The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), through its Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS), has begun intensive monitoring of motorists causing traffic infractions in the nation capital in its quest for a safer capital city. KEHINDE OSASONA in this report takes a look at the issues therein.
Traffic offenders, the new Sheriff
Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, was estimated in 2016 as having a population of six million people.
Today, the flowery and well-landscaped city remains a destination for many Nigerians who crave for serenity, cosmopolitan environment and closeness to the seat of government. However, the increase in vehicular movements as a result of its continued population growth has begun to have a toll on its residents. A case in point is the continuous reports of vehicular accidents and gross traffic violations that have become the order of the day in the capital city and threatening its mega city status.
As a way of curbing the traffic violation and other road-related offences, the FCT administration is currently pushing for a change in orientation of road users in the city. To achieve this, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, had in 2019 at the public presentation of the policy, known as Functional and Efficient transport system, vowed to use new road traffic policy to bring sanity to Abuja roads with a view to saving lives. The minister, who stressed the need for an attitudinal change by road users, insisted that the move was to safeguard the sanctity of lives.
He said, “People should know that breaking traffic laws is unacceptable hence the collaborative measures taken by the FCT Administration and the various security agencies in the FCT geared towards ensuring that all traffic regulations are followed to save lives and ensure a safer city.
“Journeys that ought to take a short time, because of the available facilities, take much longer, simply because many road users decide not to follow basic rules of traffic use within the city. It is manifested through parking on areas that are meant for pedestrian walkways, ignoring pedestrian bridges, ignoring zebra crossings, driving against traffic, overloading, parking in undesignated car parks. People have to learn to respect zebra crossing. Motorists must respect pedestrians and school children at zebra crossings.”
The minister reminded the people that while there was no ban on commercial tricycles and commercial motorcycles in the capital city, the the law does not permit them on expressways or driving against traffic.
He said, “What we are saying is that the laws are very clear. There are designated areas allowed for motorcycles. There are designated areas allowed for tricycles and what we are trying to do is to emphasise that. Our objective is to save lives; to make the human life valuable the way it’s supposed to be. And how can we do that? We have to make sure that all traffic regulations are adhered to and the advantage we have is that all these is covered by law and we are going to use the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, the laws of the highway code, the FCT Transport Regulations, the National Road Traffic Regulations and other traffic laws and regulations and we are going to back that with a robust support from the judiciary so that all those that violate traffic regulations and protocols are made to pay for it because that is the only way we can guarantee the safety of lives of our people.”
Meanwhile, as a pointer to the earlier stance, the FCTA officially came up with regulations which aimed at permanently curtailing the excesses of traffic offenders in the nation capital. While unveiling the enforcement orders at a news briefing in Abuja, the director of the FCT Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS), Mr. Wadata Bodinga, said the FCTA would continue the enforcement until motorists abide by traffic rules and regulations in the Territory. According to Bodinga, fines ranging from N30, 000 to N40, 000 would be imposed on the offenders, after subjecting them to psychiatric test before their trial before the FCT mobile court.
He said further that the operation would be continuous, as the Directorate would intensify it until “order is maintained in terms of traffic regulations in the FCT.” “We are doing this operation together with other security agencies like Police, Federal Road Service Corps (FRSC), so it is going to be a synergised operation. Our basic operation is on the beating of traffic lights as well as those who drive against the traffic. There are basically some little challenges that have to do with people who have resisted arrest.
“We started the operation on Ahmadu Bello way and transcended to Ondo filling station at Gwarimpa and all the way to Gudu and our personnel have been stations on all the intersections where some traffic lights are not working to ensure traffic control. And the operation will continue and will be intensify until order is restored in the FCT. ”
While also justifying the FCTA action, the acting director, Reform Coordination and Service Improvement, Dr. Jumai Ahmadu, said the operation was necessitated by a matching order from the highest body in the country. She said the minister, the minister of state and the permanent secretary took the assignment seriously, adding that “it doesn’t matter who you are once you are arrested you will be subjected to psychiatric test and be made to faced the law.”
“Because no normal human being will beat traffic, so we need to check the state of mental stability and when that is done you know face the law and offenders will pay for their mental evaluation,” he said.
According to a resident, Abubakar Dan-Iman, the high-level enlightenment campaigns mounted in the past has not yielded any tangible result. According to him, motorists have been arrested in the past for driving against traffic and causing congestion and hardship for other law-abiding road users without being properly prosecuted. “Some have even gone as far as killing innocent soul under the now common phrase ‘Hit and run’ without being brought to law. So, tell me, how do you want me to take government serious on this?” he asked.
But while re-assuring residents, the chairman, FCT Ministerial Task Team on Traffic Control, Comrade Ihkaro Attah, restated the commitment of the FCTA, saying that apart from ensuring free vehicular and human movement in the Territory, there would also be prosecution when necessary.
Commenting on the development, a cab operator plying his trade in Jahi area, Meshack Yakubu, told Blueprint Weekend that although he was not aware of what the FCTA was about to do, “I’ve always been a law abiding and safety conscious driver.” “By the grace of God, up till today, I have not had any serious problem with either VIO or FCTA task force because I’m always cautious,” he said.
Another private owner, Mr. Anderson Clark, told this reporter that he saw both the advert and other awareness being made by the FCTA, saying that it was in order. “I’m waiting for it to take effect but hoping that it would bring the desired sanity this time unlike redundant task force before it,” he said.
How well, so far?
But against all expectations, as the clampdown began on Monday, no fewer than 50 motorists have so far been arrested and on the verge of being prosecuted for various traffic offences. It was gathered some motorists were referred for psychiatric evaluation after they were fined appropriately by the FCT mobile court. Also, some motorists who were also referred for evaluation would be arraigned before the mobile Court for trial proper. Some of the offenders were also made to pay fines ranging from N5, 000 to N30, 000, respectively, depending on the gravity of the traffic infractions.
Confirming this in an interview with this reporter, the director of communications, FCTA, Mrs. Stella Ojeme, said with the new order, the FCTA will ensure that Abuja motorists comply with its enforcement. Ojeme disclosed further that already 46 people were set to be arraigned in a mobile court while an unnamed dangerous driver was remanded at the Kuje Prison for trying to abduct its officer.
While some stakeholders believe that with the FCT administration’s move, Abuja might be tilting towards a safer city, others remain skeptical.
For Adeseun Kupolati, an Abuja-based public commentator, the success or otherwise of the new regulations would depend largely on not only the gazetting of the new order, but also on continual enforcement of the new traffic regulation.