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Bad tyres: ‘There’ll be enforcement after months of warning’

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Handling or manhandling...A tyre ‘specialist’ at work

Handling or manhandling…A tyre ‘specialist’ at work

Hyginus Omeje is the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Lagos State. He lets PAUL ADUNWOKE in on the Commission’s Know Your Tyre campaign, aimed at educating motorists on the dangers of fairly used or expired tyres, and why our good old vulcanisers might be putting our tyres and by extension, our lives, at risk.

What’s the idea behind the campaign?
Most vulcanisers do not have formal education. There is no institution recognised as school of vulcanisers. Everything about vulcanisers comes through apprenticeship. Some of these people are dropouts. It is a trade that is passed down from one person to another. You find a small boy, who ought to be in school, learning the trade. He buys his own equipment and becomes vulcaniser. And that settles it. We are sensitising the motoring public on the need to know the PSI of their tyres. With that at the back of their minds, whenever they go to gauge their tyres, they can tell the vulcaniser the correct gauge.

What’s the best way to achieve good tyre pressure?
We have noticed equipment failure. As people import sub-standard tyres and other auto parts, they also import sub-standard gauges. The question is: how reliable is the tyre pressure gauge vulcanisers use? This is what every motorist needs to ask himself, and which is why we started the campaign. It is high time people started buying tyre pressure gauges.

We have personal hand-held gauges you can buy and use in measuring your tyre pressure. The guide is on the seat belt or a sticker on the door side. The best time to check tyres is in the morning before the vehicle moves two kilometres. Thereafter, atmospheric pressure expands with the heat of the day making any other check inaccurate.

What’s the cost of a pressure gauge?
There are two types: clock and metal pen. Vulcanisers commonly use the latter. The pen type comes in two grades, and is sold for N2000 and above. The digital gauge costs about N4,000.

It is important that when you are doing what we call ‘first parade’ in the morning – checking your oil, water, electrical appliances, battery terminals etc – you use your personal pressure equipment to gauge the tyres.

As matter of fact, there are very portable hand-held inflators you can purchase and keep in the car. When you check your vehicle in the morning and notice a need to increase the tyre pressure, you can put it to use.

Watch the vulcaniser. After inflating your tyre, he hits it with his hand. You may ask why. The next time, he hits it again and says, ‘It’s okay.’ It’s just to satisfy you psychologically. Whether the pressure gauge is good or not, he doesn’t care. We had a case where we asked a vucaniser to inflate a tyre to 30 PSI. But when we used our hand-held gauge, it turned out to be 45 PSI. This is a cause of road crashes.

How far has the FRSC gone in enforcing ban on the use of Tokunbo tyres?
What we are doing, now, is enlightenment because the Corps Marshal said we should not do enforcement at the moment. We are sensitising Nigerians because we discover that there are gaps we need to bridge before we begin enforcement. If we commence enforcement now, it would be as if we want to add to people’s suffering. We already know that the nation’s economy is tight. But I believe that after this enlightenment, everybody would go for standard tyres because I don’t know why anyone would want to joke with his or her life.

We educate people on the dangers of using Tokunbo tyres. We stop them on the road and show them things they ought to know about their tyres. If they are expired or worn, you know it is time to buy new ones. We want Nigerians to take proactive measures to avoid crashes caused by the use of Tokunbo tyres.
What’s the compliance level so far?

It is generating interest. Every time I’m on air, I hear people’s comments, suggesting we take it to the grassroots. We are doing our best, to reach everybody. People are going to change their tyres voluntarily. I’m very happy because it is opening our eyes to many things. Once you use a tyre for four years, any other additional year is a gamble with your life. The more recent the year of manufacture, the better it is for the user.

Again, the way dealers store tyres is not good. Tyres should be stored in racks; not piled one on the other without ventilation. Piling them in warehouses makes them deteriorate.

What is the position of the FRSC on importation of Tukunbo tyres?
You have to know that importation of such tyres has been banned since 1978. Anybody who brings them into the country is sabotaging the economy. We partner with Customs and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to seize them, because we do not have power, constitutionally, to arrest anybody. With this campaign, we believe that people would be enlightened. If there is no buyer, there will be no seller. After many months of campaigning, we are going to arrest violators because, if we don’t, it would bounce back on us.


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