Barely three months before the Christmas festival, Nigerians, particularly those who will embark on journeys by road during the festive period, are already worried and concerned about the rising spate of accidents on the roads.
This followed a report by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, in August that Nigeria lost 24 lives daily between January and June this year.
The cumulative number of lives lost within the first six months of the year, according to the FRSC, is 4, 387, a figure that translates to an average of 731 fatalities each month or about 24 lives lost daily.
Prior to the August report, the Commission, had in April, disclosed that 1,349 people were killed in road accidents between January 1 and April 12 this year.
According to the April report, 2,463 crashes occurred during the period. The FRSC further said the crash involved 3,965 vehicles conveying 16,102 people, and out of that number, 1,349 people were killed, while 7,744 got injured.
The FRSC Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, who noted that the road crashes happened within the 36 states of Nigeria plus the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, said: “From January to June, a total of 4,387 people were killed as a result of road traffic crashes. The Corps also recorded 14,108 injuries from the crashes within the same period.”
A checklist of a few major road crashes since the beginning of this year, lends credence to the authenticity of the FRSC’s worrisome report.
In January 2023, a tragic motor accident claimed the lives of 18 people and injured about 40 others in Illela Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
The accident involved a truck carrying passengers and a herd of cattle.
On Sunday, January 28, no fewer than 11 persons were also roasted to death when a truck collided with a commercial passenger bus in Ondo State. The accident which happened on Soka Bridge, along the Benin-Ore Expressway in the Odigbo Local Government Area of the State, was blamed on ‘one-way driving.’
Again, on March 26 and 27, two separate road accidents happened in Kebbi State. The first one on March 26 occurred in Liba, near Gonan Rogo in Kebbi State, while the second one on March 27, happened in the state’s Bunza region.
According to the Kebbi State Command of the FRSC, 35 lives were lost in both accidents, while 40 people were rescued with several others sustaining deadly injuries.
On Saturday, April 8, more than 15 people were burnt to death in an auto-crash along the Port Harcourt-Enugu highway in Enugu State.
According to an official statement from the FRSC, the victims were burnt beyond recognition in the accident which occurred at about 8:20 pm. The vehicles involved in the crash were an 18-seater Toyota bus and a Mercedes truck.
On Thursday, April 13, seven passengers were burnt to death, when a commercial bus caught fire on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The FRSC officials said seven of the 27 passengers were burnt beyond recognition.
In a related development, the FRSC said 24 persons were killed, while 354 others sustained injuries in road crashes in Gombe State between January and March 2023.
Everyday, people lose their lives on the road as a result of accidents. Life has become so cheap in Nigeria that it is wasted with reckless abandon on the roads and nobody is being held responsible for that.
The sight of charred, and sometimes, roasted bodies of human beings on major highways no longer generate goose pimples, neither does it arouse any iota of horror in the minds of onlookers because it has become a commonplace phenomenon. It has been accepted as a way of life because people will quickly attribute such incidents to the will of God. Critical populations of Nigerians, ranging from the children, the youth to the aged, are wasted daily on our roads.
Although Nigeria prides itself as the giant of Africa, available statistics have shown that other countries on the continent do not record such a high number of deaths from road accidents in their respective countries.
Recent study of road accident trends in Nigeria between the period 1960 and 1989 revealed a sharp increase in fatal accident occurrence. Between 1960 and 1969, it was observed that over 18,000 deaths occurred as a result of road accidents. But, between 1980 and 1989, the figure had increased to about five times, that is more than 92,000 deaths, which when broken down into further fraction will amount to more than 10, 000 deaths per annum. Today, we are talking about 12, 000 deaths per annum.
From the available data, which could best be regarded as conservative estimates, Nigeria has a serious and growing road accident problem that is about the worst in the world. Between 1971 and 1985, which is a period of 15 years, legislative and other measures adopted by the government to combat the ugly trend, proved ineffective. And so, in 1988, the Federal Road Safety Commission was established to control road accidents in Nigeria.
