Travelling interstate roads on several commercial transport buses is something Nnamdi Oji has done more times than he can count, but writing his correct details and details of his next of kin on the manifest list collected by the transport company before embarking on a journey outside Lagos is something he has never done and has no plans of doing.
His reasons are that the information requested is not relevant to the journey and as such his privacy is being intruded upon.
“As a business man, I travel quite often to different parts of the country by road. This thing about writing our names and addresses was not being enforced before, except maybe the big transport companies where they buy tickets and collect receipts before entering the bus. But since Mr Fashola came, he has brought a lot of changes that if you are just travelling from Lagos to Ibadan in a bus that does not have any transport company written on it, you still have to write your name, address and name of next of kin. Personally, I think it is a violation of my privacy,” he said.
Writing the name of his next of kin he adds, will only make him fear an accident on the road.
“Also, I don’t believe I will have any accident on the road so why do they want the address of my next of kin? If I write the name of my next of kin, it will only make me scared that something will happen to me and they will have to contact my next of kin. And then, what do they want my phone number for?”
Another traveller, Kelechi James who is currently undergoing her National Youth Service Corps programme in Ebonyi State was seen boarding a bus to Ebonyi. She had a bemused look on her face as she was given the manifest list to write her details.
“Why do they want such private details? Is this a plane? I won’t give them my real name or the name of my next of kin. There is no need.” She said.
The Manager of Area
Transport Company, Jibowu, Samuel Oladehinde, noted that the practice of collecting such details as names, address and phone numbers of travellers and their next of kin was not initiated by most transport companies but was rather a directive from the Lagos State government.
“We have to collect their details not only for their own safety and insurance, but because the government actually enforces it. I know it is not so common in other states but it is in Lagos. Fortunately for us, we have never had any accident on the road so we don’t know if people put in their real names or not.” The importance of the manifest according to the General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, is to have the correct details of all passengers on a vehicle in case of any accident or unforeseen emergency.
“The manifest has been useful in the past to trace and contact families of accident victims. It is unfortunate for those who don’t put their correct details on such lists because it might be hard to identify them or reach their families in case of any accidents.” He also added that all travellers should be aware that the government on their part is ready to fulfil its obligations in responding to emergencies.
“People should know that they can dial 767 or 112 anytime there is an emergency within Lagos State and it’s environs and we will respond immediately with a rescue team.” The fear of being involved in an accident if one writes the name of his next of kin on the manifest list is completely natural, says Bamidele Olabanji, a clinical psychologist.
“The reason is psychological as well as natural, and it affects individuals in different ways. While some people may eagerly write the names and contact details of their next of kin because they know it will be needed in case of an emergency, some will write wrong names and contact details because they know it won’t be needed. That is, they do not foresee any emergency. But whether any emergency is foreseen or not is not the issue.
Travelling in any form is risky and people should ensure that they put measures in place in case of any negative occurrence.” But for Micheal Otobo, a civil servant who often commutes between Lagos and some eastern states in the country, his practice of writing incorrect names and details of his next of kin on manifest list has ended.
“In the past I used to write fake names but I have stopped since the time I heard of an accident where some people died and there was no one to call to identify their bodies.”