on the highways and also ensuring prompt removal of obstructions and enhancing effective patrol operations,” he said.