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How to tackle menace of rickety vehicles on roads

By Benjamin Alade
02 April 2021   |   4:12 am
Unfit vehicles are all over the place including road networks nationwide. They are eyesore and in some case a disaster waiting to happen.

A rickety vehicle

Unfit vehicles are all over the place including road networks nationwide. They are eyesore and in some case a disaster waiting to happen.

Besides the junkyards, unfit or rickety vehicles are popular in private use, informal commercial transport system, and haulage services – all constituting environmental nuisance.

It therefore came as no surprise when the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) threatened to clampdown on rickety vehicles that they had always glossed over in the line of duty.

Though it is the statutory duty of the Corps, some stakeholders did laugh off the idea given a myriad of contributory factors, of which FRSC officers are complicit. Instead of a wild goose chase, experts called for a concerted measures, including motorable roads, reasonable age limit of used-vehicles coming into the country, and less corruption among law enforcement officers.

In line with its responsibility to ensure safety of all road users, the FRSC last month said the Corps would commence immediate clampdown on rickety vehicles plying the country’s roads.

Even as the exercise has kick-started on some routes, transporters faulted the directive, saying the government has a bigger role to play in ensuring motorable roads that minimise wear and tear.

Tokunbo vehicles
Indeed, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its Transport Data 2018 report, stated that there were 11.8 million registered vehicles in Nigeria. Imported second-hand vehicles, or what is popularly called ‘tokunbo’, constituted the highest number of these vehicles as only a mere eight per cent of the about 12 million vehicles are bought new. The remaining 92 per cent are either second-hand or third-hand, which is a reflection of the country’s poor economic realities.

Road safety experts said of these high numbers of second-hand vehicles plying the roads, about 70 per cent of them are not road-worthy, and constitute the highest menace.

Managing Director, Cargo Thrust Limited, Olaiya Goriola, said: “The government through the road safety commission came out with the directive but have failed to put in place facilities that will aid in keeping vehicles in good working conditions.

Goriola who is also a freight forwarder, said: “Our trucks were bought in good conditions, even though they are fairly used and we have good maintenance policy in place for those trucks, but what can we say we have good road networks, of course not. It is only in recent times after the cry to refurbish these roads are becoming unbearable for those in authorities that they started repairing some of them.

“The vehicles deteriorate faster as a result of the country’s road networks, and now they are turning round to say our vehicles are rickety, it is just not fair.

“It is no secret that Nigeria has one of the worst road systems in the world. We practically drive our vehicles on stones, paths and dirt roads. At times, a journey of an hour may last for four or five hours depending on how bad the roads are, yet the government is laying the blames at the feet of the transporters. Who is really to blame?” Goriola queried.

Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col Ahmed Ali (Rtd), had said that most vehicles imported into the country were rickety. Ali disclosed this while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Customs, to defend the NCS 2021 budget, on Tuesday, in Abuja.

He said that such vehicles moved at 200 metres per hour and often died or stopped on the road, adding that the time had come when only road worthy vehicles would be allowed with the required duties paid to the country.

Ali said it was time to reduce the number of used vehicles that were being brought into the country, stressing that the NCS’ consideration was to only have roadworthy vehicles coming into the country.

“We hope our automotive industry will work in order to start reducing the number of used vehicles in the country,” he said.

For Chief Operating Officer, Automedics Limited, Gbola Oba, there are cornucopia reasons why the country had found itself battling with unfit vehicles.

Oba listed the reasons to include a failed system, which allows importation of scraps, stating that bad roads accelerate deterioration of good and bad vehicles, while the condition of having inadequate number of vehicles for commuters naturally gives commercial opportunities for every vehicular junk on the road to be accepted by frustrated commuters as a means of transportation.

He said corruption by law enforcement agents (i.e. taking money from transporters) naturally defangs appropriate law enforcement on rickety vehicles.

Chief Executive Officer of West Atlantic Cold-Chain and Commodities Limited, Henrii Nwanguma, said the issue of consistent quality management systems and the effectiveness of compliance officers in these institutions has made the country a rickety dumping country.

Nwanguma said the FRSC has to work in tandem with other state agencies to eliminate rickety vehicles on roads.

He said: “It is time we begin to question the modus operandi of some of these agencies and the whole concept of use of data. We have focused so much attention creating and linking NIN, BVN, GSM, among others into a central data architecture.

“Surely, vehicle licensing, road-worthiness inspections records, drivers licencing, accident records, insurance, are also available for use in a more scientific manner to execute their important mandate of safety on our roads. Simple reminders can be sent out to the vehicle owner where the system has detected non-compliance. Smart services are the way forward without being overbearing.

On the question of vehicle importation conditions, Nwanguma said it is all down to maintenance.

Speaking on the aged vehicle importation, Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said FRSC is only deferring to the economic situation of the country. It is now established that at the price level on which operators charge the public, it is very difficult to have prime condition. And if the sustainable rate is charged the public will not be able to afford.

Odewumi said age is one of the variables that determine the condition of cars. Others are maintenance regime, kilometre coverage, the usage environment and the likes.

“Actually the FRSC is not the central agency for inspection and enforcement on road worthiness. They inspect factors that are associated with safety one of which is roadworthiness. The Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) is the agency statutory saddled with the duty of enforcing roadworthiness parameters,” he said.

Lagos Sector Commander, FRSC, Olusegun Ogungbemide, said the issue of rickety vehicles on Nigerian roads started even right before the inception of FRSC who were having rickety vehicles.

Ogungbemide said when FRSC came on board there were efforts to remove them from the roads until the economic downfall. He said when people find it difficult to buy new cars, they bring in cars that have spent years outside the country and start managing it.

“It got to a point that they could not still manage those already out used vehicles again either due to indiscipline or economic problem, indiscipline in the sense that at times you realizes it takes a little amount but people will rather prefer to spend money at beer parlour than to change that vehicle than to save his life, than to change wiper, that man will rather prefer to spend money on women than to buy side mirror, these are minimum safety standard that are required.”

Speaking on the aged vehicle importation in the country, Ogungbemide described the situation as an embarrassment to the country.

He said: “I want to believe the government is doing something about it because no matter how much we want to value the vehicle or vehicles coming as second hand, it can’t be compared to a new car, when the vehicle has been spent outside, a vehicle close to 300 thousand kilometres outside the country, you can imagine the effect on the engine.”