The authorities must do more to stop the carnage on our roads

The death, last week in Bauchi State, of 20 students, two teachers and a driver, in a motor accident along the Jigawa-Kano expressway underscores the significance of a recent World Bank study that reducing road traffic deaths and injuries could result in substantial long-term income gains for Nigeria a well as other low and middle income countries. While we commiserate with the families of the deceased school children who were going on an excursion before the tragedy, the report titled, “The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable,” introduces a new global methodology to calculate the economic impact of road safety. The report also quantifies how investments in road safety have also become an investment in human capital.

Globally, it is estimated that 1.3 million lives are lost to road accidents every year with about 50 million people sustaining injuries. What is even more disturbing is that, because of the deplorable state of their infrastructure, most of these accidents occur in developing countries, and the cost is colossal in several respects. For instance, accidents impinge on virtually all economic sectors with two to five per cent of the Gross Domestic Product lost in many countries. It has also been estimated that globally some $518 billion is lost annually to these accidents that deprive nations of members of their most active labour force.

 From the foregoing, it is easy to understand why the new World Bank study states that countries that do not invest in road safety could miss out on anywhere between seven and 27 per cent in potential per capita GDP over a 24-year period. This should be a warning to Nigeria that has one of the highest accident fatality rates in the world. It should also compel the authorities to begin to design programmes and policies to make our roads safe for travellers. From top government officials to innocent children, the number of lives lost to road accidents in our country on a daily basis is high.

 Unlike most countries where departments in the Transport Ministry calculate the costs of road accident casualties in a bid to identify the value of prevention, there is no such effort in Nigeria. But even at that, it is obvious that the costs are very high. For instance, even for those who survive, some injuries will require long-term care, at the expense of other people who may have to devote their lives to nursing such persons. Besides, some families never recover from the trauma of a sudden and violent death of the bread winner. Given this situation, it is important that the authorities recognise that we must do more to stop the carnage on our roads.

Meanwhile, even though the challenge of road infrastructure is at all levels of governance in the country, our attention is more on the federal government, which controls about 35,000 kilometres of the nation’s road network. Stretched across the country, these roads are the major nerve of our economic activities. Unfortunately, years of toeing the path of impropriety and poor infrastructure development are having their toll on most of these roads that are now in deplorable conditions.

It should be obvious, therefore, why we are sounding like a broken record on this matter. Apart from the unacceptable loss of man-hours and the unbearable discomfort Nigerian road users suffer, the body count is mounting due to avoidable accidents even as the dilapidated roads are crippling economic activities, particularly of local economies that need the infrastructure to transport agricultural and allied products.  While we call for a more creative and sustainable funding strategy for their repairs, we also urge the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to work in partnership with other stakeholders so as to reduce the frequency of fatalities on our roads.