– The Sun News
HIGHWAY ACCIDENTS

Bloody Highway: Statistics puts daily death on roads at 14

Sunday Ani

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has said that about 1,292 deaths were recorded from road accidents in the first quarter of 2018 in Nigeria. In its road transport data report released on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, the NBS said the figure represents an average of 14 deaths from auto crashes every day in three months across Nigeria.

According to the report, speed violation, tyre ruptures and dangerous driving were identified as the major causes of auto crashes, with speed violation as a leading factor.

Sometime in 2012, a group identified as Arrive Alive Road Safety Initiative (AARSI) also declared that 12,000 persons die annually in Nigeria as a result of road accidents. The group made the claim during a sensitization campaign organised by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).

A checklist of few major auto crashes in the last one month lends credence to both reports.

On Sunday, June 20 seven persons died in an auto crash along Hadejia-Kaugama Road in Jigawa State. The Jigawa State FRSC sector commander, Angus Ibezim, who confirmed the incident, said four persons also sustained various degrees of burns. The accident, which involved a Citreon car and a petrol tanker, was reportedly caused by over-speeding and poor visibility as a result of rainfall.

On Saturday, June 17, the lives of 11 youths were also wasted in Katsina State in a ghastly auto crash, which involved two vehicles. The state FRSC confirmed that the youths died in the accident while celebrating Sallah.

Again, on Saturday, June 10, a family of seven, and another passenger died while four others sustained injuries in an auto crash along the popular Ugwuonyeama on Enugu-Onitsha road, Enugu State. The family was travelling home in a Carina car when it collided with a Hiace bus belonging to a popular transport company.

“The driver of the Hiace bus was on high speed and as he tried to avoid potholes, he lost control and collided with the Toyota Carina, killing the seven occupants,” a witness said.

On the same day, five persons were killed in an auto crash along Lambata-Kwakuti road, in Gurara Local Government Area of Niger State.

The Niger State FRSC sector commander, Yusuf Garba, said the accident involved a white BMW car and a Scan truck. He added that all the five occupants of the car died in the incident.

Lives are frequently lost through road accidents on daily and nobody is being held responsible. The sight of charred bodies of human beings on the highways no longer generates goose pimples, neither does it arouse any iota of horror in the minds of onlookers because it has become a common- place phenomenon. It has been accepted as a way of life because people quickly attribute such incidents to “the will of God.” Critical population of Nigerians, ranging from children, the youth to the aged, are wasted daily on the roads.

Although Nigeria prides self as being the giant of Africa, statistics have shown that other countries on the continent do not record such large-scale of deaths from road accidents. A country that expects to be among the best 20 economies in the world by 2020 cannot afford to be losing such a large portion of its productive population every year without any practical and pragmatic approach to minimise the frequency and degree of the carnage.

From 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, a period of 15 years, measures adopted by government to combat the cankerworm proved ineffective. So, in 1988, the Federal Road Safety Commission was established to curtail road accidents in Nigeria.

But, with the establishment of FRSC and its much-touted efforts to stem the rising tide of road accidents, the scourge seems to be on the increase year in, year out. So, “What are we not doing right? Why have road accident been rising every year? How can it be curtailed to the barest minimum?”

Findings revealed that the major causes of road accidents could either be road condition, vehicle condition or human factors.

Much as other factors contribute to accidents, experts say the condition of roads is a major 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 that, sometimes, potholes as deep as three feet dot major highways. A lot of accidents happen as a result of cars unexpectedly running into potholes, and when such accidents occur, they are often fatal and the casualty figure is always high.

Checks also revealed that most vehicles in Nigeria are rarely serviced and when they are, they are not serviced by authorized manufacturer service agents or by people who have access to the manufacturer service manuals. A lot of improvisations, therefore, go into vehicle maintenance. The serviceable parts are also not reliably supplied by the authorized manufacturer agents. The fake parts, it is believed, tend to give way in the most unexpected of situations, leading to accidents.

The human element, according to investigations, comprises government and its agencies like the FRSC, Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) and the Ministry of Transport, the drivers and corporate bodies. They have all failed to live up to their respective billings as far as reducing road accidents is concerned.

An angry transporter, Farouk, decried the ease with which the national driver’s license is obtained by quacks. He said: “The ease with which driver’s licenses are procured in Nigeria calls for serious concern and needs urgent scrutiny. People who don’t know anything about driving easily get the license 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 our roads because the resultant effect is that unskilled drivers are seen plying major roads.

“Most drivers don’t know road signs and even the ones that scarcely know refuse
to adhere strictly to them. They overtake where there is a sharp bend. Speed limits are never adhered to on the roads and the vehicles are commonly used well in excess of the design load capacity. This makes it difficult for drivers of such vehicles to control them in a safe and reasonable manner when necessary.

“Some drivers are in the habit of drinking and driving or even sleeping at the steering as a result of fatigue.”

Games transport companies play

Investigation showed that some of the transport companies in Nigeria are in the habit of paying their drivers based on how many trips they are able to go. This practice is called ‘Pay as you go’ among drivers. This system contributes to high carnage on the highways because most of them hurry all the time in a bid to do as many trips as possible to make more money, forgetting that they are human beings who have limits without resting.

