Ever since I wrote my article on: Alcohol And Road Accidents In Nigeria, published on my blog (http://briefsfromakuta.blogspot.com) and other national and international media outlets, many road accidents have occurred. Thisday newspaper of 10th October 2009 online version, reported that about 70 people were killed in a multiple road accident that occurred at Umunya junction in Oyi local government area of Anambra State . The bigger picture came when Thisday newspaper of 24th October 2009 online version, reported the total number of road accidents in Nigeria as obtained from the Federal Road Safety Commission (F.R.S.C.).
Quoting Thisday newspaper (online version) of 24th October 2009, “The number of reported cases of road accidents on the country’s highways has reached 8,553 between January and first week of October. According to a road traffic situation update obtained by THISDAY from the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in Abuja, about 4,120 persons lost their lives while 20,975 other were seriously injured in the fatal accidents that involved 11,031 vehicles across the nations”. By any standard or measurements, these figures are too high. I am not sure that our country can sustain this number of deaths occasioned by road accidents. Therefore, this is a drastic situation that needs drastic action. Nigerians, the Federal Road Safety Commission, the Nigerian Police, private and commercial transport companies, and all road users have a role to play to minimize road accidents. But the Federal Road Safety Commission has more roles to play.
As a suggestion and armed with figures above on death caused by road accidents, the Federal Road Safety Commission should push for legislation that will set up approved speed limits in urban roads, rural road, and high ways/express ways. The same legislation should outline stiff penalties on offenders and authorize the Federal Road Safety Commission to use speed cameras and other means to catch offenders. Then the next stage should be enforcement. As a starting point, the Federal Road Safety Commission should introduce the use of mobile speed cameras.
There are many types of mobile speed cameras that could be fixed on the road safety vehicles. The Federal Road Safety Commission should combine this process with massive awareness campaign on the introduction of these devices. They can mount these cameras on both unmarked vehicles and marked vehicles. This is a highly effective method to control speeding by motorists. Speed camera was originally invented by Maurice Gatsonides in the 1950,s as a technology for automatic speed measurement of vehicles. This was hijacked for speed control purposes by the authorities in Netherlands .
The mobile speed cameras are portable, such that it could be moved from one point to another. It can be hidden behind a parked vehicle or inside a vehicle. Other types of mobile speed cameras can also be carried by hand. All that the road safety officers need to do is to mount this camera and station their officers few meters away to stop any one caught over speeding. This is not rocket science. It is a very simple technology used by all developed and developing countries. Nigerians should ask for these devices to enforce speed limits. Accidents can kill and devastate people. I understand that speeding alone is not the only cause of road accidents in Nigeria . But if we can enforce speed limits and apply the recommendations on my article on; Alcohol And Road Accidents In Nigeria then we might see some reductions on road mishaps.
It is very much in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians that speeding is controlled on all roads. The whole idea will be to reduce to the lowest minimum, the rates of road accidents. Private and commercial transporters should enforce speed limits. I remember traveling on ABC Transport and on stopping at Benin , we were giving questionnaires to answer if the driver was speeding and how he drove. This practice should be sustained. Let other transporters device a means of enforcing speed limits on their drivers. Firstly, let passengers know that there is a speed limit applicable. This might help reduce pressure from passengers asking drivers to go faster.
Next advice to the Federal Road Safety Commission should be to ask all driving instructors in Nigeria to register with them. Refresher courses and leaflets should be handed to them. Fitness test should be carried out on them. The Federal Road Safety Commission should produce an updated driving code which every driving instructor should buy. All vehicles for driving schools should be examined and certified by road safety officials. All driving schools should be registered and recognized by the road safety commission. All new drivers should undergo health checks, theory test, and practical test before being allowed to drive. As a way to avoid manipulation, I suggest that the theory test should be online so that the road safety officials will not have a control over it. The practical test should be examined by road safety officials to be randomly selected through balloting. A candidate should be expected to pass all three tests (health checks, theory and practical tests). All parts of the driving test should carry equal marks.
I know that the Federal Road Safety Commission has enough personnel to undertake the above tasks. Otherwise they can call for volunteers whom they should be able to give references as having acquired a working experience from them. Alternatively, the road safety commission can contract out some of these responsibilities to reputable Nigerian companies. I suggest a change of our driving license to a bio-metric system, whereby people should give their finger prints and complete details. The same methods that, the immigration is using to issue the new international passport. The Federal Road Safety Commission, the Nigerian Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other law enforcement agencies can share date base together.
The idea of bio-metric driving license is to avoid obtaining driving licenses by proxy. It will make it easier to track road traffic offenders. It will also help to fight other types of crime. This takes me to another article that I wrote; Reforming Police and Policing Reforms, in that article, I argued for the police to start taking finger prints of suspects. I wish to quote a part of the article here; “DNA fingerprinting will be a valuable tool in the fight against crimes in Nigeria . It will help in investigating cases. Similar technology has been deployed before by the Nigerian government during the registration of ID card scheme. The current e-passport system in Nigeria takes our finger prints. So what the government needs to do is to transfer the national database to the police or the police can share this data base with all relevant government departments. So as soon as a suspect is caught, the DNA fingerprinting should be taken and stored or checked with the ones already in the system”.
Let’s remember that DNA samples are very useful to identify the culprits and the guilty. It also helps to exonerate the innocent. The road safety commission should not forget to come up with vehicle carbon emission level in Nigeria . They (FRSC) should turn the above information with others into decisions. With will, determination, and vision, the road safety commission can accomplish this project. We should remember that no society or country will develop without making efforts. If we don’t do anything, we have to accept what happens. But if we act, we have a chance to improve things.
Finally, I wish to appeal to Nigerians to participate and join the fight against global warming. Turn off your electrical appliances/lights when not in use. Plant a tree or sponsor one to plant on your behalf. Government and companies should send less paper work and do more email, telephone, and sms. May God bless Nigeria .
Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK