TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF FEDERAL ROAD SAFETY CAMPAIGN IN NIGERIA
By Hauwa Abu Anaja
For many people the world over, 25 years of the existence of anything at all is indeed, something worth celebrating. The silver jubilee affords the celebrants an opportunity to take stock of the past to the present time, with a view to improving on the strategies for the future.
In Nigeria, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Federal Road Safety Corps, otherwise known as FRSC.
Rather than roll out the drums in celebration of sustaining its existence over the past twenty-five years, the FRSC marked its silver jubilee with an international conference that saw experts on road safety management from around the world converge on Abuja. The aim was to share ideas and proffer workable and sustainable measures to challenges of road safety policies, enforcement and maintenance.
At the conference, Corps Marshal of the FRSC, Osita Chidoka noted that at twenty five, the agency had successfully met its objective of exploring the possibility of attaining safer road use and ethics across the country.
Chidoka's submission is assessable. From when the FRSC was established in 1988 by the then government of General Ibrahim Babangida, statistical data of road safety across Nigeria was abysmal to say the least. The data collated over the years in review indicated that road use and ethics was very low with most of the offences recorded ranging from the non-use of seat belts, over-loading, paper-written driver's licence, to the general disregard for traffic rules, over-speeding, driving under influence, among others.
According to statistics generated by the FRSC, accident rates at the time of the agency's inception in 1988 were put at over twenty five thousand cases yearly. This situation led to the World Health Organisation ranking Nigeria, alongside Ethiopia as having the highest records of road traffic crashes in sub-Saharan Africa. While the early years of the FRSC recorded only a minimal reduction in road casualties, twenty five years down the line, the success stories are beginning to pour in.
As of the year ended 2012, statistics have shown that road accidents across Nigeria have reduced from over twenty five thousand cases in 1988, to less than five thousand, that is about eighty five percent decrease in road accidents. In addition, the FRSC has successfully revived the spirit of seatbelt usage, begun an electronic or e-vehicle registration and licensing process, hailed across West Africa as among the best in the entire region.
The strategic deployment of FRSC patrol officers along highways has significantly helped to curb the neglect of road signs and traffic rules. This and the imposition of stiff financial penalties on traffic offenders have greatly helped to deter recurrence on the part of the offenders.
These and other similar strategies employed by the FRSC have earned the agency a new ranking, with observers citing Nigeria's FRSC as one of the leading road safety agencies championing the cause of road safety management in Africa, worthy of emulation.
While the dedication and efforts of the officers and Marshals of the FRSC are nothing but commendable, the attainment of the UN declaration on road safety, which envisages the curbing of highway accidents by the year 2020, can only become a reality when road users and drivers embrace the proper ethical attitudes.
A conscious effort of maintaining discipline and abiding by the internationally agreed traffic rules would no doubt bring about the desired safety throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria's over two hundred thousand kilometre road network.
Going by the current statistics of the FRSC, about eighty percent of accidents in Nigeria are caused by over speeding, with reckless driving accounting for about sixty percent.
Five thousand deaths and over 20,000 injuries due to road accidents each year is simply an unacceptable figure. It can and must be brought much lower, as well as sustained for a greater Nigeria.
Broadcast on Friday February 22, 2013
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