Daily Sun’s investigation also revealed that the use of second-hand tyres, popularly called ‘Tokunbo,’ contributes a great deal to road accidents. Speaking on the life-span of a tyre, Chief Eze Chukwuma, a dealer in vehicle tyres in the Maza-Maza area of Lagos State, told our correspondent that the average life span of a new tyre is four years but most tokunbo tyres are way up to 10 years old.

He said that even the new tyres that burst sometimes are because they have been stored 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 exonerate the FRSC from the sundry road accidents, even as he blamed 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 twice.

He said what happens is that when most reckless drivers get involved in road accidents with their vehicles, what the transport company normally does is just to sack them: “They will then seek employment 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 over to another company. The journey continues and they keep wasting people’s lives on the highway.”

Also speaking on the causes of road crashes, a driving school operator, who preferred to be identified only as Ozor, said that apart from the driver, the condition of the vehicle and the environment, the major cause of the incessant accidents on our roads is the inability of government agencies to do their work. He stated that government agencies, whose responsibility it is to ensure that drivers are well trained before acquiring driver’s license have failed in their responsibility. This failure on the part of the government is evidenced in the inability of those trained to observe the road signs that are meant to guide drivers on the highway or roads. “For instance, if you come to a junction, you find that people who are going straight will block the lane where people going to the right are supposed to take because they don’t have proper training. People drive anyhow; people don’t observe the road signs; drivers see their work as ‘agbero’ work; these are the causes,” he stated.

Is Ozor downplaying the role of bad roads in all of these? He said: “The condition of the road is important but it is much less important than the training of drivers because if a well trained driver comes to a bad road, he will understand that the road is bad and be cautious. That is why even though the major causes of accident in Nigeria are the driver, the vehicle and the environment, which is the road; 85 percent of these accidents are caused by drivers because if the driver is well trained, he will manage the road he sees. If he knows that the road is bad, he will apply caution so as to avoid action that will cause accidents.”

He equally noted that the action of ‘big men’ who drive jeep also constitute grave danger on the road, often causing avoidable accidents. “These so-called men who drive big jeeps also need to be cautioned. When they are on the road, they behave as king of the road; they drive anyhow and the road traffic officers cannot question them because they are ‘rich.’ Even when an officer summons the courage to arrest such a man, he would quickly put a call across to one man in one office and the next minute, an order to release him has come to the officer involved. Such frustrating situation is what we face every day in the hands of these ‘men of jeep,’ Ozor lamented.

Much as he would want the government to put the roads in order, he stressed that training of drivers and the process of acquiring driver’s license need to be properly looked into by the agencies concerned. “Government cannot be exonerated from the blame. First, the driving schools that are mandated to train drivers do not have any legal backing. There is no legislation that guarantees that driving schools are part of the issuance of driver’s license. The proper thing is for government to rethink and change the method of acquiring driver’s license. Government must be serious with what it is doing,” he submitted.

Solutions

Speaking on the solution to incessant road carnages, 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 license 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 high ways 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 accident 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.

However, for Ozor, government must take decisive action and ensure that all it is saying is carried out without wavering. He wants government to take the process of training and acquisition of driver’s license seriously. “First, the agencies that manage driving matters in Nigeria should be serious. They have not been able to come out clean. Before a man drives, he must have a driver’s license; how did such a man acquire his license to drive? Who trained him and how was he trained? Is it just to go and acquire driver’s license without being trained by those who are saddled with the responsibilities, called driving schools? Do they actually train them or do they just enroll them in their system and issue them certificates onward to driving license office? That is not training. Government needs to look into it properly to ensure that whosoever they are issuing a driver’s license to must have proper training and those who are not relevant to the issuance of driver’s license should remove their hands for the country to move forward,” he said.

He lamented that part of the problem is the lack of political will on the part of the government to do the right thing. He advised that state agencies should be scrutinized to be able to weed out people who don’t have any business in the issuance of driver’s license.

“For instance, the MVAA as they call them that have nothing to offer as far as training is concerned, are involved in the issuance of driver’s license as to confirm the payment that is made in the bank. Of what use is that? What benefit or what is their assistance in issu- ing the driver’s license,” he queried.

He also wants the VIS to sit up and do their work properly. He said: “Again, you look at the people who are supposed to test prospective drivers – the Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS); are they doing the proper thing? Do they actually test the prospective drivers to determine their competence or they just collect money and let go? I say this because this people hold the FRSC to ransome. They said the FRSC cannot operate without them. Government should consider whether it is advisable for all these agencies to be involved in the process of driver’s license issuance. Or whether the FRSC that has the statutory function to issue driver’s license should take it as it is supposed to with the assistance of VIS (personnel) who are supposed to test the trained drivers and disqualify those who are not competent and send them back to driving school where they came from for retraining. If they do that, I think they will reduce the number of accidents we have on our roads.

“Again, the vehicle owners should be mindful of the people they employ. Are they maximizing profits at the expense of the Nigerian people? I always tell some of the driving school operators to remember that if you issue certificate to somebody that is not qualified and the person happens to have an accident, you may think that people have not seen you but God sees you and the blood of those persons that died will be required from you at a particular time. And again, people should have the fear of God in them. We are in a society where nothing is working. Government is complacent about things that concern their citizens. Government should come out clean and determine what they want in this matter. Each day we have carnage on our roads; they should go back and check this issuance of driver’s license,” he stated.

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Tokunbo David
Tokunbo David

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