By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim
Towards the end of February 2020, the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Public Education Officer, Mr Bisi Kazeem said that FRSC will no longer condone plying roads with two passengers on the front seat of commercial vehicles across the country. He stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja. I was happy when I read the news but it should have come earlier than now. But it is better late than never. Still, the FRSC should do more. Saying this will not be enough. They have to implement it along with other laws too.
I am writing this because I was a member of the Road and Environmental Safety Club during my high school days. And also had represented Gombe High School in the National Safety Competition 2017 at the state level where my school emerged as the champion. So I think I know something small about safety on our roads that if shared will be of benefit to the public.
I am not saying that the FRSC corps are not doing their job. We all know that they give their contributions whenever an accident occurs. And this is one of their mandates. However, they should have to ensure more safety on our roads. We know that some states like Kaduna, Kano, Gombe and etc have KASTLEA, KAROTA, and Marshalls to aid MTD in regulating traffic within cities.
Daily, lives and properties are lost on Nigerian roads. It is known to almost those who ply Nigerian roads using commercial vehicles that two passengers are carried on the front seat. Doing such discomforts the passenger in the middle if not both of the two. Most importantly, the driver in some cases finds it difficult to change gear if the car is manual.
Driving in Nigeria is turning to something one does the way he likes. Despite the fact that the Nigerian Highway Code clearly stated how one should behave while using the road. The Highway Code stated that a road user should assume he is the only sane person on the road. Going by this, if everyone will adhere to it, fewer accidents will be recorded.
However, designing the Highway Code by FRSC is not enough. We know Nigerians and people, in general, don’t like abiding by laws until they are forced to. Also, it must be taken into consideration that it is not every driver that can read. Therefore not all drivers have read the Nigerian Highway Code. So there is a strong need to enforce traffic laws.
I know FRSC can do more and so FRSC should do more. FRSC should go beyond working in cities, telling drivers to fasten their seat belts. I will like to suggest that they should go to parks and ensure that all passengers officially disembarked on their designated places and the vehicle is not overloaded.
From Kano-Zaria, for instance, drivers overload vehicles before plying the road. Even as small as Golf car, not even the wagon, they put two passengers in the front seat and four in the back seat. One is left in a dilemma on where he should sit because both of the two are not going to be comforting.
Notwithstanding, even as far as Kano-Gombe and vice versa they carry two passengers in the front seat in Sharon and Golf wagon vehicles. The distance, time of the journey doesn’t concern them. All they care about is to get money. Safety may not be their concern as well.
The most annoying of all is a situation I witnessed where a golf wagon driver conveyed three passengers plus himself, making a total of four in the two front seats and the same number in the back seat with others inside the boot. That’s not just the point I am trying to make but the way the driver was discomforted and of course everyone in the vehicle. He has to be given more attention because he was carrying people’s lives and not animals. How would the seat design for the driver be occupied by two persons while moving on a highway? I think even the person that sits there should be arrested by FRSC if caught and not only the driver.
This habit before is known amongst Motorcycle riders, popularly called okada riders. They can convey four on one and they don’t care. The rider too looks not comfortable from the way he sits on his bike’s tank, holds the handlebar. Like that he rides hiding from traffic officers now MTD not thinking that he and his passengers are doing that at the risk of their lives and not MTDs lives.
I will implore the FRSC corps to go beyond what they are currently doing now. It is one of their mandates to clear obstructions on highway roads as stated in the Nigerian Highway Code. But they don’t fully implement it these days. And people are using this opportunity to cause an unnecessary traffic jam for the majority on roads by displaying their goods for sale, selling sugarcane on the road, wrong parking amongst others.
Even though that traffic offenders know where FRSC corps operate and therefore avoid such zones, FRSC should be changing operation location time to time in order to deal with traffic offenders.
We all should know that when our roads are safer, there will be fuller life. So safety should always be first. FRSC and all road users have different roles to play. FRSC are therefore urged to do all the needful.