Increasing road mishaps: Is FRSC overwhelmed?

The increasing number of deaths on Nigeria’s highways is yet to wane despite public education and campaigns by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).KEHINDE OSASONA in this report wonders if the agency is overwhelmed.,

One death, too many

A road mishap on the Okene-Lokoja highway in Kogi state reportedly killed 19 passengers a few days ago.

The crash involving a Dangote truck with registration number NSH680YJ, and a Toyota Hiace bus with registration number KMC455ZE occurred when the truck driver, who had wrongfully overtaken a vehicle, collided head-on with the bus.

A statement signed by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) spokesperson, Jonas Agwu, also indicated that the Toyota Hiace bus which loaded from Kano was on its lane on the highway when the Dangote truck driver who drove from Port Harcourt wrongfully overtook a vehicle and collided head-on with the bus.

The impact of the collision, according to Agwu, resulted in an inferno that burnt the victims to death.

This reporter gathered that efforts by the FRSC emergency rescue teams deployed to rescue the victims could not achieve the desired result as the fire that engulfed the two vehicles claimed the lives of 22 people, while two victims who were rescued by the FRSC operatives survived because they complied with traffic regulations on compulsory use of seatbelts.

Less than 24 hours ago, no fewer than 14 male and two female adults lost their lives in another incident when their vehicle crashed into a fence and caught fire along the Enugu/Opi/Nsukka road.

Confirming the development, the Enugu state Police Public Relations Officer, Daniel Ndukwe, said in a statement shared on the X page of the Command that the accident occurred when an 18-seater bus with a Bauchi number plate DAS 215 XA crashed into the fence of Maduka Maduka and went up in flames.

The impact of the crash and the intensity of the fire that occurred during the accident, according to him, led to the death of 16 passengers even though two others were rescued alive.

“A preliminary investigation reveals that the vehicle unfortunately burst into flames burning beyond recognition, the 16 deceased individuals, who were taken to the hospital and confirmed dead.

“However, two other passengers were rescued alive and taken to the hospital for medical attention by police officers, soldiers and public-spirited citizens, who immediately responded to the incident,” the Police PPRO said in the statement.

The increasing cases of accidents on the nation’s highways have now put to the test the ability of the Corps to contain the carnage in spite of its much-touted safety campaigns and education.

Reactions

Rhoda Williams, a passenger, who was accosted around Utako area in Abuja while boarding a bus to Lagos, attributed the increasing accident rates to bad roads, recklessness and inadequate public enlightenment.

“The thing is you cannot actually place the blame on one side as we are all guilty. I don’t know why we continue to waste precious lives in this country. The government should brace up and fix our roads.

“I am not saying they are not trying, but just look around the country and you will find out that we actually have more death traps called roads. It’s an eyesore. This government can change the trend for good, I believe.

“Again, what does it take a driver for instance to follow safety regulations, fix his vehicle and drive safely?”

Another traveller, Victor Araola, however, commended the Corps, saying they have helped in preventing more deaths on the roads.

“Let me tell you, were it not for these people, a lot of lives and people you still chat with today would have been long gone.

“Having said that, I think there is still a need for the government and relevant authorities to build their capacities and expose them via more foreign and local training to be able to curtail accidents on our roads,” he said.

Data/FRSC standpoint

According to the UNICEF and WHO reports, road crashes are the leading global cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and two.

The report stated further that, “260,000 children die and another 10 million are injured in road crashes every year.”

In the third quarter of 2023, the data culled from both the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicated that Nigeria recorded a distressing total of 2,187 road accidents.

While Abuja led the pack with 511 cases, Ogun state followed suit with 396 road accidents cases in 2023 alone. Lagos and Kwara recorded 110 cases each, making them the tenth highest states with the most accidents in Nigeria during the period.

Recall that in 2023, the FRSC Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, while reeling out the factors that contribute to accidents, said they were night trips, fatigue, route violation, dangerous overtaking, the use of worn-out tyres, over-speeding among others.

He, while fielding questions from newsmen recently, stated that the highest achievement by the Corps was recorded in the third quarter 2023 (July to September) having reduced crashes from 3,412 in 2022 to 2,130 (37.6%) in 2023.

He attributed the significant decrease to “enhanced visibility on the highways, aggressive public education, broadened and expanded command structures, injection of more patrol, rescue and recovery vehicles into the operations of the Corps for prompt rescue services and speedy removal of obstructions, and deployment of men.”

Going forward

Attempts made by this reporter to get Mr. Kazeem’s comments on the measures put in place to curtail accidents on the roads failed as he neither took his call nor responded to the text messages sent to his phone.

However, while proffering solutions to some of the challenges at a public forum recently, Kazeem was quoted as mentioning “deployment of speed calming at strategic junctions, compulsory enforcement of installation of speed limiting device in commercial vehicles, deployment of radar gun at strategic locations, special patrol operation targeted towards speed, drug and alcohol test for drivers as some of the steps aimed at curbing speed violations.”

He also noted that the Corps would continue to carry out weekly rallies and public education and enlightenment activities at motor parks.

In his view, an expert and chief consultant at Menet Engineering Consultancy Services, Dr. Terry Mene, urged the governments at all levels to take the issue of road accidents seriously and start its eradication by ensuring proper training of drivers as well as providing proper road signs and markings.

Mene, who spoke at a three-day intensive Defensive Driving Training Course at the headquarters offices of the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority (NDBDA) in Port Harcourt, said the loss of lives and property to road accidents could be eradicated.

“The government must take road signs and markings very seriously, as they are the primary guide for drivers on the roads. The authorities must also ensure that driving schools, where training of drivers is done, are properly supervised to ensure that the right and proper things are being taught to prospective drivers,” he said.