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Travelers return amid low RTC, no kidnap cases

…As checkpoints still prolongs journey time

Nigerians that travelled to various parts of the country with their families and relations by road to celebrate the Christmas and New Year are gradually returning back to with no official reports of kidnappings and reduced road traffic crashes, BusinessDay checks reveal.

Although travellers encountered a number of challenges ranging from high transport fares and prolonged travel-time that more than doubled to over 12 hours, there were very few cases road traffic crashes and no reported incidence of kidnapping.

When contacted through WhatsApp text messages to get the official report on road traffic crashes during the Christmas and New Year travel period, Bisi Kazeem, Corp Public Education Officer, Federal Roads Sfaety Corps (FRSC) said the report is not yet ready as the command’s operation is still ongoing.

Checks by BusinessDay across major transport companies in Lagos, Abuja and over parts of the country in the past weeks before, during and after the festive period shows that in some terminals, transport fares increased by over 100 percent as demand for services by travellers outstriped the number of buses available.

Despite the year-end rush by road transportation, investigations reveal that advanced travel bookings by travellers going to different areas of the country dropped by 30 percent, while bookings by road travellers to the West Coast of Accra increased by 40 percent.

The 30 percent drop in local travels by road our reporter gathered was not not unconnected with the rising cases of kidnappings and killings on the road which they lament has remained a serious challenge to the travelling public.

The increase in the number of people travelling to the West Coast of Accra, Lome and Seme some company officials who who spoke to our reporter say this situation may be as a result of travellers quest to find alternative holiday destinations amid fear and tensions created by kidnap cases and armed robbery on the road.

As prolonged journey took its toll on travels, Ogenna Nwosu who embraked on a journey with his family of four during the period said their bus departed its Lagos terminal by 5 a.m. on a Friday preceding the Christmas day and arrived Oguta in Imo State by 3.12 a.m. the next day Saturday.

While the craze to travel by Nigerians is on the upscale despite repeated kidnappings, armed robbery and banditry, the ugly and most worrisome aspect of it is the multiplicity of the barricades and extortions that go with it which accounts for long journey delays and feeling of frustrations by travellers on journey that otherwise would have been pleasurable.

Across all the federal highways in the country, with the east and southern parts of the country as typical examples are the intimidating and frustrating checkpoints by a plethora of security agencies that cut across the army, police, National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Customs Service, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Immigrations and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

The various agencies have regrettably resorted to duplications of checkpoints which also increases journey time such that it is possible for the road user to sight another checkpoint less than 300 meters from one checkpoint between one kilometre intervals.

On daily basis, travellers are subjected to all forms of stop-and-search by these security agents on road blocks to squeeze the commuters.

After the verifications of car essential documents, accessories and baggage, what follows it is the demand for bribes by hook or crook which in most cases negate the good intention of keeping the highways safer for road travelers.

There are reports that, there are over 300 checkpoints between Lagos and Onitsha alone which has more than doubled travel-time for road users, and the scenario is the same in many parts of the country. For instance, the multiplicity of road blocks referred to as security checkpoints from Onitsha to Asaba which is a journey of less than one hour of travel time now takes about three hours.

 

MIKE OCHONMA

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