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Despite ban, sale of alcoholic drinks in motor parks persists in Lagos

By Gbenga Salau
24 April 2022   |   2:57 am
On a sunny afternoon at Mile 2 bus park in the Amuwo-Odofin area of Lagos state, a commercial bus driver prepares to embark on an inter-state journey.

Sale of alcohol at car park

Might Be Root Cause Of Most Accidents — Safety Expert

On a sunny afternoon at Mile 2 bus park in the Amuwo-Odofin area of Lagos state, a commercial bus driver prepares to embark on an inter-state journey.

With his bus half full, he motions at his assistant, otherwise referred to as the conductor, to buy him three sachets of a popular alcoholic drink, with a relatively high level of alcoholic content, from a petty trader.
   
Soon as his assistant hands him the drinks, the driver drinks two of the sachets and keeps the last somewhere on the dashboard. The commuters, sitting patiently in the bus for the commencement of the journey, were also somewhat oblivious of what the driver had just done except for an aged man, who made some muffled protest and queried the driver’s carelessness.

sale of alcohol at car park


“You are about to drive us and you are drinking alcohol. That’s irresponsible of you,” he said almost inaudibly. “But the driver promptly shouted him down, saying that it was none of his business.” They both argued back and forth for a moment. But their altercation soon got drowned by the cacophony of noise going on around the bus-stop.

Governments and agencies like the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) have sustained campaigns against drinking and driving in a bid to curb road accidents. The campaign has been premised on the fact that taking alcoholic drinks before or while driving predisposes drivers to possibilities of having road accidents. But quite a number of drivers have not heeded the warnings of the campaign.

Checks by The Guardian revealed that drink-driving is also being encouraged by the continued sale of alcoholic drinks in parks across the states. This was confirmed by visits to a number of public and private bus stops, parks and garages in Lagos state.

The sale of the alcoholic drink of various sizes and brands is openly done, with many of the sellers competing for patronage with the drivers and their motor-boys as the principal target. This is in spite of the ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks at motor parks and bus stops in the state. 

 
With the alcoholic drinks packaged in different sizes, particularly in sachets, it comes handy for commercial bus drivers and other buyers, who often take the content almost immediately after purchase. Similarly, because alcoholic drinks are now in sachets, many commercial drivers and their conductors buy and store them in their vehicles to consume while on a trip.
 
All these and many more happen despite the various campaigns against drinking alcohol while driving. Some of these drivers and their boys, The Guardian discovered, do not stop at that, as some others even smoke marijuana and abuse substances, which are usually on offer at motor parks and sometimes bus stops.

It was, therefore, not surprising to some Nigerians when the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, recently said that drivers were responsible for 70 per cent of road crashes on the nation’s highways.

The minister stated that from the data analysed, three federal highways in the country had the highest number of casualties. He listed them as Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Keffi-Lafia and Abuja-Kano highways, adding that if the number of accidents on the three highways was reduced, the government would have succeeded in curtailing the problem.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), there were 13027 road crashes in 2021. And on zonal bases, the North-Central recorded the highest number of road crashes of 4,056, followed by the Southwest at 3,451.

A further analysis of the NBS data showed that speed violations was the most frequent cause of road crashes last year, followed by sign violations and wrongful and then dangerous overtaking.

Also, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Lagos State said that 101 persons died while 625 sus
trained different degrees of injuries in road crashes in Lagos between January and August, 2021.

A resident, Abiona Abegunde, said it was shocking that alcoholic drinks are still sold in parks and bus stops freely with nobody reining in such activities, considering its negative implications. “This involves lives and property of residents who commute daily, yet government and its agencies seem careless. Many private car owners in Lagos whose vehicles get dented by commercial bus drivers often have very negative and bitter experience because the commercial drivers usually display some form of insanity while on the wheels. And an evaluation of these drivers when they come pleading for pardon after the vehicles had been damaged often reveal persons enveloped in alcohol or other substances.”

Commenting, the Chief Executive Officer, Tadafort Consulting, Gbenga Fisher, said the state could do better in controlling the trading of alcoholic drinks in parks and garages, stating that alcohol and other substances that could be abused should be limited to the pubs and should not find their ways to the parks and places for the public transport system.

