A very likely development may set the tone for a pallid and lustreless future for the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) if the never-ending quest by the federal government to arm the agency materialises.
Founded in 1988 by a former self-styled military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the FRSC operates in all Nigerian states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and is the lead agency in Nigeria on road safety administration and management.
The agency had a good upstart upon establishment, but its efficiency soon waned, a development that can be ascribed to several factors including poor funding and corruption.
Rather than dispassionately examine the reasons for its failure, the federal authorities strangely attributed the cause to the non arms-bearing status of the body. To arm the establishment is definitely not a viable way to tackle the knots bedeviling it. And I need to add that the consequences of arming too many paramilitary agencies in the country could be grave.
What is necessary is to get these agencies to work harder to achieve their objectives instead of raising the number of the ones to be armed. How will putting guns in their possession enhance their productivity?
The FRSC has really come a long way. Then headed by Prof Wole Soyinka at inception, it had the imprint of discipline, selflessness, and patriotism. Its officers and men exhibited sound training and allegiance. Consequently, Nigerians demonstrated strong faith in them and felt very safe in their presence.
They were found everywhere on the highway and rendered immense assistance to accident victims sacrificially. Then the fear of the Road Safety was the beginning of wisdom to erring motorists. But where are those virtues today? Where is the righteousness of the road marshals? They are gone, my people.
Instead indiscipline, laziness, bribery and widespread corruption brazenly characterise their daily operations. What guarantees that if they are armed they won’t perpetrate violent crimes just as the police does freely? Won’t hapless motorists be intimidated, harassed and extorted at gunpoint?
As usual and very unfortunately, some Nigerians have argued in favour of arming the Road Safety Corps because of the precarious nature of our highway, where robbers, kidnappers and a medley of criminals operate unhindered. Their further claim is since the officials practically come under threat and are sometimes killed outrightly, they should be given guns.
As trite as this argument has become, it doesn’t consider the average Nigerian who is killed unjustly in the streets daily. Should they be armed as well? Certainly not. FRSC is not a security outfit that needs to operate with guns. It is a mere traffic control agency.
Besides, the nation has become very weary of the ever-increasing incidents of extra-judicial killings by security agents. To add Road Safety operatives to the growing number of killer-security outfits will be too much to accommodate. After all, the gentlemen in question are not dealing with criminals but motorists that can be controlled with the right education and attitude.
In some other climes, decisions of this magnitude will not be reached without all-inclusive consultations. Apart from that, something very momentous has to occur to the operatives the State seeks to protect to warrant such consideration. But that is not the case we are dealing with here.
The federal government should stop treading dangerous paths with their occasional improperly thought-out decisions. It must be realised that in Nigeria gun is seen as the ultimate symbol of power. With it, soldiers have seized power several times. Civilians are harassed, oppressed and suppressed at will.
My position on this matter is clear. FRSC officials don’t have to carry guns before they can perform their statutory functions. I don’t think that bearing arms will enhance their operations. What needs to be done is to ensure the provision of police protection for them while at work, seek how to restore their lost glory and win back the confidence of Nigerians.
To achieve this, the Corps should stick to its legal functions which are to make highways safe for motorists and other road users and check roadworthiness of vehicles to minimise accidents on our roads.
Also, they have to intensify their enlightenment of motorists and members of the public on the relevance of road discipline on the highways. Once again, they don’t have to bear arms and, therefore, be exposed to malicious attacks by criminal elements and gangs. This will definitely make a bad situation even worse.
By: Arnold Alalibo