By Emmanuel Edukugho
In major cities and towns across the country, villages strategically located along highways, there are up to more than 3000 motor parks and joints in which travellers eat, drink and smoke without mandatory closing time, from morning through the night till day break.
Licensing authorities at any level of government are not in place to regulate and control the establishment and activities of these kiosks, stores, drinking palours, joints, restaurants, open spaces with tables and chairs mounted to sell alcohol- all within a few blocks in some cases, around the neighbourhood or vicinity.
In the Lagos metropolis for example, these motor parks for both intra and inter-state travelling can be found at Ojota, Maza-Maza, Mile 2, Mile 12, Jibowu, Ojuelegba, Oshodi, Iyana-Iba, Iyana-Ipaja, Agege, Oworo, Sango-Otta, Abule-Egba and Ikotun.
Others are at Lekki, Obalende, CMS, Owode, Ikorodu, Epe, Volks, Ajah and other places with high concentration of people across Nigeria.
At most of these motor-parks and major bus stops, operators of the drinking spots are usually women and young girls. All sorts of alcoholic drinks are sold. From soft drinks to beer, stout, wines, brandy, gordon gin, chelsea, Bertola, illicit gin locally known as “ogogoro” in various components.
Cigarettes of different brands including Indian hemp (marijuana), cocaine, heroin are also not left out. Majority of the customers are bus and taxi drivers, tricycle operators, conductors, motor-cyle riders and Agberos when they want to cool down after running up and down extorting money from private commercial transporters.
In addition, there are numerous travellers, day and night, boarding buses to different destinations in the East, West, South and North, and even to neigbbouring countries in the sub-West African region.
Some people preferred night travels inspite of the danger involved as armed robbers could disguise as genuine passengers only to pull out guns while on the journey. Armed robbers may operate on the highway, shooting and dispossessing passengers of their goods, luggages and money.
Before the journey commenced, travellers often waited for the night buses to load which could depart between 10pm and 12 midnight. They will relax at these joints to drink and eat before departure time.
Some of these inter-state bus drivers often consumed excessive liquor before hitting the road on a trip that could last for five, eight, twelve hours and above.
According to a traveller at Maza-Maza park going to Abuja, a lot of accidents are caused by reckless druken drivers. “There are no government guidelines on alcohol consumption especially for commercial drivers in this country. The Police should crack down on the patrons and the bars around motor parks who sell alcohol indiscriminately.
“We don’t have restrictive time for sale of drinks and it’s particularly wrong for drivers to be under the influence of alcohol while driving. By this, they are putting the lives of passengers in grave danger.”
Reports have showed that thousands of Nigerians die annually on road accidents due to reckless driving. Moreover the government itself seems to lack a coherent alcohol policy.
Investigation by Saturday Vanguard showed that many people are against unlimited sale and use of alcohol by commercial transport operators, preferring a ban outright of alcohol sale in motor parks. The government has not found a way out of this to address the growing concern from the public on this issue. “We are building a big problem ahead if we don’t really find a workable solution to alcohol-related road accidents in our country”, said Mr. Kennedy Tosin, a textile dealer, a frequent traveller.
“A minority of dealers in alcoholic drinks at motor parks are responsible for the carnage on our highways. A staggered closing hours for sale of drinks to commercial drivers will reduce the number of accidents on the roads. Varied hours can help and consumption pegged at tolerable limit,” he suggested.
According to Tosin, “if you allow people to drink more, they will drink more and that could lead to more antisocial behaviour, crime and more abuse of alcohol.”
He added: “A lot of people share this view. In a typical Friday night around motor parks thousands of people roll up to over 300 restaurants, bars, beer palours, disco clubs, licensed and unlicensed to sell alcohol. They serve drinks, chicken and fried meat from 5pm to as late as 5a.m. in some cases.”
It has been discovered that at times, violent crimes and kidnapping are hatched from these spots. Prostitution also flourished as women of easy virtue stayed around looking for customers who will take them home.
No wonder Police often raided such places in search of criminals who hang around these “dark spots”.
Some people, after spending time at the motor parks, proceed to night clubs in quest of more fun. It’s like having good time around the clock. Those without permanent places of abode, could move into nearby places with facilities for toilet and bathing to clean up and start another day afresh.
Some travellers are however compelled to stay very late at the motor parks which have also become transit zones for those who arrived a city late in the night without immediate connecting transportation to their eventual destination.
Truck and trailer drivers conveying haulage goods from the west to the north and East could stop at Ore, Oluku junction, Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode to rest and re-fuel. In the course of the long journey, they make use of the entertainment facilities in the motor parks to relax, eat, drink and socialise within the environment.
So these motor parks provide ‘safe haven” for genuine travellers, “shelter” for travellers in transit, drinks and food for many, and hide outs for the criminally minded. Therefore, the good and the bad, often availed themselves with what the motor parks can offer.
In the first half of 2013, about 1,397 persons were killed in road accidents in different parts of Nigeria. Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC Corps Marshal Osita Chidoka who disclosed this recently said that the frequency of these accidents were due to “non-compliance with traffic laws, especially overspeeding by motorists”, adding, “the current situation calls for urgent steps to deal with the menace of road traffic crashes.”