South South music crooner of the Port Harcourt boy fame, Duncan Mighty, should prepare for a follow up single which should include me as a Port Harcourt boy; I know I often refer to myself as a Bariga boy. But now that I am in Port Harcourt, I make bold to call myself a Port Harcourt boy even though I am still struggling to find my feet in this beautiful city, South, Nigeria. With barely four weeks in this city, I must tell you that last week Wednesday was instructive for me. On that faithful day, I accompanied my staff in keeping with the FRSC practice of observing Wednesday as games day. At the sports ground, I was fortunate to meet a staff of MTN who is an indigene of Rivers State and I was excited when he approached me and informed me of his plan to put together a five aside football competition, In his words, ‘’I am not happy that the only news that filters from Port Harcourt is news of killings or conflict. We must do things to project the beauty of this city and that is why I am putting together this soccer competition to showcase the beauty of this garden city, he summed up.
Truth is that Port Harcourt boasts of beautiful people, places and events. That is why I have chosen to focus once again on my new home. I don’t know if you have been following this page since I assumed duty here, i have done two follow up pieces;’’ Between Lagos and Port Harcourt driving and last week’s piece on “Are Nigerian drivers’ believers”? Although last week’s piece didn’t focus on Port Harcourt mainly, it however made reference to some observations that formed the focus of the maiden write up on this city. I have listened and observed and come to the conclusion that like every city, it has its good and bad. My responsibility is to join hands with the people of this State to project its beauty. This i will do through what I have titled my agenda. I know I once wrote at the beginning of 2016 on my agenda. Now, I wish to cascade this to my new area of assignment especially Port Harcourt where I am headquartered because of my official and moral responsibility to parley with the government and people of this State to make it home away from home.
I acknowledge that some would say it is going to be a tall order but like was said about Gerald Butler who played the role of Mike Banning, a former Presidential security detail, in the movie, Olympus has fallen, I will die trying.
Like I wrote as observed, one of my major trust is to build a strong and robust synergy with the State government to replicate the Lagos State model of a traffic agency that is effective and efficient providing the plank for taming the recalcitrant drivers whose mannerisms daily paint the town in tones that are not enduring.
The agency will provide the necessary plank for restoring the beauty of the city through daily joint patrols aimed at checking all forms of traffic infractions. Top on the list of these infractions would be driving against traffic which some of my friends have expressed concern over and overloading especially among commercial vehicle operators. I have worked in few States such as Lagos, Imo and Kaduna States and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Although these States have their traffic peculiarities and challenges, I have not seen any State where overloading is so pronounced like in Port Harcourt. Here, commercial vehicles carry one at the front and three at the back-disregarding the safety and comfort of the commuters and also fast tracking the wear and tear of the vehicle in this harsh economic clime. This practice further compounds the fatality index in the event of a crash besides making rescue difficult or problematic.
With the support of Shell Petroleum Development Company which recently donated extrication machines to both the FRSC and Rivers State government to ease rescue and improve safety and to facilitate improvement on the successes recorded in the National Community Post crash Care Initiative (NCPCCI) under the auspices of FRSC/SPDC partnership, it is crucial to get the buy in of motorists in keeping the State below the threshold of the National Road Traffic Crash index. I am yet to find out the gains for each overloaded vehicle which when arrested would be charged ten thousand naira and more if there are other infractions committed by the operator.
No sane or reasonable operator should let this be his lot as it makes no economic sense to exhibit what my Ibo brothers would call wawawa driving only to increase government coffers financially at a time we are all clamoring for a piece of the national cake through all forms of bailouts to ease financial burdens on us as parents.
I wrote about street trading and markets cited just by very busy roads. These trading, hawkings and markets eats up lanes, confines traffic especially during busy rush hours to one lane. Besides, this is the risk traders, commuters and other road users expose themselves to in the event of a possible road traffic crash which could claim more lives than usual. We are aware of crashes in other parts of the country where trucks or other vehicles have crashes and killed a good number.
It is therefore instructive in keeping with FRSC position to relocate these markets to safe places because like we say in FRSC, dead men don’t trade; only the living does.
Designated trading spots and markets with well planned parking spaces are ideal not just to keep the city clean but to also promote traffic safety.Increasing advocacy will no doubt top my agenda too as incultating safety awareness is key to crash reduction.