As the Christmas and New Year festivities approach, a lot of activities define the period. While many businesses release their financial statements and prepare to shut temporarily until the new year. It is usually a time of homecoming for many who left their families and communities for the proverbial greener pastures, and those affected look forward with excitement towards this time. However, for others it is a lot of frenzied activities as they try to catch up for lost time.
It is for this latter reason that we have deemed it necessary to sound a note of warning to Nigerians in this period, for as many honest people are striving to end the year on a good note, so also are undesirable, even criminal, elements strategizing against them. Over the years, it has been noticed that crime of theft and burglaries peak during the Yuletide, committed by both hardened criminals and opportunistic burglars. With the frenzied activities in markets, stores and other public and recreational facilities, these thieves lurk and mingle with the people and strike at the slightest opportunity, including pickpockets, car jackers and child thieves/ kidnappers. For burglars they watch to see residents who may have bought plenty for the celebration and strike when they have gone out, or attack the homes of those who had travelled for the season. So, in our opinion, families wanting to travel should endeavour to take extra measures to secure their homes or leave some family members behind.
Another issue to be careful about at this period is the issue of accidents. At this period, a lot of people have need to move about on the roads on intra and interstate trips, putting immense pressure on transporters, some of whom work overtime, skip their rest time and neglect vehicle maintenance rules to meet up, all raising the possibility of more road mishaps. One palpable and present danger is that unlicensed drivers and those under the influence of drugs take advantage of the staggering demand on transport companies to offer their services to the travellers. The result is the rise in reckless driving at this period and the subsequent crashes that consume lives and property, and spread grief in a period of joy. In other words, this season is infamously reputed for a spike in road accidents.
That is why the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) always rolls out the ’ember’ months campaign through which it tries to sensitise motorists and other road users about safe conduct on the highways during the last quarter of every year, from September to December.
According to an FRSC report, a total of 9,218 road traffic crashes occurred in Nigeria in 2019, out of which 3,134 – over one-third of the total incidents – came in the last quarter of the year, with Kaduna and Abuja routes the riskiest. Also, 30,242 people were injured, while 4,609 people lost their lives during the quarter.
The hangover of the Yuletide was felt early in the following year. In the first quarter of 2020, FRSC reported a total of 3,416 road traffic crash cases in the country, with Kaduna state recording 292, Lagos 153, Ogun 236, Ondo, and Osun 102 respectively, Oyo 170, Ekiti 31, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 328 – the highest number of incidents recorded in the country. The number of people injured during the period was also just high as quarter four travels with 10,423 recorded while 1,665 people died. The report attributed the major causes of these accidents to speed violation, loss of control, dangerous driving, wrongful overtaking, and tyre blowout.
Another lurking danger to look out for this period is kidnappers. Kidnapping for ransom has become a thriving billion-dollar industry in Nigeria over the last few years. From organized crime syndicates run by bandits to opportunistic criminals trying to cash in on the general insecurity in the country by feeding on the misery of others, these goons take people away to their dungeons and demand humongous sums as ransom. And while the syndicates can hit and grab travellers and community members at random, some of the kidnappers work in cahoots with family members or neighbours of their victims who feed them with information. So, as people prepare to travel to their hometowns and other vacation grounds, they must be cautious of who they expose themselves to in order not to fall victim to those who may target them. With the high poverty rate in rural Nigeria, holidaymakers should also not flaunt their wealth in order not to attract the ire of hungry, hopeless, and desperate youths living in penury.
As a newspaper, we enjoin Nigerians to enjoy the yuletide, but to do so with an eye over their shoulders.