|Written by Ademola Olonilua - Nigeria|
Night travel may be fraught with a lot of dangers in Nigeria where highways are not in the best condition and robbers use the state of the roads as an opportunity to ambush interstate commercial vehicles.
But in spite of these inherent dangers, there seems to be no reduction in the number of people who choose to go on journeys in the night.
Investigation showed that the attraction of some of the passengers to the night travel was more bizarre as much as it was almost unbelievable.
At some parks investigated, passengers preferred night travels for different reasons.
At Jibowu, an area of Lagos where luxury buses load passengers to the Eastern part of the country, Chidioke Ekezie, a motorboy attached to a bus of one of the popular transport operators in Lagos, gave an insight into life on night buses, which he explained could be very vibrant and "interesting" as a result of the duration of the journeys.
"There has never been a time that those taking night journey reduced. The thing is that a lot of people just like travelling at that time simply because it is traffic-free," Ekezie said.
Asked to elaborate on the "interesting" part of the journey, which he had earlier mentioned, the motorboy said, "A lot of people make new friends and many young people who board the buses as strangers become couples during the journey."
When asked whether there is any sexual activity during these journeys, Ekezie smiled mischievously and said, "It is a known fact that it happens. Some people are just quite stupid. Most couples wait till we get to our designated bus stops to have sex.
"For instance, on a journey from Onitsha to Lagos, the bus sometimes leaves at about 10pm and later stops at Benin so that the passengers can stretch their legs, buy refreshments and ease themselves. This takes a long time.
"I have seen a lot of passengers get down and go around a corner to have sex. It happens. I have also seen some passengers have sex in the bus while others are off the bus. When this happens, it is a problem for the man and woman involved. We don't condone such acts in the bus.
"We could decide to drop the involved passengers there and leave because it is very silly for people to have sex in the bus."
A 23-year-old student, who preferred to give just his first name, Chukwueloka, was booked on one of the luxury buses to his home state of Imo, when our correspondent visited the park.
He said he always took night buses anytime he went home.
"Night buses are interesting. A lot of things happen there," he declared, when our correspondent had a chat with him on why he favoured night travel that much.
A lot of things like what?
He went into a narration.
"There was a time I went to Yenagoa (Bayelsa State capital) in 2005. I boarded the bus at Mazamaza and got a seat beside a fair lady who was also going to Bayelsa. The journey was at least seven hours and we took off around 6pm.
"I had been chatting with the lady since we left Lagos. About four hours into the journey, she yawned and said she was sleepy. She rested her head on my shoulder and there was no way she could be comfortable if my arm did not go around her shoulders.
"My arm brushed her breast mistakenly and she did nothing. It turned out that by her body language as the journey went on, she wanted something. I had heard about such things happening on buses but I did not immediately understand her intention.
"She later made it clear when her hand went to my zippers."
Chukwueloka laughed as he narrated this unusual escapade. He said he would never forget it for the rest of his life.
"I just wanted to experience it. She sat on my lap and other passengers were asleep in the bus. It was also dark," he said.
Having a sexual encounter with a complete stranger may be a no-no for many people but Chukwueloka said he used protection.
At Oshodi, another part of Lagos, where luxury buses load to the Eastern part of the country, Saturday PUNCH spoke with some passengers to find out if any of them had a similar story to tell.
Jane Akuegbu, a student of the Cross River University of Technology, Calabar, said the only reason she liked taking night buses is the peace and quiet that she experiences during the journey.
"I am lucky because even though some people say night buses get robbed, I have not experienced that before," she said.
When the issue of sexual activities in buses came up, she said she had heard about it but had not seen one happen on any of the buses she took to the southern part of the country.
She, however, narrated an incident involving a bus her aunty once boarded to Abia State.
Akuegbu said, "My aunty boarded a luxury bus from Jibowu. The last bus stop was at Aba and a man came out of the bus complaining that his wallet, his wrist watch and the handbag containing his laptop had been stolen.
"My aunty said when the young man explained what happened, every other passenger of the bus made jest of him. What happened was that when all other passengers in the bus were asleep, he made sexual advances at the lady he sat with.