“You can just imagine that these people are open to alcohol, and when they take it, what it can cause is glaring. Imagine a drunken driver on the wheels; it exposes many other road users to unnecessary accidents.

“We might not have data for it, but it has led to a lot of accidents. It might be the root cause of a lot of accidents that had happened. Sale of alcohol should be controlled; it is not a good idea to have alcoholic drinks sold in parks. We can do better in terms of safety.”

For Fisher, the sale of alcoholic drinks in parks and garages has other negative implications aside from being the likely cause of accidents.

He said: “For example, we have touts and union ticketing officers who, almost at all times, have a sachet of alcoholic drink rapped in their pockets or hands to be gulped intermittently. And if you see the way these union officers and touts harass drivers and their motor boys, forcing them to pay dues or extort them, one could conclude that they are under the influence of alcohol. That is one of the negative sides of selling alcohol in parks.

“There are also people who are underage, that could easily have access to alcoholic drinks because they are sold openly in parks and garages.”

According to Fisher, anybody can walk into the parks, including minors, to buy alcoholic drinks and it is an eyesore, which should not be happening.

“Such minors could misbehave and I believe it should be more controlled than this. For example, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) can extend its services to the parks; to ensure drivers are not under any influence, enforcing and implementing journey management plans, as the drivers move from one location to another. It could also include random test for drivers to be sure that they are not under any influence.”

On the roles stakeholders not part of government could play to curb the trend, Fisher said private transport business owners with private parks should not allow the sale of alcoholic drinks in their parks.

He added that such stakeholders could implement a drug and alcohol policy that restricts their drivers and even passengers from taking alcoholic within their premises.

“This could include that sales of alcoholic drinks is prohibited and nobody in their parks. I believe enforcement should be increased.”

Fisher was optimistic that if the different stakeholders and government enforce a drug and alcohol policy system, it will to a large extent curb the sales and consumption of alcoholic drinks in parks and garages.

Lagos Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Corps Commander, Olusegun Ogungbemide, noted that the FRSC has never been in favour of alcohol drinks being sold at motor parks.

He said it was the reason a lot of advocacy meetings were done with critical stakeholders and the management of various motor parks, telling them the evils of drivers taking alcohol before they leave the parks when embarking on a journey, especially if the drinks become handy and readily available for them.

“We had a collaboration with a government agency some time ago, even in alliance with park managers where the directive was given that no alcohol must be sold around motor parks. Within that period, even if it is available at all, it was not visible. With this information, I will have no choice than to move round to see what is happening and take the necessary intervention.”

Ogungbemide noted that the FRSC is hampered by the fact that it cannot go to motor parks to enforce, because it is not part of its mandate. “Ours is to wait on the highways to check the blood alcohol content of drivers and once it is more than 0.05 per cent, which is permissible, we get the driver arrested and booked for driving under the influence of alcohol. Our mandate does not cover going to arrest those selling alcoholic drinks in parks. I know that government has done a lot on that, may be there is a laxity.”

Responding on the allegation that FRSC officers only concentrate on private vehicle owners, overlooking commercial drivers within the city, Ogungbemide said it was not true, disclosing that an analysis of offenders arrested last year showed that more than 50 percent of the vehicles arrested were commercial vehicles.

“We do intelligent enforcement, because in the cause of arresting a commercial vehicle, if it will lead to a further danger and chaos, why must I be desperate when I can take the number and send it to the motor park, and the park management can get the bus to be brought to FRSC office. Naturally, a private car owner will not want to take any risk; he would obey rules. But a commercial driver would want to run away and wanting to stop him in desperation may turn the public against our officers, so why must you run after such a vehicle and the driver when there is technology to track him.”

On his part, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso said the state government has been active in discouraging the sale of alcohol in parks and garages. He added that there is a department in the Office of Civic Engagement that preaches against abuse of alcohol and drug at motor parks, just as the Ministry of Youth and Social Development has been advocating too. He however said it is not that government is not bothered but government cannot sit at parks for 24 hours.