Eid el-Kabir: ‘Our experiences on Nigerian roads’

The 2021 Eid el-Kabir has come and gone, but it left some memories for some Nigerians who plied the nation’s roads in preparation for its celebration. TOPE SUNDAY speaks with some of them.

According to available reports, this year’s Eid el-Kabir celebration recorded lesser road casualties when compared to those of 2019 and 2020. At least 10 persons died in a lone crash in the Kwara state amid the Eid el-Kabir celebration this year, while a total of 25 people lost their lives in 10 crashes in Niger state in 2019 during the Eid el-Kabir celebration.

The breakdown of the accidents’ casualties in the two years shows that the 2019’s figure was higher with 15 souls than this year’s.

This year’s crash

In Nigeria, every festive period is synonymous with auto crashes and this year’s Eid el-Kabir was not an exemption. The crashes most times are attributed to speed violations. Confirming the only reported case of auto crash during this year’s Sallah celebration in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, the FRSC sector commander, Mr. Jonathan Owoade, said the accident involved a black commercial Toyota Hiace bus with vehicle registration number LND 742 XK.

Owoade said the accident occurred on Oko Olowo/Oloru road at Iyemoja on the outskirts of Ilorin, the state capital, adding that the crash was a result of a speed violation and said eight others sustained injury.

“The Olooru Unit Command of the FRSC received a call at around 3:50 pm today about a crash which occurred at Iyemoja on Oko Olowo-Olooru road axis. The crash was a lone fatal one involving a black commercial Toyota Hiace bus with vehicle registration number LND 742XK.

“18 persons were involved and unfortunately 10 of them lost their lives and eight other persons were injured. The cause of the crash was as a result of speed violation,” he said.

The sector commander said the rescue team of the FRSC had taken the injured persons to Ayo Hospital Okolowo and the General Hospital Ilorin, while the corpses have been deposited at the morgue in the general hospital.

Bad roads, insecurity

Aside from accidents which usually occur during festive periods, the issues of bad roads and insecurity and at times, the high fare being charged by commercial drivers are some of the issues that worry intending travellers. As at the time of filing in this report, it could not be established if all the Nigerian roads were motorable or in deplorable conditions, however, they are reportedly facing one security challenge or the other.

On Thursday, July 15, 2021, a Maj.-Gen. and former provost marshal of the Nigerian Army, Hassan Ahmed, was reportedly killed by gunmen on the Lokoja-Abuja highway. The incident happened while the general was travelling through. It is also feared that a family member who was said to be travelling with the general was abducted by the gunmen.

Before Ahmed’s death, the Lokoja-Abuja highway had recorded cases of kidnappings and a few killings

Also, the Minna –Bidda axis of the Ilorin-Minna road, though undergoing some rehabilitation, is another headache to Nigerians who ply the route. Similarly, the Kaduna-Abuja road still has some sections that should be urgently attended to.

A road user, Abdullahi Umar, told Blueprint Weekend that some rehabilitation starting from Tafa shortly after Sabon Wuse to some kilometres to Gere. While commending the federal government, he urged the contractor handling the project to hasten up work on the road.

Road users’ experiences

For some of the travellers out or in Lagos, they battled heavy traffic gridlock on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway a day to this year’s Sallah’s celebration. This reporter gathered that some of them spent hours on the route. According to Mr. Oluwadamilare Ojo, an Abuja-based Aluminum contractor, he spent almost the whole day in the traffic, adding that the development forced him to embark on a night journey from Lagos to Abuja.

“I have been in Lagos for almost three months plying my trade but my family is in Abuja. I seized the opportunity of the festivity to travel out of Lagos to come and see my family. However, we got stranded on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway owing to the gridlock.

“This development forced me to embark on the night journey, which I don’t normally like. I detest night travels because of the deplorable state of our roads, and the insecurity in the country. The Lagos-Ibadan gridlock experience I had made to arrive in Abuja the next day. This is horrible,” he said.

Another traveller, Lekan Emmanuel, who was returning to Lagos, also shared a similar experience. Emmanuel, who said he lives in the Ayobo area of Lagos state, told this medium that he had a smooth ride from Ilorin until he got to the Lagos –Ibadan expressway where he was stranded for hours.

“I thought I could beat the usual traffic on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway during the festive season but this year’s experience a day to this Eid-el-Kabir celebration frustrated me. I was coming from Ilorin, but got stranded along on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. I was in the traffic for hours and I got to my house at Ayobo midnight,” Emmanuel said.

Ojo also told this medium about his close encounter with armed robbers on the Ilesha- Ife road.

“Like I told you, I don’t like night journeys but since we’re stuck in Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, I did not have any choice than to continue with the journey. We almost got robbed on Ilesha-Ife road around 2.am, but God saved us. Our driver was an experienced fellow who had earlier informed us that robberies are carried out on the route at night. But God saved us.’’

Another traveller, Biodun Alabi, who spoke with our reporter on phone, said his journey from Minna to Ilorin on the two days to this year’s Sallah celebration was with mixed feelings.

While acknowledging that the Minna to Bidda axis of Ilorin-Minna road is under repairs, he lamented that the development has made the road dusty and at the same time slows down the journey. Alabi, however, expressed satisfaction over the Bida-Mokwa-Jebba axis of the road, stating that the axis is in good condition.

“My journey from Minna to Ilorin two days to this year’s big Sallah was mixed-feeling. The Minna-Bida axis was under repairs and this made the road dusty. Also, the condition of the road also slowed down our journey,” he said.

But Malam Hamid Haruna, who spoke with Blueprint Weekend from Kaduna on the telephone, said he left Abuja for the town on Monday and had a smooth ride despite the activities of kidnappers on the Abuja-Kaduna road.

“Yes, there are some sections of Abuja-Kaduna road that should be repaired but I must confess that I enjoyed a smooth ride from Abuja to Kaduna to join my family for the 2021 Eid ul-Adha celebration. The route is known for kidnapping, but I thank God, I had a smooth ride. I was nervous when the journey started, but at a point, I left everything for Allah,” Haruna said.