"They started fondling each other even though they were strangers when they boarded the bus. The lady later offered that the man should suck her breast. The lady must have rubbed a sleeping portion on her breast because the man slept off afterwards.
"The lady stole all his belongings and disembarked from the bus before it got to the last bus stop."
A passenger, Sola Olaogun, expressed his disgust about the subject when he was approached on the issue of sexual activities in buses.
"What would this world turn to? How can you do that kind of thing with someone you don't know at all? I was so disgusted when I saw a young man and a lady "fingering" each other in a bus I boarded to Owerri (Imo State capital) the other day. May God deliver young men who do things like that," he said.
'Fingering' is a coined word for fondling in Nigeria.
A motorboy gave his 'expert' opinion on the issue.
Felix Uche, who has been accompanying luxury buses on journeys to the eastern part of the country for five years, said buses heading to Uyo and Calabar are noted for such activities.
"It is real. Passengers have sex in the buses. Even when our buses used to go to Uyo, we noticed such acts and that is why we decided to stop going there," he said.
A colleague of his, Kalu Ejiofor, gave his own version of the issue.
He said, "There was a time a lady came to the park in Anambra to board our bus. It turned out that her fare was not enough so a young man offered to help complete it.
"During the journey to Lagos, they obviously became friends. When the bus got to Benin, passengers got down from the bus. A passenger got back in the bus and noticed that same lady and the man were having sex in the dark at the back of the bus.
"He alerted us. We really insulted and embarrassed both of them. They are not supposed to be doing such a thing in a public bus because I personally don't think it is decent."
Ikenna Okafor, who works for another company told Saturday PUNCH that his years of working as a motorboy had taught him that some Nigerians are perverts.
Okafor said, "A lady came from Benin Republic to Nigeria. The stress of the journey must have made her tired as she slept off. A man sitting next to the girl began to "finger" her as she slept. He was molesting her! It was another passenger who was awake that noticed the whole thing.
"He was aware that the two of them did not come together and such a thing was happening. It was then he alerted me. We woke the lady up and informed her about what happened. It was so surprising that the girl was too tired that she did not even know."
Evans, an employee of a transport company, who preferred to keep his company's name off record, said no transport company would encourage such acts.
He said even though sex on night buses does happen on long journeys, a well organised company would never condone such acts.
"I have seen cases of people having sex outside the bus. Most times when the bus stops to rest, I have seen passengers go outside the bus to have sex while others go to ease themselves or stretch their legs," Evans said.
However, a luxury bus driver, who identified himself simply as Zona, said that he was less concerned about whatever goes on inside the bus while he is driving.
"My only concern is the safety of the passengers," he said.
He said government should work on the bad roads in the country to make it fit for night travel.
Zona explained that he had encountered more than ten robbery attacks in his seven years of driving business.
Zona stated, "I have been a bus driver for seven years. I drive during the day and night. On some of my night journeys, I notice that robbers attack mostly around the bad portion of the highway. The roads are terrible with many potholes."
Corroborating Zona's claims, Uche, the motorboy, who had spoken with Saturday PUNCH earlier, said a female friend of his was once raped and robbed when she came to visit him.
Uche said, "There has been series of robberies on the Abuja highway and the worst part of it is that the robbers are notorious for raping female passengers too. I had a female friend that came to visit me. When she was travelling back on the Abuja road, she encountered armed robbers and they raped her. Just last week, they robbed one of our buses," Uche said.
"The bad road is what makes it easy to perpetrate these crimes because buses are forced to slow down in such bad spots. We encounter armed robbers on our journeys sometimes but it has reduced. But the government right now should be aware that Abuja road is very unsafe.
Over the years, there have been several campaigns against night travels. The reasons given by the Federal Road Safety Commission are that most of the roads are not well illuminated and the poor state of most of Nigeria's highways causes avoidable accidents.
But while night travel may have its downside, it seems some passengers will always favour it because of the different attractions it holds for them.
In 2011, the Federal Road Safety Corps said it had no constitutional power to ban night travel, despite the high incidence of fatal accidents and robbery attacks being experienced by people undertaking such trips.