One of my neighbours told me how she lost a course mate to kidnappers when she was still a student nurse. The young lady didn’t finish up early from school (UNTH, Enugu) and by the time she left for home, all the buses conveying workers, students and patients from UNTH, Ituku-Ozzalla to Mega bus stop have gone. She found her way to the Enugu-Port Harcourt express way and started hitchhiking.
Well, she seemed to have found some ‘good Samaritans’ because the MOPOL along that express way got alerted by her screams inside a car and gave a chase. The summary of it all is that her corpse was found where it was dropped by her ‘helpers’ and the cause of her death was strangulation. Nobody actually knows what transpired inside that vehicle.
I know a lot of people see nothing wrong with hitching rides (we call it ‘begging for lifts’ in Nigeria). People like this line up the roads everyday looking for motorists that will drop them at their destinations, or close to their destinations. You see young and old, male and female doing this. But more women – both the young and the old – are into this act than men. Some hitchhike in groups while others do that alone. I don’t really know if I’m the only one afraid of waving down strangers to take me to my destination.
I know a lot of hitchhikers will tell me that even commercial motorists cannot be trusted; but I think boarding a vehicle in an official motor park makes it safer for me. At least all the park staff, aka ‘Agbero’ will know which driver is genuine and which is suspicious. So it is still better than moving to a quiet corner to hitch rides.
I also know that you may find yourself in situation where you may have to hitch rides. For example, if your car breaks down in a lonely and unsafe place and you need to get to town to look for a mechanic or towing van, you may be forced to hitch rides if commercial vehicles are nowhere to be found. But this cannot be compared to someone who just decided to beg for lift when there are so many other options available.
I don’t know exactly the reason people hitch rides voluntarily, but I think they include:
a. To Save Money: One woman was lamenting one day that she didn’t come out early to see people (especially other workers) that will drop her at her office. She said she would have saved the money she was paying the commercial bus driver. I didn’t want to judge her because I wasn’t in her pocket to know how much she has. But I think hitching rides to save money is wrong. If your place of work is quite far from your home, and you think you are spending so much on transportation, you have to decide making some adjustments. You either move closer to your office, or locate an office closer to you. Alternatively, you can work out something with your boss. But, if leaving very early in the morning will make it cheaper for you to get to your office (for example you may see government subsidized BRT), then do so. Just do what will save you from hitchhiking.
b. For Comfort: You may not believe this but it is true. A lot of people hitch rides because they want to have comfortable and smooth ride to their destination. Haven’t you noticed that some people wave down very flashy cars and ignore ‘jalopies’? Ok, start paying attention today and you will notice what I’m saying. Besides, I’ve heard some of them saying things like, “let me look for a neat car that will carry me because this our road is bad.” I believe you can figure out what they mean here.
c. To Beat Time: I’ve seen a lot of people hitch rides because of this reason. If the bus is delayed or delaying, some commuters may decide to go into the road to wave down passing vehicles. Well, I wish these people will think of safety before thinking of beating time.
d. Habit: Nigerian civil servants are guilty of this. The way they expect you to ‘drop something’ before they move your file is still the way they march into the road to stop private cars to convey them to their offices and homes. Sometimes I ask if these people can’t use all the small, small change they get from their offices to pay their transport fare. Mark you, not all civil servants are like this, and not all the people waving down private cars are civil servants. But most of those you see doing this around 8am are civil servants. Just observe them and you will see what I’m saying.
I will now briefly point out the dangers of hitchhiking – to both the hitchhikers and to the road users
- Distraction to Drivers: Well, that’s true. Some of them distract drivers by the manner of their waving and stopping vehicles. This can cause accidents.
- Exposure to Injury: The way these people stand on the road exposes them to the danger of being knocked down by speeding vehicles. A lot of people have lost their lives this way. These people need to think of their safety first.
- Kidnapping: People have been kidnapped, robbed, killed and sexually molested when picked up this way. Some people may say they are careful with the vehicles they board but they need to remember that they never can tell what will happen along the way. These hoodlums are getting smarter by the day; the only way out is to outsmart them by staying away from their trap.
- Exposure to Reckless Drivers: It will be hard for hitchhikers to determine the driving skills of the drivers they flag down. This means they may be picked up by someone who isn’t good in driving. This is another way of exposing themselves to accidents.
- Embarrassment: People that usually beg for lifts are seen as those that don’t have money or those that are irresponsible. No matter how we see it, it is derogatory to a person’s personality.
Well, I know that hitchhiking isn’t going to stop. My own is people shouldn’t be involved in this act unless there is a pressing need for it. People should endeavour to plan for better mode of transportation that doesn’t include hitching rides. Let hitchhiking be for emergency cases only.