The road is seen as a convenient passage on land to our destination. How convenient is this passage on Nigerian roads? And to whose destination does it take us? Ours? Theirs? The in veritable ferry mans?Roads are constructed so that vehicles, people, goods, and services can move smoothly from one place to another. In the no distant past, travelling by road in Nigeria was a pleasant and fulfilling experience. During the era of the PWD, if you know you know. The dangers from bad roads were minimal or nonexistent. Although we acknowledge the fact that there were fewer vehicles on the road at the time.
Travelling by night was a pleasurable experience. The activities of armed robbers were few and far in between. If your car had a break down or you got tired on the way travelling from one part of the country to the other, it was just a question of parking by the road side and taking a nap. The safety of travelers was rarely in question. One got to his destination in little or no time. I still remember a photograph of my late dad on a triumph bike he told me that he travelled from one end of the country to the other on it at night.
Unfortunately, in recent times same cannot be said about travelling by road in Nigeria for obvious reasons. Such as: the bad conditions of the roads. In almost all the states in Nigeria, majority of the roads within the state are bad or have very bad potions. Travelers have to go through bumps and shakes for several minutes in other to avoid or reduce these unpleasant experiences. Drivers often struggle with pedestrians on the pedestrian way. This more often than not, leads to minor accidents as cars and pedestrians are at logger heads, each clamming to have right of way. These are often major roads within the state. Another great risk this poses for women is when they sit at the back close to the tires of the vehicle. Each time the driver bumps badly into a pothole the abdomen of our women act like a shock absorber causing untold pain to the victims.
Now travelling from one state to another poses the greatest risk. The Federal government roads AKA “gbagagbagagbaga” this is so, as a result of the numerous bad sports and potholes on the road. Many a time, travelers on high speed have accidentally bumped into port holes and have been plunged into the air, either somersaulting into the bush or worse still crashing into other vehicles some times on opposite lane, destroying lives and property. This brings us to another problem which I choose to call the activities of property rescue heroes. In less than a quarter of an hour they appear from near by communities, rescuing all valuables to the safety of their homes and living the dead and injured to sort out themselves. Even the pockets of the dead are not left out. Very few well meaning Nigerians actually help to rescue accident victims, before they are taken to the hospital. Even when the accident is not fatal and a victim’s car is damaged or gets into an accident, under their very eyes, their goods are carted away as helpless travelers can do nothing unless the security operatives are quickly alerted, you can as well say to your goods a very good bye to Sapele as we say in Delta.
Whenever it rains some of the roads become so bad and dangerous that travelers are stuck in a sport for hours on end, every one trying to move forward. This brings to mind the fact that most commercial transport vehiclescannot be opened from inside and people and goods are packed together like sardines. Imagine if there were to be a fire in this situation it would be a terrible catastrophe. I leave the rest to your imagination.
The activities of heavy duty vehicles cannot be left out, as in their bid to struggle for space on the road, they often times fall on the road or on other vehicles killing their victims instantly. A journey of not more than a few hours could extend to well over 24 hours, leaving helpless travelers to sleep on the road, there by exposing them to armed robbery and kidnapping attacks.In other to avoid these unhealthy situation, travelers usually take alternative route meandering through district roads or single carriage ways in other to avoid the bad areas of the road. Heavy duty vehicles are not left out.
These days, travelers no longer stop at the side of the road to ease themselves as kidnappers and gentlemen of the road, may as well be hiding in the bush. There have been cases were kidnappers no longer mount road blocks, they simple wait for their victims to get into the bad sport before jumping out of the bush to do their thing, as travelers find it difficult to move forward or backwards in that condition. I still remember a particular incidence in 2013 travelers along the Lagos Ibadan express way were ambushed by suspected kidnappers. We were on top speed a commercial vehicle when tall thin dark men suddenly hopped out from both sides of the road, making low humming sounds, carrying guns pointed upwards and blocked our vision, as soon as we entered a bad sport.
The heavy duty vehicle on the other lane quickly blocked us from behind and ran into the bush making it impossible for us to make a u turn. Two busses were trapped. It took the intervention of a helix full of well armed soldiers who seemed to come from behind, they stopped behind the heavy duty vehicle and stepped out in a most in formidable and fearless manner. Their presence seemed to put a halt on the activities of these miscreants, as they simple gave out another low humming tune and hopping backwards disappeared into the bush. There have been situation, were travelers have been ambushed and taken into the bush, were terrible and unprintable things are done to them.
These days, travelling by night is highly discouraged due to the nefarious activities, which tend to increase tenfold.
Travelling by road in Nigeria has become a necessary inconvenience as despite the dangers millions of travelers use the road daily in an attempt to get to their various destinations.
Government can ease out this problem, by adhering to some basic principles such as: taking road construction and repair seriously.Provide measures to monitor and maintain the construction of roads. Contractors should be properly sanctioned, each time a bad job is done. Alternatively a program could be aired so that citizens would monitor their performance and give feedback. This would be a slight, on those construction companies who resume work just before the rain starts, and stop immediately the rain starts, leaving the roads in a much more terrible condition. Communities should be educated, on the dangers of stealing from accident victims and subsequently offenders persecuted. All bushes should be combed and well armed security operatives should be deployed into these bushes, on a regular basis.
If the dangers experienced on Nigerian roads by travelers are reduced to the barest minimum, a lot of lives and jobs would be saved. Goods and services would reach their destination in a safer and faster way. This would ultimately make life easier for everyone. More over it would give Nigeriaa good image and attract foreign investors.Travelling by road should be a pleasurable and fulfilling experience. No human, vehicle, goods or services deserves to go through these terrible experiences, not now not ever.
Amina wrote from C Close, United Estate, Alagbole, Ojodu, Berger, Lagos State.