Sunday Magazine

Insecurity: Transporters may return to era of having armed security personnel onboard

  • New measure will impact on transport fares, says park management

 

Sequel to the scary widespread kidnappings and killings being perpetuated under the very watch of the federal and state governments on the roads and lands of Nigeria, transporters are contemplating returning to the old era of self-help, where armed security operatives act as escorts onboard to boost passengers’ morale and prevent possible loss of lives. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

Following the worsening insecurity situation in the country, and attacks on passengers’ vehicles and abduction of unlucky ones during road travels across the country, especially on the Abuja-Okene route, many transporters said they will return to the area of carrying armed security men to ensure the safety of their drivers and passengers, if the Federal Government continues fold its hands and close its eye to the plights of the masses and travelers.

 

They said it’s no longer news that the level of insecurity in the country has reached the height of epidemic yet the governments at all levels seem to be fanning the embers of these criminals as lawlessness, criminality and terrorism thrive in the country where air, water, and land security operatives are duty-bound to protect.

 

Senseless killings, kidnaps and abduction of innocent children on a regular basis, according to them, are the daily horrors passengers, drivers and their transport companies experience on the Nigerian roads and lands on a regular basis. T

They lament that in spite of this revulsion, the government, which appears handicapped to address the lives-consuming situation in the country, when innocent Nigerians are being attacked and killed found its voice when there was an assult on the attackers.

 

According to Rilwan Balogun, one of the many laxities of the Federal Government of Nigeria is its failure in providing basic security for the lives and property of its citizens, which are its primary responsibilities of a government under social contract theorem.

 

He said: “That everyone is perturbed by the wave of insecurity is an understatement, and nothing can be far from the truth that even the country’s founding fathers,

 

who had laboured for our co-existence as a nation, seem disappointed for their dreams shattered by sheer irrational ‘politricking,’ tribalism and religious sentiment by their successors in title. “Just like every sane humane person, even the pigeons felt too insecure so much so that in the face of their freedom on the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, refused to fly for the fear of being gunned down. It is true that even Mr. President himself confirmed and admitted in one of his despairing speeches to Nigerians that only prayers can put a stop to insecurity in Nigeria.”

 

A commercial bus driver with the Young Shall Grow Motors, Mike Chidiogo, who plies Lagos – Abuja route, said the country is back to square one where nobody ever believed that those era when luxury and minibuses used to carry armed escorts to do their business would ever return sequel to the progress the country had made in the area of security.

 

He noted that the level of insecurity in the country is currently at a very embarrassing and bloodcurdling level, saying that the Okene-Abuja route is about the most dangerous route that drivers and even the passengers carry their hearts in their mouths while on transits.

 

“There is hardly any week that goes by without hearing that herdsmen attacked or abducted passengers on transit. In some cases, they will block the roads and we have to run for our lives for hours before continuing on our journey. They attack on a regular basis. If you have not witnessed it, you will have heard about it. It’s no more hidden,” he said.

 

“Carrying armed security personnel in each vehicle may be revisited again but it will not be easy because these people are many and come with sophisticated weapons which the security operatives onboard do not even have, but it could reduce the rate of their attacks on us,” he added.

 

A senior driver with God Is Good Motors, Pascal Igbonla, said the drivers are helpless in this situation of total insecurity in the country and do not know what to do as the government allows the criminals to carry guns to kill armless citizens it (government) meant to protect without biting an eyelid. He said: “We are helpless in this circumstance.

 

The Nigerian police won’t allow us to carry licensable guns but it will allow the murderous Fulani herdsmen and bandits to carry non licensable AK-47 guns to kill innocent citizens. It’s saddening because we do not know what to do. “If the police and Federal Government will equally allow us to carry guns, I tell you that, these criminals cannot over power us (drivers).

 

In fact, they won’t even come out with the frequency at which they come out to operate on the roads by attacking and abducting innocent people. Many innocent people have died trying to escape abduction. “Federal Government is a big sympathiser to these Fulani criminal elements in the country. For the government, the Fulani herdsmen can kill all of us who are not northerners but a single attack on them (herders) will force the police to make arrests.

 

The case of Sunday Igboho is still very fresh on the mind.” A commercial Space Wagon driver, Vincent Mbamalu, said carrying armed security operatives to clear the road for drivers and passengers may be good but it’s going to be tough as this may result in loss of lives in an event that the personnel engaged the criminals in a gun duel.

 

“The passengers’ that we are trying to protect may become victims when a situation like this happens. The main thing is for the government to do the needful. The federal, the state and the local governments should step up their games if at all they have the will to end the insecurity in the country.

 

“We do not need the situation where the innocent people that the hired armed security operatives come to preserve their lives will die in a crossfire between the criminals and the security men,” he said. “Yes,” he continued,

 

“there may be the fear in them not to come to the road due to the knowledge that the buses now carry armed security men, but it may force them to retreat and regroup themselves, then attack the passenger vehicles to overpower us. But also, the fear that there are people in a convoy carrying guns will make them be more careful.”

 

A park management at Maza-Maza Park, Lagos, Paso Ikanda, said if the transport companies decide to hire armed security men due to insecurity in the country, to ensure the safety of the passengers on transit, it will    impact on the fare charged by the companies that hired security men.

 

He said: “Currently, we are collecting N8, 000 for buses, while Siena is collecting N10, 000 and by then, it might get up to N11, 500 or 13, 000 to South-South and South East, as the case may be, depending on the amount each company spent on armed escorts.

 

“But I would like to say that the best way is not to carry armed men. If the government wants to do something about it, putting police, army and Civil Defense on the road within short intervals, will do more good than carrying escorts. This will be more effective than carrying escorts.”

 

More so, one of the passengers, who boarded bus for Delta State, Mr. Tunde Ishola said nowadays, road travel has become a necessary evil to him and many people alike since air transportation is for the rich, saying that as a researcher, he’s always on the road, from one state to another, risking his life just to make ends meet.

 

He said: “Each time I set to travel, I had always fasted and prayed for God’s safety as the roads have become the valley of shadow of death with no government doing anything. Yet, this is the reason we voted President Muhammadu Buhari to end Boko Haram but today, we have more than Boko Haram killing us. “Well, knowing the Nigerian leadership antecedent, they will not do anything until it happens to someone close to or dear to them. It’s my prayer that it will happen to more than one of them then, that way, they will fix it.

 

They have not done so because the poor masses are the ones dying like chickens on the roads; they fly on air. “Nothing concerns them and they have not done anything to end it. Instead they support the criminals financially to continue to unleash mayhem on the masses for one useless political gain or the other.”

 

On the other hand, when asked whether he would like to escort commercial vehicles to their destination and get paid, a trained security officer (Mobile police), Sergeant Sode K., said he would take up the offer if he is

 

 

well motivated to do so, saying it’s a risky operation, which has snuffed out the lives of some his colleagues. He said: “That on its own could be a deterrent but in some cases, it’s not enough on its own. So, what I would have suggested is for the Federal Government to improve on the number of motorised patrol teams and joint task force of soldiers and police on the Highways and local roads. “They are to work fully with the local vigilante groups because these criminals are from one village or the other, hence, the vigilante groups will be able to provide the police with the useful information on the movement of these murderers. The government knows what to do. And the consequences of inaction, is the loss of lives of innocent citizens, and public properties. “If nothing is done seriously and fast for that matter, Nigerian risk tribal wars which may lead to another civil war in the country. The day the other people will decide to arm themselves with all manner of weapons, which they are comfortable with, whether foreign or local, Nigeria will begin to countdown on another Civil War and this will be merciless going by weapons in the hands of the people.” Furthermore, an operative of the Department of State Security Services (DSS), who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said security operatives in Nigeria are trying, but the situation is not going to be easy, saying that the country lost a lot of weapons to miscreants during the #EndSARS protests against the police. While appreciating that the insecurity didn’t just start after the #EndSARS protests, he, however, warned Nigerians to shun night journeys, saying that the police are really not on the ground currently to address any security issue that may arise. He noted that the Federal Government on its part is not dealing with the issue of insecurity with all seriousness because of ethnic and religious sentiments. Speaking on some request by some Nigerians to liberalise the use of guns in the country by all individual to protect himself, the source said the situation will make worse of the insecurity, saying that tribalism has destroyed the country and therefore, will fuel the intertribal crisis that would degenerate to full scale war.

 

“The government in power, I can tell you authoritatively, can condemn any man of another tribe and set a man of his tribe free for the same offence that they are found guilty of, with the same gun. So, it’s not in the best interest of anyone to advocate for freedom of personal guns,” the source said. Responding to night journeys as the safest in the time like this, the source advised: “My advice is for everybody to avoid night journeys so that when anything happens, we will be able to know how to secure lives.

 

People move more during the day and we have to think about ambulances, security operatives, hospitals and medics who will be available to attend to any situation.” Recently, in Ibarapa area of Oyo State, Dr. Fatai Aborode; an enterprising, commercial farmer was attacked and cruelly gunned down in broad daylight on his way from his farmland by these same notorious agents of death leaving his driver with a severe bodily injury. These incidences and many others are what necessitated self-defence by the people against any internal or external killings. It is saddening that the Federal Government or the presidency is insincere with the unity of Nigeria.

 

Security of lives and properties, which is prime among the fundamentals of the responsibilities of government, is now brought far below the thinkable ebb, with snowballing spate of crime under the guise of misinterpreted freedom of movement

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