Imperatives of reducing carnage during electioneering campaign
THE breath- taking speed of politicians’ convoy, the lack of respect for other road users, have become a permanent feature of the current electioneering campaigns across party lines, with its concomitant risks.
It is almost becoming a daily occurrence to hear of road accidents on the highways resulting in heavy casualties that puts to task the available manpower of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).
Granted that the 2015 elections is expected to challenge the preparedness of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in ensuring road safety regulations and enforcement to ensure that traffic obstruction and crashes could be at minimal rate for various commuters, political party campaigners, officials and Internally Displaced Persons, the agency requires stepping up its game.
It is expected that the Corp will intensify efforts to implement strategies before and post-elections periods, while imbibing policies like the 2007 Accra Declaration on road safety, the Millennium Developments Goals, which requires reducing accident f rate by half by 2015 and the mid-term United Decade of Action for Road safety.
Numerous road crashes have occurred involving party members. Just last week, seven members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) died in a multiple accident involving three cars while descending the Mambilla Plateau hills in Taraba State.
At Okada, Edo State, a bus conveying members of the PDP crashed while overtaking another vehicle and a life was lost in the process while several others sustained various degree of injury when their 18-seater bus rammed into an on-coming All Progressive Congress vehicle conveying some delegates from Ovia North-East wing.
Also, a Toyota Hiace Bus, conveying members of PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign group under the aegis of ‘Jonathan Shall Lead Again’ movement from Katsina to Kaduna en-route Abuja had a head-on collision with a Volkswagen Gulf car from the opposite direction at the Giwa junction in Kaduna state.
These are few examples of scores of accidents that have claimed many lives while electioneering campaign gathers momentum.
Condemning reckless driving during the ballot season and beyond, Deputy Governorship candidate of the PDP, in Kwara State, Mallam Yinka Aluko, called for enlightenment and address of issues including road-use education as salient recipe for healthy campaign in the current dispensation.
Corps Marshal of FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, told Journalists recently in Abuja at the unveiling of the Corps 2015 strategic goals, that the commitments were paramount towards sustaining the tempo of operational activities and creating safer road environment.
While reiterating the imperatives of road education and electioneering, he assured that “being an election year in the country, FRSC is working jointly with other relevant stakeholders to create conducive road environment, free of traffic obstruction and road crashes during electioneering campaigns. We will continue to educate members of political parties and engage them on non partisan basis to appreciate the need to abide by traffic rules and regulations, bearing in mind that it is only the living that can vote or be voted for.”
He acknowledged that prominent causative factors of Road Traffic Crashes (RTC) in the country include speeding and eventual loss of control, tyre burst and dangerous, wrongful overtaking in 2013 and the past year.
But after several fatal convoy road crashes involving key government officials, including Governors, due to over-speeding, road safety Activist, Abdulbaqi Jari, asked whether Nigerian Governor’s convoy are above the law.’ He argued that the FRSC was being selective in enforcing its road laws.
Jari made it clear that it is the issue of corruption that is aiding the selective justice syndrome which limits road Marshals from enforcing the law on “government officials who over-speed on our roads.
“State Governors are notorious for over-speeding. The Governors of Benue, Kogi and Katsina states were involved in ghastly accidents. Leaders are supposed to be servants of the people. For the safety of our roads and its users, those privileged people’s over-speeding must be stopped as over-speeding has been identified as the number one cause of death on Nigerian roads,” the Activist maintained.
To address road-use challenges, Oyeyemi identified the Corp’s 2015 corporate strategic goals to include aggressive stakeholders’ education, road use education, full utilisation of the Corps’ digital platform, improvement in the Corps’ legal framework, enhanced regulatory capacity, improved enforcement, rescue and advisory capacity that could reduce the rate of road traffic crashes by 20 per cent and fatality by 30 per cent.
These strategies include the use of social media to inform the public of the Corp’s plans and activities; obtain feedbacks and also conduct free driver’s training at least once in a month.
The Guardian learnt that FRSC which is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring safety on the nation’s highways has had to grapple with various challenges in its quest to attaining the task of rising above the peculiarities of travels characterized by high volume of traffic, speeding, dangerous driving and other deviant traffic behaviours which are known over the years, to induce delays in travel time, fatigue and trauma as well as crashes.
‘Operation Zero Tolerance’ (OZT) was organized in 2014 to include 2015 objectives to reduce road traffic crashes and its fatalities, clear the nation’s highways of all obstructions, ensure free flow of traffic on all critical corridors, enhance enlightenment, education, advocacy, enforcement and organized Mobile Court.
Specific enforcement focus for the Operation Zero Tolerance include excessive speeding, dangerous driving and overtaking, tyre violations, lane indiscipline and route violations, road obstructions, overloading, use of phone while driving and safety belt use violations.
In a scorecard analysis of the FRSC’s 2013 and 2014 special exercises and patrols including aerial surveillance operation in conjunction with the Nigerian Air Force, “robust” logistics support from The World Bank, the Corp’s road side clinics and commitment of road Marshals, Oyeyemi underscored downward trend in casualty figures during these operations with a total of 760 road traffic crashes recorded during the 2013 ember months as against 439 road crashes recorded in 2014, representing a reduction of 42 per cent reduction.
The 2014 Operation’s report captures data on road traffic cash indices, offenders and offences, mobile court sittings outcome, causal factors of crashes and comparative analysis of the 2013 and 2014 outcome.
The Corps Marshall traced a further decline in 2013 indicating that 504 people were killed as against 257 in 2014, representing a reduction of 49 per cent in fatality and that the number of people involved in crashes came down from 5,426 in 2013 to 3,113 in 2014, representing 43 percentage reduction.
He noted that 2,542 people were injured in 2013 whereas the number reduced to 1,481 in 2014, representing 42 percent reduction, the total number of offenders apprehended in 2013 was increased by 10 per cent in 2014 from 23,339 arrested in 2013 which grew in 2014 to 25,742.
Oyeyemi stressed that “these figures show clearly the level of success we recorded in the operations, and we are determined to sustain the tempo of the enforcement this year in our commitment towards attaining safer road environment for all road users in the country. Accordingly I have directed for the immediate planning for the 2015 end of year special patrol operations to ensure that we surpass the success recorded in 2014.”
In a field report by FRSC on observations of the Operation Zero Tolerance strategy, it was noted that traffic flow along Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Taraba and Bauchi States were low due to threats of Boko-Haram insurgency, road obstructions were cleared promptly along all corridors, the traffic camps aided prompt and early deployment of staff particularly in route lining and traffic control.
Also noted are that tow trucks and motorcycles deployed for the operation were timely and useful in clearing road obstructions and traffic monitoring and that the earlier discussion between the Corps and the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency to fill pot holes and deployment of other palliatives on bad portions of the road along critical corridors by some commanding officers before the operation aided easy traffic flow and reduction in crashes and public enlightenments carried out at motor parks, private and public organizations as well as churches and mosques was strategic.
Remarks by a state sector commander indicate that no fewer than 1,991 lives were lost to road accidents within four years in Lagos State. The state Sector Commander, Hyginus Omeje, made the disclosure at an event to mark the United Nations World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Crash Victims with the theme: “Speed kills, design out speeding.”
Another sector Command report analysis of 2014 revealed that most fatal crash period was the afternoon followed closely by the late morning while Kano state recorded the highest number of children killed and the two days with the highest number of children killed was on December 26, 2014 and January 11, 2015 with three deaths each, accounting for 19 per cent each of those killed. This was trailed by December 22, 2014 with two to 13 per cent.