In recent times, Nigeri
ans have been expressing concern about the rising occurrence of road accidents across the country in spite of efforts by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to ensure sanity on the nation’s highways.
Such concern, according to analysts, becomes more worrisome following the recent death of the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Mr James Ocholi, his wife and son in an accident.
Besides, the Nigerian Army recently lost its Chief of Training and Operations, Maj.-Gen. Yushau Abubakar, in a road accident on Maiduguri-Damaturu road.
Similarly, Yobe Deputy Governor Abubakar Ali narrowly escaped death recently when his motorcade got involved in an accident on Kaduna-Kano expressway.
FRSC report on road accident indicates that the number of persons who lost their lives in road accident has risen to 345, 512 in 2015 as against 1,083 in 1960.
The report says further that no fewer than 1.1 million persons were injured in various accidents in 2015 alone as against 1,216 reported in 1960.
FRSC, however, insists that speed limit violation accounted for 58 per cent of road traffic crashes in Nigeria.
This scenario underscores the concern expressed by Nigerians on the success or otherwise of the efforts put in place by the FRSC to create road safety awareness among road users in the country since its establishment.
Observers note that the mandate of FRSC includes the design and production of driver’s licence and number plates in addition to other related functions, anchored on creating a safer motoring environment in Nigeria.
To further re-energise the commission, Sections 5 and 10 of the FRSC Establishment Act 2007 also empower the commission to make regulations that will further improve safety on the roads.
But whether or not FRSC has justified its existence in the last 28 years is debatable as some road users insist that the commission has deviated from its original mandate of creating the desired road safety consciousness among motorists.
They observe that the commission has concentrated energy in revenue generation more than raising awareness on road safety regulations.
But FRSC’s Head of Media Relations and Strategy, Mr Bisi Kazeem, debunks the insinuations, arguing that the commission was not established to generate revenue for government.
“FRSC has never operated in this direction. Price fixing for number plate and driver’s licence is not under the purview of the FRSC but exclusive preserve of the Joint Tax Board.
“The FRSC has not abandoned its primary responsibilities even in the face of increasing spate of road crashes.
“It is on record that the present dispensation of the commission has initiated and sustained series of strategies towards road crash reduction in Nigeria,’’ he explained.
Such strategies, according to Kazeem, include the introduction of Road Transport Safety Standardisation Scheme and Driving School Standardisation Programme.
He said the commission also introduced re-certification of commercial drivers, routine medical checks and other proactive strategies towards addressing the menace of road crashes involving heavy duty vehicles.
In the same vein, he said that road safety studies had been incorporated by the National Council for Education and approved by Federal Executive Council.
“Today, primary and secondary school pupils would be availed of an educational strategy that would lead to a culture change in the future.
“The absence of regulatory frame-work for many facets of the road safety sector has been addressed by the introduction of standard school bus adopted by the National Council for Education.
“Similarly, the FRSC had attracted a World Bank funded Safe Corridor project in Nigeria which has delivered a Country Capacity Review.
“It has acquired more than 38 patrol vehicles, 24 bikes, 17 single carrier ambulances, one double carrier Ambulance and seven heavy tow trucks.
“It has also introduced capacity-building programmes that have taken road safety from a rule of the thumb road traffic control organisation to a modern road safety administration,’’ Kazeem explained.
He said FRSC has also designed a platform called “One Driver One Record which enables it to track and match records of a driver with his driver licence, vehicle number plate, insurance and traffic offences in a single view.
“This can be shared with other security agencies for crime prevention and the promotion of national security.’’
He recalled that speed-induced road accidents were common and solicited collective efforts of all stakeholders to address the challenge.
“If decisive steps are taken to address the menace of speed-induced crashes, greater sanity will be achieved on the nation’s highways.
“This informed the commission’s renewed drive to bring relevant government agencies such as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, National Automotive Council and major stakeholders in the transport sector to initiate the speed-limiting device as obtained in other climes,’’ he said.
But a cross section of motorists criticises the commission for its plan to introduce the speed- limiting device as part of measures to reduce accidents on the nation’s highways.
Mr Emeka Nwachukwu, a commercial bus driver plying the Abuja-Port Harcourt route, believes that the speed-limit device could endanger the lives of many motorists in the event of emergencies.
“If armed robbers should be on the trail of any motorist who has installed the device, the robbers can easily track their victim down.
Mr Wale Animashaun, another commercial driver plying the Abuja-Lagos route, however, describes the policy as “very good’’.
He, however, advises government to make the device affordable to motorists, noting that it costs N40, 000.
Stating the dangers of speed in driving, FRSC Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi, while presenting an interim preliminary report on the accident that killed the late minister to the Federal Executive Council, cited speed as the cause of the accident.
Boboye also identified bust tyre and sudden application of break as factors responsible for the accident.
Besides this, the corps marshal said that Ocholi’s driver, Taiwo James Eleghede, had no record of valid driver’s licence in the drivers’ data base, while Ocholi and his son did not use seat belts.
“Information gathered revealed that the driver of the crashed vehicle was actually moving at excess of the stipulated speed when he had a tyre bust.
“The crashed vehicle driver was driving too fast and he slammed on the break so hard.
“These two factors contributed to the inability of the driver to maintain control when the left rear tyre bust,’’ he said.
All in all, observers call for the review of the FRSC Act to ensure effective enforcement of all traffic rules and speed limit for all categories of road users, including motorcade of government officials and military convoys.
According to them, these are some of the methods of reducing road accidents in Nigeria.
Adamu is an analyst with News Agency of Nigeria