Wanted: Accident-free highways
There is little to cheer in recent reports indicating that cases of road crashes on Nigerian roads have abated considerably than the previous year. While that fact may be true from the statistics, the figure of casualty, including deaths, remains intolerably high. Besides, the report does not reflect hundreds of fatal accident cases that went unreported for one reason or the other across the country; and even after the report was issued, the country has witnessed many other automobile accidents and deaths that have not been officially documented. Clearly, too many lives are being wasted regularly and needlessly from road accidents. Beyond heaving a sigh of relief over the comparatively better news of lower casualties, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) as a crucial agency of government in this regard, should explore how to further remove the stigma on road travel.
According to FRSC Marshall, Dauda Biu, from January to December 2022, the road safety corps recorded 9,483 crashes with 4,427 deaths. This was an eight per cent reduction in view of the previous year’s incidents which recorded 10,304 crashes and 4,800 deaths. While the minimal reduction recorded by the commission should be acknowledged, the death figures are still frightening. And it is painful that the casualties were healthy individuals who were contributing in various ways to the nation economy. Indeed, there is no denying the fact that road traffic crashes is one of the leading causes of deaths in Nigeria, especially among the younger generation.
Basically, road crashes remain a decimal point in Nigeria’s progress to realise Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.6, which proposed a 50 per cent reduction in the number of road crashes by the year 2030. Regrettably, however, road accidents have become a recurring phenomenon in the country such that hardly does any day passes by without the news of a road traffic crash resulting in loss of lives or injuries While many reasons have been attributed for this sad scenario, there is no denying the fact that road transport business in Nigeria has become an all-comer vocation, harbouring many inexperienced drivers who have neither the correct frame of mind or attitude nor the right training. Yet, many of the drivers are self acclaimed professionals; but they habitually indulge in willful violations of traffic rules and flagrant abuses of speed limit. In 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) noted that road traffic accidents are the eighth leading cause of deaths for all age groups across the world and the leading cause of death of children, young adults, especially school children. These crashes, according to FRSC are mainly spurred by over speeding, bad roads, intoxication or being under the influence of psychoactive substance and poor condition of vehicles among others.
According to Biu, to do a thorough job and reduce road crashes during the festive period, the FRCS’ strategy was the deployment of patrol teams within every 10 kilometers drive on all sides of the roads on major highways and on traffic gridlock-prone areas to ease movement on the highways, enforcing traffic laws and thereby reducing crashes. The areas of focus as he puts it include Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road, the Nyanya-Maraba-Keffi-Akwanga road and the Lugbe-Giri-Gwagwalada-Abaji-Lokoja roads respectively. In this regards, the corps had deployed 743 patrol vehicles, 184 administrative vehicles, 132 ambulances, 23 tow trucks and 144 motorbikes as part of the logistics.
Disturbing as these road crashes are, there are many unreported cases across the country and in spite of the continuous warnings and control measures by the road traffic officials, the rate of road traffic crashes remains unacceptably high. However, road accidents also occur from reasons other than those enumerated by the FRSC. There is for instance the issue of inefficiency and corruption on the part of some traffic officials, culminating in vehicles that are not roadworthy plying the roads and constituting danger to other motorists. Some officials are known to look the other way after money exchange hands. From all indications, aside insurgency and banditry, road traffic crashes have become one of the leading causes of death in Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Ogbogo Aloga, described the road crashes report released by FRSC as outrageous and blamed the causes of road crashes on bad roads. According to Aloga, the Federal Government should focus more on road transportation business, citing the Bank of Industry, Agriculture and all forms of intervention for other sectors of the economy; and urging a replication of such interventions for road transportation in the country. He specifically requested for “Special Intervention Fund” for players in the transportation sector to enable them renew and maintain vehicles. No doubt, the NARTO official’s claim is significant because serious accidents have been recorded when vehicles swerve to avoid potholes that have rendered the highways unmotorable.
It is true, nonetheless that transportation business needs to be re-orientated from its present all-comers affair status and regulated more strictly. Road transport owners should be more discriminatory in recruiting drivers; it is not enough to know how to drive. People of proven moral rectitude and with competent driving school training or certificate should exclusively enjoy the privilege of driving on the highways. It is also the responsibility of government, to enthrone sound technology-managed equipments that will help to mark out vehicles that violate highway codes and those that lack road worthiness. This is imperative. Good technology will not only detect wonky vehicles on our roads, it will save lives and ensure smoother flow of traffic.
Above all, in so far as road remains one of the major means of transportation, there is need to be consistent and strict in enforcing traffic rules. And drivers must willingly observe all rules. When all stakeholders play their part, incidents of road traffic crashes will reduce.