“They shot a driver yesterday.”
I was shocked because she was expressionless when she said it in response to my harmless statement, “Ah, you have POS machine? Mad O!”
“Oh yes, the riders planned it. They lured him to one side after Ajah. I don’t know if you know the place where there are several beach spots? They shot him and took his car. Now, they (other drivers in the WhatsApp group) are saying we should be more careful.”
I sat there watching the wipers try to keep the windscreen clear of rain so we could see the road. Well, I was not really paying attention to the road anymore.
I wondered how scared she must be as a taxi driver in present-day Nigeria, where passengers and drivers alike fear for their lives when the sun goes down.
There are accounts of taxi drivers losing their vehicles, money, and lives while working late at night. Some of the strategies employed by the criminals are to have other accomplices beat up the driver at the remote destination, pull out a gun at some point in the journey, or ask the driver to stop where the damages can be done with little or no interruption.
“That is why I would never stop the car so that a passenger can stop to pee at night. You never know who is waiting for you in the shadows, do you?”
I figured that she had a point. You can try to avoid the red zones, cancel trips that look suspicious, and refuse to make compromises that would put your life at risk.
Of course, the smartest thing to do would be to avoid working after hours. Take passengers during the day when the sun cannot allow atrocities in the shadows.
However, she already has a day job that does not pay enough to maintain her lifestyle, settle her bills, and service her Toyota Matrix.
I took a closer look at her frame, face, and trendy haircut; faded sides with long braids. She looked like she could hold her own in a fight, and I told her that.
“You would think that,” she responded with a laugh. She just tries to be careful. Your size and appearance would not matter in a gunfight. “Why I have a POS?”
“Well, I have been robbed before. Well, not me. My passenger was robbed but we got away with our lives,” she said. “I bet you want to know how it happened.
“She had told me she wanted to use an ATM before we arrived at the destination and I did not mind obliging. While she was by the machine, I realised that someone with dreadlocks had joined her and they were talking.
“I did not want to be scammed so, I called out to her. Yo! How long does it take for the machine to dispense abi you dey give dada man your number?
“My mouth ehn. I still dey ask the question when another guy walked up to my window and asked to confirm if I was with that lady. Then he showed me the gun in his belt and asked me to come down.
“Gunslinger and Dada put my passenger and me in a rickety jalopy and drove us to another ATM stop hoping to withdraw money from her card. Dada got down and went to the machine but could not seem to operate it with ease.
“He seemed uneducated anyway so, he asked the other guy to help. Gunslinger said he did not want to leave us alone in their vehicle because we could escape. Dada said, ‘You don ever see woman wey sabi drive manual before?’
“That was their mistake anyway, and they were small-time robbers. I have heard the experiences of other drivers, especially on the Island, so I felt lucky that night.
“With both of them out, I summoned courage and stretched my leg to reach the pedals. I put it in gear and drove the car some kilometres down the road and away from the ATM while they chased.
“We made our way back to my car. That was when I realised that my passenger had already lost her phone to them.
So, that is how I came to have a POS machine in my ride. My passengers don’t need to stop to use the ATM or anything.