Safe Travel in Nigeria as Insecurity Goes Rife

By Chuks Emele and Charles Ogbonna

When the hunter learns to shoot without aiming, the bird will learn to fly without perching. And so should you and everyone as insecurity goes to the next level across Nigeria.

How can you keep safe and keep your money safe in the midst of staggering inequality and a deepening social crisis while an out-of-touch political elite loses the plot.

Citizens now find both their pockets and lives endangered. Before the marauders used to say: “Your money or your life?” Today it’s often: “Your money and your life!”

So this article aims to give you a few tips on how the bird can maintain flight and keep ahead of the sharp-shooting hunters.

The utility account

Where in the past robbers were keen to know how much you’re carrying on your person, today they want to know how much you have in the bank. As the society went cashless, with more people using payment cards and digital transfers for payments, the criminals also evolved. They would rather kidnap the person and get him or her to pay them.

And from the stories of survivors, the first thing they want to know is the balance on your bank account. That enables them to assess your worth and decide the price to place on your head. Woe betide you if you have bank alerts on your phone showing you have large amounts of money.

Best practice is to ensure bank alerts are deleted as soon as they’ve been read or as soon as they come, whichever is faster. Then ensure you open a utility account. What is meant by this is that you should have an account (whether savings or current), from which you make the bulk of your daily expenses. This should be separate from the account that has the main bulk of your income, savings or investments. Use only the utility account, so that if you fall into the wrong hands, your exposure would be limited to the funds in that account.

It would be unwise to leave anything indicating you have access to foreign currencies and foreign connections. These include foreign-currency denominated payment cards, foreign currencies and foreign passports. It would be a perfect incentive for them to demand ransom in foreign currencies.

Travellers at a train station in Abuja: avoiding the highways.

Be Aware

Always try to keep aware of your environment and try to follow local events. One good way to do this is by listening to local radio stations, where you can pick up news of the most recent happenings in your area.

Never embark on a trip on a whim. Plan every intercity or interstate trip. Check up news on the road you’re going to travel to see if they’ve had recent security incidents of note lately. If yes, note their locations and time of the day, if available.

The general rule is not to leave too early and not to arrive late. Ideally, don’t leave home before the first light of the day, if you can. And don’t embark on a road journey once it’s 5 p.m.

Take a decent amount of cash

Despite the advantages of going cashless, it’s advisable that you take a reasonable amount of cash with you. If you fall into the hands of thieves, it might just be enough to assuage them and distract them from taking you hostage. Or it might save you some beatings as the worst beatings appear targeted at those with the least prospects.

Also, if you escape or survive an attack and your money is intact, you’ll need it to sort yourself out. Such funds could come in handy for transportations, procuring treatment and hospitalizations in cases of injury.

Must you travel?

This is a question you must answer before you step out of your house. Can the purpose of the travel be accomplished in any other way? In these days of smartphones and video conferences, perhaps they can be accomplished from a distance, then there’s really no point in hitting the road.

Is it a social event? A wedding, a naming ceremony or some funeral? Perhaps they’ll be more glad to get an alert of financial support than have you present. If not, then you can consider the trip.

Consider flying

When travel is inevitable, then you should consider flying, if there’s an airport near enough to your destination. That way you minimize the amount of time you spend on the dangerous highways.

Someone who retired from one of the country’s security agencies recently declared to me that he would no longer travel to any city in the country without an airport. I try to follow his advice as much as possible.

And when you arrive at your destination airport, always ensure there’s a trusted driver waiting to take you on the onward journey. Make prior inquiries about the route you’ll take to be sure you don’t run into ongoing incidents.

Have a safe trip!