But, with the establishment of FRSC and its much-touted efforts to stem the increasing rate of road accidents, the scourge seems to be on the increase year in, year out. So, the questions that agitate the minds of Nigerians are: “What are we not doing right? Why has the road accident rate been rising every year? How can it be curtailed to the barest minimum?”
The FRSC’s spokesperson, Kazeem, said the Commission had deployed various strategies, including motorised patrol along the critical corridors as part of the strategies to combat road crashes.
“These sets of patrol operatives play a key role in speed control to halt speed-related crashes on the highways. Our operational activities have been given an adequate boost through the injection of new vehicles for enhanced visibility on the highways and to enforce compliance by all road users.
“The public enlightenment aspect is also being enhanced. Of course, you are aware of the establishment of the National Traffic Radio 107.1 FM, an FRSC-owned station brought to life to boost existing platforms for the education, enlightenment, sensitisation and provision of real time traffic update to the mass population of road users,” he stated.
Kazeem equally stated that at present, the Commission is undergoing a massive expansion of the Command base to meet expectations.
He said the expansion would usher in more highway patrol teams, more roadside clinics for prompt rescue services, and adequate deployment of tow trucks for speedy removal of obstructions.
“Our personnel have also been subjected to continuous capacity building to enhance professionalism, competence, and ease of doing business in the workplace,” he stated.
He said the Commission had strengthened 122 as its toll-free number to accommodate the volume of calls that come in daily, even as it had also beefed up response time for quick intervention.
“Road traffic fatalities and injuries have emerged as a challenge in the country, and Nigeria has been addressing the problem over time. The absence of an effective road safety policy and strategy for the country and problems among relevant agencies compounded the road crash pandemic in Nigeria over the years,” Kazeem said.
Checks by the DAILY POST revealed that the major causes of road accidents could either be road condition, vehicle condition or human factor.
Much as other factors also contribute to accidents on our roads, experts are of the opinion that the condition of roads is a major contributory factor, at least in Nigeria.
From east to west, north to south, the story is the same; the roads are generally bad. The roads across the country are so bad to a point that sometimes, potholes as deep as three feet dot our major highways. A lot of accidents happen as a result of cars unexpectedly running into these ditches, and when such accidents occur, it is always very fatal with a high casualty figure.
Checks equally revealed that most vehicles in Nigeria are rarely serviced and even when they are services, it is not done by authorised manufacturer’s service agents, or by people who have access to the manufacturer’s service manuals.
A lot of improvisations, therefore, go into vehicle maintenance. The serviceable parts are also not reliably supplied by the authorised manufacturer’s agents. These fake parts, it is believed, tend to give way in the least expected of situations, leading to accidents.
The human element, according to investigation, comprises the government and its agencies like the FRSC, Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS), and the Ministry of Transport, drivers and corporate bodies. They have all failed to live up to their respective biddings as far as reducing road accidents is concerned.
It has been known that the ease with which driver’s licence is procured in Nigeria calls for serious concerns, and needs urgent scrutiny. People who don’t know anything about driving easily get the licence at the licensing office as long as they have the cash. It does not matter whether the person knows how to drive or not so long as the person can afford the kickback.
This has increased the number of accidents on the roads because the resultant effect is that unskilled drivers are seen plying major roads.
Games transport companies play
DAILY POST investigation showed that some of the transport companies in Nigeria are in the habit of paying their drivers based on how many trips they were able to go, say from Onitsha or Benin to Lagos, every day. This practice is called ‘Pay as You go’ among drivers. This system is unhealthy, and it contributes to high carnage on the highway because most of them will try to go on as many trips as possible to make more money, forgetting that they are human beings who have a limit to the level their system can operate without resting.
Investigation also revealed that the use of second hand vehicle tyros, popularly called ‘Tokunbo tyros,’ contribute a great deal to road accidents.
Speaking on the life-span of tyres, Chief Eze Chukwuma, who is a dealer on vehicle tyres in Maza-Maza area of Lagos told our correspondent that the average lifespan of a new tyre is four years, but regretted that most tokunbo tyres are way up to 10 years.
