Posted by News Express | 16 August 2021 | 637 times
ROAD traffic deaths and injuries remain abnormally high in Nigeria. Frequently, scores of commuters suffer disability in auto crashes; others are killed, or burnt alive before help could reach them. Many are crushed to death on their way to work, school, farm or on their way home. The time of the day does not matter, but night trips are more hazardous because of the country’s dilapidated highways.
One such accident occurred in late July during an unforgiving night trip, incinerating five young graduates on their way to the National Youth Service Corps orientation camp in Abuja. They had embarked on the journey to answer the call of a country where life has become shockingly cheap because preventable deaths are now commonplace.
The numbers are devastating. The World Health Organisation avers that road traffic accidents cost low- and middle-income countries between 1.0 and 2.0 per cent of their Gross National Product annually, more than the development aid the countries receive. In the first three quarters of 2018, the Federal Road Safety Corps put the economic losses to road traffic crashes at N9.8 billion. That is colossal.
Data by the FRSC and the National Bureau of Statistics paint a frightening reality. Figures from the agencies put Nigeria’s road casualty average at 33.7 per 100,000 people annually. This is tragically grim. This translated to 5,539 deaths in 2013; 4,430 fatalities in 2014; 5,400 in 2015; 5,053 in 2016; 5,049 for 2017; 5,181 in 2018; and 5,483 in 2019.
It means 15 persons dying daily in road traffic crashes, or four persons every six hours, or 426 per month. These figures are terrifying. Apart from the accident that claimed the corps members, the roads have gone horribly wrong for Nigerians this year. Major RTCs have claimed lives repeatedly in Oyo, Anambra, Osun, Niger, Ondo, Lagos, Bauchi, Katsina and Zamfara states this year. In Jibya, Katsina State, a Nigeria Customs Service vehicle crushed eight persons on the roadside as it chased suspected smugglers a few days ago. In Ibadan, Oyo State, two siblings sitting the ongoing National Examination Council School Certificate and others were crushed to death at a bus stop.
Tentative data from 2020 revealed no fewer than 4,918 fatalities in auto accidents. This might have been mitigated by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic early in 2020 in Nigeria. With a lockdown for long periods, travel was restricted; many people worked from home and social functions were pared. But as these activities resumed, 204 persons were killed in RTCs, including 22 persons who perished in an accident in Apata, Kogi State, in January 2021. That month also saw the death of the Chief of Protocol to the Ondo State Governor on the Ilesa-Akure Highway, 21 deaths on January 12 in Niger and Oyo states, 37 deaths on January 10 in Bauchi and Nasarawa states, and six persons on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway at Mowe. On January 23, a malfunctioning cement-laden truck crushed 15 persons, including some undergraduates, at the gate of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State. A woman reportedly died shortly after hearing that the accident claimed two of her sons attending the AAUA. But some incidents go unreported.
Comparatively, Nigeria’s road traffic deaths and injuries are some of the highest in any country. The global average stands at 17.4; the African average is 26.6 of 100,000 inhabitants, the International Transport Union states. Norway, which has the safest roads, has a 2.0 casualty rate per 100,000 persons. At 74.5 per 100,000, the ITU says Zimbabwe has the highest road death rate in the world.
The NBS blames crashes on “speed violation, wrongful overtaking, use of handsets while driving, dangerous overtaking and other factors.” It traced 47 per cent of accidents to speed violation; wrongful overtaking on 10 per cent of all accidents. That tells only half of the story.
In Nigeria, most of the highways are not motorable, filled with craters. The FRSC, the main public agency with the remit for road safety, appears unusually distracted, weak, shorthanded, and under-equipped. In traffic law enforcement, it is palpably deficient. The FRSC officers can be found in towns and cities, busying themselves with cars and looking the other way when tankers/trucks with worn-out tyres wreak havoc on the highways. Instead of controlling traffic during gridlock, officers concentrate on checking vehicle documents. This is a misplaced priority. Wrongly, this elevates revenue generation above road safety. In those periods, paramountcy ought to be attached to ridding the highway of bottlenecks.
Individual negligence on the part of drivers is excessive. Commercial drivers overload their rickety vehicles, engage in excessive speeding, and drive against the traffic (‘one-way’ in local parlance). Generally, the bad behaviour on Nigerian roads is intense – from lawless, reckless, and siren blaring VIPs to the impunity of the security and paramilitary personnel.
For now, the FRSC is too ineffective to stem the bloody tide. It has introduced many proposals like speed limiters, reflexive stickers, and helmets for riders without any tangible result. To overcome the nemesis, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), should reposition and refocus the FRSC. First, it should be insulated from politics and the drift towards giving too much priority to revenue generation. It should return to its core mandate of securing the roads and restoring professionalism within its ranks. Buhari should invest copiously in road safety, empowering the FRSC to enforce road safety laws, starting from the VIPs and down to the average motorist. It is then that the Federal Government should set realistic targets to reduce road crashes in the country.
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