Igbos: Seasonal Pilgrimage To South East,Challenges And The Siege.

Brief From C.V.Akuta (Igbos: Seasonal Pilgrimage to South East, Challenges and the Siege).

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Every Christmas season, millions of Igbos embark on a journey to South East to celebrate Christmas, send forth the old/ending year and usher in the New Year. Other tribes in Nigeria travel this time of the year too, but Igbos tend to travel more. At least over 2 million of Igbos make this pilgrimage to home from all over the world and from various parts of Nigeria. There are numerous reasons why they undertake these yearly trips. Recall that Igbos are largely Christians so, many of them go home to pray during the Christmas, at the end of year (cross over night) and New Year.

This season is packed with full of activities and events such as traditional weddings, church weddings, funerals, community meetings, visiting families, folks, and friends, some do fund raising to start developmental/community projects, many undertake charity/humanitarian projects, some do politics this season, there are some communities that celebrate their festivals too. It is a busy period. It is also a season of happiness. It is fun time. For non-Igbos, kindly consider to visit any part of South East during the Christmas period. For Igbos, kindly consider to invite your non-Igbo friends home during this time. 

The economy booms during this time of the year largely because many will remit money to their loved ones resulting in so much bank transactions. The banks make so much profits too. Transporters increase their fairs due largely to the forces of demand and supply (increased passengers and goods). Flights are fully booked. People shop more during the Christmas season. Hotels at the South East are fully booked. Taxis, keke/okadas are usually busy. Restaurants and beer parlors are usually filled up to the brim. Many buy new cloths. Beauty salons fully booked and busy. The economic impact of this season cannot not be fully quantified in monetary terms, but one thing is clear, there are massive injection of billions into the nation’s economy and large cash inflow into the South East economy in particular.

The Challenges:

Greater majority of those making this trip travel by land. About 80% or more of the travelers go by land. Many of our roads are in terrible conditions. A lot of them are no longer motorable, rather death traps. Road quality is very poor. No road infrastructures, such as road signs. The roads are accident prone. Many have died as a result of road accidents on these roads. In fairness to the government, they are trying their best to fix some roads, but the Nigerian factor and corruption hinders such efforts. The current Minister of Works (Babatunde Raji Fashola) has come out in defense of his ministry insisting that not all the roads are bad. While the author agrees with the Minster of Works, the fact is that the number of bad roads are more than the good roads. Bad roads causes delays in journey times, it is a threat to vehicles as it causes vehicular breakdowns, it enables criminals, kidnappers and armed robbers to operate freely. Many of the travelers spend days on the road. Those with little children suffers greatly.  Bad roads brings untold hardship to road users.

The greatest threat to road users are the armed robbers, kidnappers, and Fulani Herdsmen. The Punch newspaper reported on their online portal on December 9th 2019 that robbers killed four passengers in a Lokoja-Abuja Highway attack. This is a regular occurrence. Most times criminals wear the police uniform to deceive the road travelers. In April 2019, the Nigerian Police killed nine armed robbers along Abuja-Kaduna Highway. There are times when these bandits engage the police on exchange of gunfire. Bandits have killed many travelers, while lucky ones are kidnapped and released after huge ransom are paid. This is a nightmare for travelers.

We should also remember the fatigue drivers who ply our roads, they deprive themselves of sleep and adequate resting, all a bid to convey more passengers back home. The pressure is much, as a lot of Igbos and other travelers wants to get home. Transport owners should not be carried away by profit maximization in place of safety on the wheels. Most driver drink before driving. Alcohol and other intoxicants are sold inside most car/bus parks. Drunken drivers are threats to innocent passengers. There is no way of finding out except bus owners will introduce breathalyzers.

The Siege.

The man made siege. Police, army, customs, etc erect all sorts of checking points, stop and search etc along many roads. It is more on the roads with heavy passenger and goods traffic. We all know that police and security personnel at checking points extort money from motorists. Passengers are brutalized. Many of the police men on the roads are trigger happy officers. They have shot and killed some innocent travelers. Senator Utazi Godfrey Chukwuka from Enugu North Senatorial District said at the floor of the Nigerian Senate that there are sixty check points from Lagos to Onitsha. Same applies to those going from Onitsha to Enugu, Onitsha to Owerri or Aba, Enugu to Port Harcourt etc.

These police check points cause so much pains to passengers. They cause delays. Passengers get frustrated and humiliated. South East Senators have raised this issue at the Nigerian Red Chamber (Senate). The Senate President has even appealed to the Inspector General of Police to look in to this numerous police check points at the South East. The IG of Police has defended these police check points at the South East citing insecurity, he gave a press interview. In fairness to the police there are insecurity all over the country.

After the IG of Police press interview, and perhaps due to pressure from all over the country about the nefarious activities of so many police check points, he has given order to all thirty six state commissioners of police to dismantle all illegal police check points in the Nigeria, he also ordered them to beef up security this Christmas season. This is a good development. However, the author wants to use this medium to appeal to the Inspector General of Police to set up a monitoring team to monitor his men and make sure his order is fully complied with. A covert monitoring team will be ideal.

For the road users, please be gentle to the police. But if you receive any awful treatment from the police, make sure you report the matter to the police hierarchy or report to the press in order to exposure such officer. Together we can make our society work.

I just want us to reason together. Happy Christmas.


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