Thursday, 21st September 2023

Group wants next administration to prioritise road safety, sustainable mobility

By Benjamin Alade
07 April 2023   |   2:14 am
A non-governmental organisation, GreenLight Initiative, has called on the incoming administration to prioritise road safety, safe and sustainable mobility by increasing investment and interventions in the sector.

Prof. Samuel Odewumi

•Experts seek execution of transportation policy

A non-governmental organisation, GreenLight Initiative, has called on the incoming administration to prioritise road safety, safe and sustainable mobility by increasing investment and interventions in the sector.

It also asked the government to checkmate the quality and safety of automobiles that are allowed into the country to ensure they meet international standards.

According to the group, safe and sustainable mobility will boost the economy, strengthen the health system, create jobs and stimulate the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This comes even as the former Dean of the School of Transport and Logistics, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, charged the next administration to complete and roll out the transportation policy.

Currently, he said, the draft policy is lying somewhere between the ministries of Transportation and Works. The draft was completed more than three years ago, but it is yet to be executed.

In a statement issued by Executive Director for GreenLight Initiative, Simon Obi, transportation drives the economy as more than 80 per cent of national activities which include food, health, social well-being among others are largely hinged on road transportation.

However, he said road transportation has remained the deadliest way to move from Point A to Point B. On March 9, 2023, Nigerians were awash with the news of the horrific traffic crash involving a bus and a train around the Ikeja axis of Lagos.

This, according to him, is one of many kinds of road crashes that bedevil the nation and have continued to occur on roads daily. Road transport is characterised by so many incidences of traffic crashes mainly caused by human factors, poor road designs, and low-safety vehicles.

According to the global status report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 39,802 people are killed on Nigerian roads yearly. The report judged Nigeria as one of the most dangerous countries on road with an estimated death rate of 21.4 per 100, 000 population compared with that of the entire Europe which stands at 9.3 per 100,000 population.

Empirical statistics suggest that road traffic crashes continued to remain the leading source of violent death. This, he said, is unacceptable as road crashes are all preventable and avoidable.

“We know what works, to feign ignorance to the solution of road safety is the worst form of deception and betrayal of trust from government at all levels.” Obi said road traffic crashes take a toll on countries’ economic situations.

According to a World Bank report, countries that fail to prioritise road safety lose up to five per cent of their yearly Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The report further indicates that low and middle-income countries that fail to invest in road safety will become even poorer due to the economic losses associated with traffic crashes.

Similarly, he said the transport sector has been recognized as one of the biggest contributors to climate change accounting for 37 per cent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are contributing to climate issues.

A recent study shows a clear linkage between ground-level ozone pollution caused by vehicles and depression and mental health issues among adolescents alongside breathing issues.

Therefore, Obi said transport decarbonisation as well as increased focus on innovative vehicle technology, energy efficiency, active transport, and smart transit systems are imperative especially now that most countries are transitioning to clean energy.

He said Nigeria has not yet prioritised clean and alternative sources of energy. Fossil fuel remains the highest source of energy as over 80 per cent of power generation still comes from gas.

According to Obi, it is no longer news that Nigeria and some low and middle-income countries are known for dumping grounds for used and unsafe vehicles. The European Union will ban the sales of fossil fuel cars from 2035. He noted that the task of achieving a safe, clean, and sustainable transport system is possible but the onus lies with the new government in terms of policy direction and priorities.

“We have the opportunity to turn around the looming crisis to our best interest by prioritising sustainable transport systems. The best time to do that is now. The new government has the opportunity to make history with this.”

He said an investment in road safety will not only save lives and prevent needless injuries and morbidity but will also provide access to job opportunities, improve health care, as well as improve prosperity, development, and economic sustainability of the nation.

“We are at the crossroad but the next government has the opportunity to make things right,” he said. Besides Odewumi said the transportation policy will give a clear direction for the development plan for the sector.

He said the present approach of whimsically selecting transport projects to be executed based on political or ethnic affiliations is disjointed and does not deliver optimum return on investments.

According to him, the government should prioritise safety and security issues in the sector. Besides aviation which is internationally regulated, other modes like road, rail and water are facing serious safety and security challenges. This needs no emphasis.

“We are all witnesses to unending kidnappings and mishaps in these modes.” Odewumi said the issue of infusing local content into transportation technology is crucial if the country wants to have a sustainable development paradigm in the sector. This will generate huge employment opportunities for the youth.

He said the current over-reliance on foreign contractors and technologies is wrong-headed while stating that there should be coordinated road material research that will make road construction less reliant on imported components.

He said the road as the carrier of more than 90 per cent of mobilities deserves a coordinating authority. Rail; water; air have their authorities but roads have no such organisation. Therefore this critical mode has been taken over by touts and miscreants making millions of naira daily extorting motorists.

He said there is a need for greater synergy between the Ministry of Transportation and Works. A situation whereby Works and Transportation Ministries work in silos in the construction and operation of the mode is deleterious.

“All the above and many more will be spelt out in the transportation policy that will be the road map, therefore it must be the primary focus,” he said.