Some Nigerians who planned to travel during the holiday period – Christmas and New Year – are now expressing doubts over the rising insecurity and the unsafe roads across the country.
In the South, most roads are bedevilled by kidnapping, armed robbery, and banditry, while in the North, abductions are added to terrorism.
Some commuters, who spoke with SaharaReporters, recounted their harrowing experiences plying Nigerian roads as well as fears ahead of the festive period. Some of these roads are Abuja-Kaduna road, Okene-Lokoja road, Benin-Ore road, Sokoto-Gusau road, Kano-Katsina road and Akure-Akoko road.
A resident of Kano, Umar Taminu, said he was travelling on the Abuja-Kano road from Abuja on November 29, 2020, at about 10 p.m. when he encountered kidnappers, but narrowly escaped by speeding off.
He said, “I escaped being killed by their gunshots on November 29. We had to speed off away from the bandits, although they were sporadically shooting at us. There were other cars on the road at the time, and I saw many vehicles that were hit by the bullets. Some managed to escape with deflated tyres.”
Taminu lamented that kidnapping had become a booming business in many parts of the North, hence the fears of commuters on that route.
“Just yesterday, a friend told me that her younger brother was recently kidnapped, and they had to pay a ransom of N1.5 million before he was released. It’s too bad. To travel for Christmas and New Year now is a lot of worries. The roads are not safe,” he added.
Also speaking, Olamide Abiola, who schools in Zaria but lives in Lagos and sometimes stays in Abuja, said that whenever he was travelling on the Abuja-Kaduna road, he did so with fear because many of his colleagues had become victims of abduction.
He said, “The last time I plied the route was immediately after the inter-state travelling ban was lifted and I am not travelling again anytime soon – even for the end of the year. Most of my colleagues have been kidnapped along that route. Bandits are operating both day and night. This time it is not safe. After all, some of my colleagues even got abducted travelling during the day.”
He said his fear was not as a result of what people say but as a result of what had happened to his friends and what he had seen on the route.
Another frequent traveller, Aminu Auwal said he could have almost become a victim several times but had escaped miraculously.
“It is tough to travel by road these days,” he said. “It is difficult to differentiate between a thief and a police officer. Bandits appear like uniformed men such as the policemen or even the military. They operate like security checkpoints. They know virtually everything regarding security checks, but they end up killing or kidnapping people who stop,” he added.
Auwal said both the Abuja-Kaduna and Abuja-Kano roads were dangerous and unsafe, adding that the insecurity was responsible for the increase in the cost of flight tickets.
“People are avoiding the road, so they either want to use a flight or train. The railway station is now also a hell. People have suffered. I know many victims who have had to pay through their noses to gain their freedom from those criminals,” he explained.
Ehis Bernard, who works in Lagos but has a family in Kaduna, said she would miss her family this festive period, pointing out that it would be her first time to spend Christmas away from home.
She said, “I am terrified of travelling by road. Kidnappers and bandits ride the Lokoja road and the Kaduna road. So I would rather stay here in Lagos for the holidays than travel and risk my life. I have never spent Christmas away from home before, and flights are costly.
“The road is not an option so Christmas without my family which is like a tradition for me will be depressing,” Bernard said.