How to Safeguard Yourself and Your Car during Protests
The recent EndSars protest against police brutality and extortion that engulfed the country presented the Nigerian motorist with the scenarios of hordes of marauding hoodlums who do not differentiate between police property, government property and private property. All was fair game as evidenced by the sheer magnitude of destruction of property and valuables.
While the orgy of violent protests lasted, buildings were set ablaze. Government, commercial and private properties were looted and quite a number of deaths were reported.
It was bad times for vehicle owners. An entire mechanic village was wrecked and torched in Apo, Abuja, the nation’s capital. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/10/endsars-hoodlums-set-ablaze-over-50-cars-in-apo-abuja/amp/ Over 50 cars were burnt. Fuel tankers, truck conveying commercial cargo and private cars were vandalised with reckless abandon.
Most major cities nationwide didn’t fare any better. Massive destruction was witnessed by all despite the claim that the protests was to compell government to curtail the excesses of SARS, an anti-robbery unit of the Nigerian police force.
Since the lootings and destructions wasn’t expected nobody was prepared for it. The lack of preparation cost the populace dearly.
The country is still reeling from the effects of the destruction visited on people and property.
Hopefully, there will not be a repeat, but that doesn’t stop you from learning avoidance and protective strategies for yourself and your vehicle in cases of protests and riots.
So what can you do to keep yourself and your vehicle safe?
First thing is to be aware of the impending crisis. Radio, television and social media are sources of updating yourself about a potential escalation of conflict during disturbances.
Be updated with news of happenings around your home, your workplace and your frequently transversed routes.
Prevention is better than cure. Ask yourself whether it is really important you go out. Times of disturbances are not the best times to go for a pleasure drive. Can the trip be cancelled or postponed? Also, although not all, there are jobs that can be temporarily done at home.
If it’s not important, stay indoors.
Know what’s happening in your area and avoid areas where crowds are congregating.
Don’t commute to troubled spots with your vehicle. Make telephone enquires from friends and relations about your route and destination before embarking and repeat same before returning.
Plan your route
The fastest route to your destination may not be the safest. Put your safety first and prioritize safety over time. While on the road, be aware of your surroundings. A road that is unusually devoid of human and vehicular traffic might be hiding concealed hoodlums waiting to pounce on the unwary motorist. Bonfires can sometimes be sighted from afar and if you should sight obstructions and road blocks mounted by protesters, you should know better than to proceed to your destination. Abandon your journey and turn back immediately.
Once you are in a vehicle, your ability to keep yourself safe by running to a shelter is greatly diminished and your ability to keep your car safe if you should encounter violent protesters is practically non-existent. At best your car may be damaged and in a worst case scenario, you could be beaten up and gravely injured.
Don’t display valuables
Drive only with essential possessions. Laptops, phones, jewelry and money are all attractive targets for hoodlums. Drive with only minimum essentials. Protesters might not notice other vehicles but a vehicle with visible valuables is “eye candy” to the hoodlums and looters that always invariably mingle with the protesters.
Police stations were attacked and burnt during the recent protests. Familiarize yourself with directions to homes of friends and relatives you could take refuge with if so needed. The police will not be there to protect you if they can’t even protect their own stations.
In the unfortunate situation where by error you drive into an unforeseen mob of protesters or they swarm on you and your vehicle. Please don’t be a heroic one-man-army. Don’t disembark and fight. Broken lights are more easily replaced than broken legs.
Identify with them
In Lagos and some other cities, this is done by affixing leaves and tree branches on your vehicle’s windscreen. You might be spared or you might lose your vehicle mirrors, wipers or a light or two might be broken. A small price to pay compared to your overall safety.
Be ready to identify yourself
Don’t go out without adequate identification documents. Breakdown of law and order during civil unrest does not miraculously eliminate the entire police force and other security organizations.
The police could accost you anywhere, If you are accosted by law enforcement, you should be prepared to properly identify yourself. You definitely don’t want to be arrested and labelled a protester. Do you?
Broadcast your location
Try to update family and friends about your location, heading and destination. This will make tracing your movements easier if anything untoward was to happen to you.
It wouldn’t be a bad time to know exactly what your insurance policy covers during riots and disturbances.
Theft of vehicles, damages, fires and more are all familiar territory to insurance companies. Are you covered or not? You should know the level of protection your insurance policy gives you and your vehicle. If you don’t know, ask them.
When the last peaceful EndSars protests escalated to violent looting and burning, a curfew was imposed on major parts of the country.
If you are ever locked down at home again and you are not occupied. It would be wise to fill your otherwise idle time with some vehicle maintenance activities that you had previously not had enough free time to attend to. You may consider cleaning your vehicle.
Car washes will not be open during curfews, also car washes don’t really give attention to all the nooks and crannies that you will attend to when you personally decide to give vehicle a good clean up. Don’t stop there.
Wheel wells, underneath the dashboard, carpets, boot are some areas that you may want to pay extra attention. If you are mechanically inclined and you have the proper tools, you may extend your attention to other areas too. Just don’t overdo it and start something you can’t finish.