DO FRSC ACTUALLY KEEP NIGERIAN ROADS SAFE?
by Imo-owo Mbede
Can we sincerely say that the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has been efficient at making Nigerian roads safer? I doubt. I would rather say that the FRSC is more efficient at extorting money from road users, as against its primary obligation of ensuring that our roads are safe for users.
A Federal Road Safety official pulls you over and demands to see your drivers' license, which I presume should certify your eligibility and authorization to drive. Unfortunately, the drivers' license does not prove whether or not one can drive – because till date I DO NOT REMEMBER EVER SEEING THE FRSC CONDUCTING DRIVING TESTS BEFORE ISSUING A DRIVERS' LICENSE. (They now do so through accredited driving schools, but that’s a very recent development – and as Nigerians, we know what that means….)
All the while, it was all about the money; for as long as you could afford it, the FRSC was more than willing to issue you a license (and so my blind uncle has a drivers’ license which is only useful when he needs to collect Western Union). The proliferation of fake drivers’ licenses within Road Safety’s ranks is testimony to this.
The Road Safety Corps has been efficient in checking for (vehicles without) caution triangles, spare tyres and fire extinguishers in vehicles; but how many times have the lack of these items been the cause of hazard to the road users? My friend's father once told a Road Safety Officer, "if fire enter my motor, na you e go burn?" And I was tempted to agree with him.
My thinking is that DRIVERS SHOULD BE SCHOOLED ON THE BENEFITS AND ADVISED TO OWN ONE – FOR THEIR GOOD – NOT PENALIZED!
Otherwise, why does the Road Safety Official let you go after booking (or extorting money from) you for not owning a caution triangle or fire extinguisher? Wouldn’t it make more sense if he ensured that you purchase one (or better still, SOLD one to you) before letting you off?
The FRSC checks to see if your car headlights, brake lights and turning indicator lights are functional. Good job. And if they are dysfunctional, the FRSC extorts money from you regardless of whether you fix the lighting system in the car.
And so I ask: WHAT IS THE SENSE IN MAKING MONEY OFF THE DRIVER OF THE VEHICLE WITH A FAULTY LIGHTING SYSTEM WHO ENDS UP ENDANGERING THE LIVES OF OTHER ROADS USERS WHEN HE DRIVES OUT THAT SAME CAR AT NIGHT?
Similarly, where is the FRSC at night to check those people who have difficulties seeing at night? What about the many people driving even with impaired vision during the day time? What is the Road Safety doing to ensure that such drivers are prevented from subsisting as the menace they pose to other road?
How about those overloaded trucks with yam and other food stuff which could actually fall-off on an oncoming vehicle? How about those trucks (on Benin-Asaba road for instance) that are so overloaded that they can barely ascend hilly roads, and end up descending towards on-coming vehicles? How about those emitting thick exhaust fumes and making visibility difficult for vehicles behind them?
How about those broken down lorries, trucks and trailers and the many accident vehicles lying for days to months on major highways, encroaching on other road users' space?
Imagine the beauty of having a 24 hour auto-repair service plying the roads to assist faulty vehicles. I'm sure these measures would be very viable sources of revenue while making the road truly safe for us all.
The FRSC has recently been armed with another tool for extortion – checking for expired tyres – after the unfortunate incident that claimed the life of a Minister and family. While this is supposed to be a welcome development (though the FRSC is as guilty of using expired tyres), I think it should also focus on the overall road worthiness of vehicles on Nigerian roads because more than half of the vehicles are used, imported ones.
Unfortunately, the FRSC has already pounced on road users even when they too are as guilty of using sub-standard tyres when emphasis should be laid on ensuring that tyres put up for sale to the public is of the best quality.
FRSC is supposed to be alive to its responsibility of ensuring Road Safety by liaising with appropriate authorities like the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to ensure that minimum road standards are maintained and that roads do not deteriorate to become the death traps that have become of the Benin-Ore road, Enugu-Owerri road, Itu-Calabar and many other such roads across the country.
I have actually witnessed a Road Safety Unit mount a checkpoint on a bad stretch on road which also had a broken down lorry in the middle of the road so all vehicles would be compelled to slow down. This was outright irresponsible and wicked because all too soon, a serious hold up ensued.
This is not intended to mask or absolve Nigerians of the road users of their susceptibility to breaking the law. Many drivers today learnt to drive by accident or, at best, informally and so many have limited knowledge of traffic rules. Others are just outright recalcitrant. I strongly believe however that, the FRSC should review its modus operandi and tend away from a punitive disposition.
If, with just uniforms, the Road Safety is so adept at extorting money from Nigerians, we should be grateful they do not carry guns...