Curbing frequent road accidents in Nigeria
The regular spate of automobile accidents on Nigerian roads and resultant avoidable loss of precious lives should be a matter of great concern to all well-meaning Nigerians. And as the institution charged with providing welfare and security for citizens, governments at all levels should be seen to take the phenomenon seriously, with a view to minimising such accidents. There is nothing to be proud of in a country always hitting global limelight for all the wrong reasons including road accidents. And besides, it is high time Nigerian lives are made to matter and accorded reasonable value in line with best practices across the world. For a start, authorities charged with roads construction in both federal and state levels should begin to take responsibility for accidents caused by bad roads; while traffic authorities, including the Federal Road Safety Corps should step up public advisory on safety on the highways.
It was a ‘Black Sunday’ in Lagos and Ondo states respectively as no fewer than 20 people lost their lives in separate ghastly road traffic accidents that occurred the other day. While an articulated truck conveying a 20-feet container lost control and landed on a commercial bus killing nine people at Ojuelegba in Lagos, 11 persons were burnt beyond recognition in an auto crash as a trailer drove against traffic and collided with a Marcopollo bus at Soka bridge in Ore, Odigbo Council of Ondo State. The accidents are just among the more recent of terrible auto crashes on the roads. The disturbing and lamentable news about road traffic accidents have become a recurring phenomenon in Nigeria and especially so at Ojuelegba in Lagos, where it has become a regular incidence.
Factors already identified for the ugly situation include deplorable condition of roads, poor maintenance of vehicles, careless driving, poor traffic infrastructure, poor road design, ineffective enforcement of traffic rules and regulations among others. It is not surprising that the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a 2015 report states that one in every four road crash deaths in Africa occurs in Nigeria; and hardly does a day goes by without the occurrence of road accidents. Also, public health experts have globally concedes road traffic accidents as one of the leading cause of sudden death. In the last few years, aside insurgency and banditry, injuries and deaths resulting from road traffic accidents are on the rise in Nigeria. They are by far the most common cause of disability and leading cause of trauma related deaths. Yet, disturbing as road traffic casualties are, there are many unreported cases across the country. It is assumed that if the unreported cases are known and added to the already reported cases, the figures would be unimaginable.
Clearly, there is need to view road traffic accidents as a national issue that needs urgent attention aimed at reducing road traffic casualties. Even according to National Bureau of Statistics, a localised agency on various databases, Nigeria is among countries with the highest road accident rates in the world having more than 11,800 road traffic casualties in the fourth quarter of 2021. Among these figures, 10.2 thousand were injuries, while 1.7 thousand are registered deaths. The implication of this is that the country is losing young and productive population as revealed by the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) report that road traffic accidents is the leading cause of death for all age groups, children and young adults between five and 29. For children, the implications are their inability to complete their education or acquire skills, making them destitute and societal problems. In essence, road accidents stand out like blotches in the progress and development of the country as it is one major cause of poverty and socio-economic disorder; and it robs the nation of its valuable human and material resources.
It is high time governments see road accidents as a matter of important national concern. It is understandable that Nigeria does not lack road safety laws, but the level of implementation is quite low. It must be admitted that Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) is doing its best and has done a lot of work on road safety campaigns but there should be a concrete and sustained policy action to address the road safety question and of implementation of traffic safety regulations.
The Ojuelegba accident, like every accident, resets the time and provokes conversations about the unpleasantness of the scene. According to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila: “This is not the first time such an incident is happening in Lagos, I call for immediate temporary installation of barriers to prevent trailers from using the bridge to avert occurrences.” Indeed, the manner in which lives are being cut short through ghastly road accidents is an exceedingly serious concern. There is need to ensure that Nigerian roads are safe and only drivers who are trained and certified are allowed to drive in the country. Sadly, this responsibility of the FRSC has not been effectively discharged as some officers of the corps are compromised to issue citizens driver’s licence without adequate driving tests as well as allow vehicles that lack road worthiness ply the roads.
It is worth reiterating that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of road traffic casualties and there is an increasing burden of road accidents and injury-related deaths on the country. Again, the response of the government in controlling this scourge has been grossly inadequate. Opinions on the way forward are many. But first, government must make the first big move by taking a public health approach to the prevention of road accidents. It is true nonetheless, as Gbajabiamila said that it is unacceptable for people to die in such a way at the same spot multiple times. Therefore, government should raise the bar and caution commuters against route violation as well as driving against prescribed legal speed limits on all roads. Government must fix roads, provide adequate road signs to guide motorists and where applicable, provide illumination for night travellers among other necessities.