Roads: Nigeria’s Serial Killer

August 2, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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By

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

 

 

It will scare one to the marrow to learn about the rate at which accidents occur on our roads. The frequency at which people perish in road accidents is disturbing, to say the least.

 

Our roads, especially highways, are gradually turning into merciless agents of death. They claim lives and property on a daily basis. Many have been orphaned, some have been widowed and others have been confined to their beds by this social menace.

 

Very few in Nigeria pay attention to this danger except when their families are involved. The bereaved mourn their dead in the silent crevices of their rooms, only to be forgotten a moment later.

 

Despite the formation of a road traffic accident control agency – the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) – in 1988, (a body charged with the responsibility of REDUCING road accidents to the barest minimum), the growing danger posed by frequent road accidents is still alarming in Nigeria. However, the move seems to be a misadventure, going by the incessant rise in the number of accidents on our roads.

 

This issue of a high rate of road accidents is making headlines in our media today. Sometimes it even enjoys the honour of the front page, with pictures of mangled bodies supporting the news, readers, travelers and traffic agencies accustomed to it.

 

Sounds of ambulance sirens conveying victims following a traffic accident to hospital and the sight of people crowding around the maimed bodies of victims are regular. Alas! – deep down the mind of almost every traveler by road in this country is a volcano of fear erupting out of uncertainty of what will his/her lot be in the course of his/her journey. And nobody knows who the next victim is.

 

A report released by the Federal Road Safety Corps published by the Premium Times in April, 2018, said that 456 people died and 3,404 others were injured in 826 accidents nationwide, in January alone. The number of deaths and injuries resulting from road accidents was said to be falling according to the report, compared to what it was last year.

 

According to the Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Boboye Oyeyemi, the Corps have taken some measures that diminished the number of road accidents from 25,792 to 8,477 in the country this year.

 

However, road accidents may be inevitable. In some cases, even a careful, prudent and law-abiding road user may become a victim. But knowing the causes and trying one’s best to avoid them can save lives.

 

Bad roads: these death traps have been causing many accidents in Nigeria. Successive governments in Nigeria have failed woefully to address the deplorable condition of major roads almost all over the country.

 

For example, about five months ago, 22 students and a teacher died in a road accident. An eighteen-seater bus that was conveying them from Misau local Government area of Bauchi State to a radio station in Kano State on excursion had a head-on collision with another bus carrying tomatoes in an attempt to escape a pothole.

 

It might have caused another road accident or two. The reckless drivers are still driving at higher speed and motorists have gone back to business as usual.

 

Imagine sending one’s son or daughter to school only for that innocent person to be brought back home dead. What will the reaction be? Of course, it can be traumatic to say the least.

 

Most of our roads are potholed. On 10th July, 2018, the Daily Trust reported on a photo of a pothole that looked like a Nigerian map, the pothole soon going viral on social media.

 

Many of the citizens were reacting to the viral picture hilariously. But to a critical thinker, what comes to mind is the number of lives and property the pothole might have claimed.

 

Most of our interstate highways are like this. Recently a professional driver told me that one can hardly increase his highway cruising speed beyond 60 mph on Kano to Lagos roads because of the ubiquitous potholes and the narrowness of the roads.

 

Reckless driving: this wanton disregard of traffic rules and flagrant non-compliance with driving procedures are common among drivers today. Two things come to my mind on this:

 

While both commercial bus drivers and private car owners engage in these negative attitudes of driving, the recklessness of tanker/trailer drivers cannot be overemphasized. There have been deep concerns on the rise of road crashes caused by tanker/trailer drivers.

 

A fatal tanker accident on Otedola Bridge along Lagos-Ibadan Express Way is still in my mind. A Muck truck loaded with about 33,000 litres of fuel burst and went into flames. The official number of deaths was 9 and about 54 vehicles burnt to ashes. This is one out of thousands of examples of such fatal accidents that have caused wanton loss of lives and property in recent times.

 

In addition to this, my principal once told me how a driver of a sidecar (a three-wheeled vehicle), who was not paying any attention to other vehicles on the road, hit his car hard and burst his tire, when the former was in a multi-lane roundabout on his way back home from the office. The saddest part of it was that the pal claimed innocence, when said principal requested a fairly discounted settlement without an external intervention.

 

Poor vehicle maintenance: unfortunately very few road users make sure their vehicles are in good condition before they start using them. Failure to carry out regular maintenance like changing the engine oil, replacing the oil filter or inspecting brakes have contributed to high death tolls due to road accidents.

 

About a year ago, my friend’s neighbour, who was the only child to his mother, died in a road accident alongside his mother because the brake pedal of the bus they were on went to the floor. It is likely the brake fluid had finished. The rest is a story.

 

Unfavourable weather: many drivers, especially the commercial ones, insist on driving even though, sometimes, they are dog tired or the weather is bad.

 

A tanker driver narrated to me how he escaped a deadly accident by the skin of his teeth because he was dozing off behind the wheel. He later confided in me as to how many drivers died because they insisted on driving when it was raining heavily or because they were driving in a strong wind.

 

Although Road Safety Vision 2020, introduced by the federal government, is underway to make Nigerian roads much safer, as the Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem claimed, some stringent measures should be put in place to address the rise in road crashes in the country.

 

The Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and state road maintenance agencies should live up to their promises by repairing failed portions of roads and de-silting of drainages to prevent ponding and flooding, especially during the rainy season.

 

Strict regulations should be put in place by the Federal Road Safety Corps and state traffic agencies to curb the rise of road crashes, especially by enforcing laws against violations. This will first take off by banning unqualified drivers from driving without passing through rigorous tests and securing licenses as was the case in the past when VIOs were doing their official duties more diligently.

 

Seminars and workshops should be organized to educate the corps. Programmes should be sponsored to enlighten road users, especially commercial ones on traffic rules and regulations, as many of them become drivers and hit the road overnight.

 

 

 

 

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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