NIGHT travels have been with us since economic activities and exchanges between one part of the country and the other evolved. It intensified in the 1990’s and well into the new millennium when luxury buses became truly more luxurious enough to attract members of the middle class, who felt safer travelling on land than by air.
But night travels started showing more of the flipside when a marked rise in road accidents, robbery attacks and kidnappings became evident. At a point, there were open debates as to whether to ban night travels, but till date neither the federal nor state governments has made such move.
The peril in night travels has increased further, with the rise of terrorism in northern Nigeria. It has badly affected the economic and social life of the people. More Nigerians are relocating to safer areas in the south. Nigerians of northern extraction have, sometimes raised eyebrows in security circles following the manner in which they move. Large convoys of them have been intercepted in the dead of the night on their way to Rivers, Abia, Imo and recently, the Federal Capital, Abuja. The security agencies justify their action on the need to ensure that terrorists trying to infiltrate other parts of the country do not hide among these nocturnal sojourners.
There was a great uproar recently when 486 of them were nabbed in Abia and dubbed as “Boko Haram suspects”, an event that raised ethnic, regional and even religious tensions, and a media shootout between the governments in Abia and Jigawa States.
Much as we are firmly against the abuse of the fundamental human rights of any Nigerian, we also call on everyone to be mindful of the importance of preventing the spread of terrorism to other parts of the country as we battle to eliminate it in the north.
Travelling in convoys at night is bound to raise security concerns, especially when such travels originate from terror hotbeds. We have to be extra-careful, especially now that terrorists have resorted to the use of beggars, women and children as suicide bombers.
We must work closely with the security agencies. Those seeking to travel in convoys to long distances should alert the security agencies to screen, monitor and even provide security where needed. It is when we become evasive and uncooperative that suspicions lead the armed forces and security agencies to take proactive steps for the good of the population at large.
The armed forces, police and other agencies of state protecting the citizenry must remain focused on their sacred duty to safeguard our citizens, and not bow to propaganda and blackmail. But they must remain above board and avoid victimizing law-abiding citizens.