He said that even the new tyres that burst sometimes are because they have stayed for more than four years after production without being used.
But, Pius Akwashiki, a driver with one of the major transport companies in Nigeria will not extricate the FRSC from the sundry road accidents, even as he blamed the government for bad roads across the country.
He said accidents will continue to be on the increase as long as there are no statistics of drivers who have been involved in road accidents more than two times.
He said what happens is that when most reckless drivers get involved in road accidents with their vehicle, what the transport company normally does is just to sack them. They will then seek appointment with another transport company that is unaware of their past driving records.
They get involved in another accident and they are fired and they move to another company. The journey continues and they keep wasting people’s lives on the highway.
Meanwhile, the FRSC equally said it was collaborating with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to ensure adequate compensation for road crash victims and prosecution of drivers and their employers whose activities on the road lead to road users’ injury.
A statement on Tuesday, April 4, by the FRSC spokesman, Kazeem described the partnership as a concerted effort to ensure that victims of road crashes were duly compensated through established legal processes.
He said the organisations finalised the agreement to collaborate during a courtesy visit of the Corps Marshal, Dauda Biu, to the president of the NBA, Yakubu Maikyau.
Prosecution of drivers involved in accidents
The FRSC said it had started preparations to prosecute drivers involved in accidents, which resulted in the loss of lives.
In line with the plan, the FRSC will prosecute drivers involved in the Liba and Bunza fatal crashes in Kebbi State earlier in the year.
Biu disclosed that the prosecution would protect passengers’ rights and deter other traffic violators.
Speaking on the solution to incessant road carnage, Mr. Akwashiki advised that all government agencies from the FRSC, VIS to the Ministry of Transport will have to brace up to their responsibilities.
He condemned a situation where persons who are inexperienced are given driver’s licence simply because they could pay for it.
In a bid to enforce all the road safety laws, he pointed out that the FRSC should also get modern equipment that could assist them in detecting drivers who are drunk and still driving.
“Government should also do its bidding by ensuring that our major highways are devoid of potholes. The VIS should stop taking kickbacks and make sure that vehicles that are not road worthy are marked ‘off road,’” he submitted
Akwashiki also suggested that if the FRSC could have a data bank of all the drivers that have been involved in road accidents for two or three times and publish such names in the national newspapers so that other transport owners will not hire them, it would be a major step towards reducing road carnage.
Also trying to proffer solutions, a security analyst, Emeka Okoro, said although Nigeria’s road traffic fatality rate had reduced dramatically in recent years, it was still relatively high when compared to the reported World Health Organisation estimates.
He noted that driving on Nigeria’s roads network could be risky and arduous as large parts have broken down and others ridden with potholes due to neglect.
“Indeed, apart from many of the highways littered with craters, driving at night is comparable to walking through a dark alley because of the lack of street lights.
“The absence of proper road safety and poor management of roads remain the basis of road accidents which regularly occur at some flash points, such as sharp bends, potholes, and at bad sections of the highways.
“At such points, over-speeding drivers usually find it difficult to control their vehicles, resulting in fatal traffic accidents, especially at night. This, for me, is the fundamental reason for the high rate of deaths reported by the FRSC,” he said.
Okoro said that in response to the United Nations’ decade of action for road safety, the FRSC launched a “safe road in Nigeria” to reduce road crash deaths and injuries by 50 percent by 2030.
He said the campaign was based more on changing driving behaviour than advocating for good road infrastructure.
He added that the FRSC has stepped up the campaign in Nigeria to ensure that these objectives are met by strengthening legislation and enforcement in drunk driving, speeding, seat belt use, education/training and enforcement.
He said that since road safety is primarily the responsibility of governments, road accidents could be reduced by providing basic conditions and services.
He added that stakeholders must seek collaboration among the public and private sectors, academia, professional organizations, nongovernmental organizations and the media to move towards a country free from road traffic fatalities and serious injuries.