ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE

Last week, I got a very interesting feedback from a reader I am looking forward to meeting as soon as I assume duty in my new office. He is a civil servant based in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and his name is Ibrahim Mairiga. I make bold to say that oga Maigari is now   my second Hausa teacher although I deliberately hid the details of the first teacher last week. I am prompted today to continue with the second part of  last week piece titled, Bauchi/Abuja ko lahira although I have chosen based on the advice of my new teacher to caption my piece for this week differently. Let me share with you the contributions of my teacher which I find quite useful, timely and vital for the Federal Road Safety Corps, policy makers and Government.

‘’Mr Agwu, thanks for your ‘BAUCHI/ABUJA KO LAHIRA’ piece on Page 27 of Today’s ThisDay (The Saturday) Newspaper, which should actually and correctly be titled: ‘Bauchi/Abuja a Aww Uku, ko Kafar Katako’. Roughly translated from the Hausa, it means: To Bauchi or Abuja I arrive (with my passengers) in 3 Hours or I escape with a wooden Leg’, a pledge so passionately, but unfortunately, upheld by the Drivers of Vectra, unpainted taxis in the axis you supervised toward the end of 2017. I think, in your Column, you had already made the point of the avoidable loss of lives these drivers have caused and the danger they still pose by ‘their irresponsible driving’ to both their passengers and other users of the Abuja – Akwanga – Jos – Bauchi – Gombe road (like me). A much more robust and concerted plan needs to be devised and achieved in a sustainable manner, to eradicate this ‘clear and present danger’. I hasten to proffer a small correction on your piece. If I am correct, the 1st accident you referred to actually happened, not in Gombe State, but Jigawa State (where Gumel is located). You may wish to check it out again, please.

When I read the above response, my mind flashed back to the visit in December 2017, of the Corps Marshal of the Corps, Dr Boboye Oyeyemi to His Excellency, Rt Hon Simon Bako Lalong, the Governor of Plateau State where he brought to the Governors attention the activities of these operators and the need for their notoriety to be checkmated through appropriate and stringent laws. In the course of my traverse in Kaduna Zone 1,comprising Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States in 2008, Zone 7 Abuja, comprising the Federal Capital Territory and Niger States between 2014 to 2016 among others, I have had to deal with these operators who are rarely registered or authorized to operate yet continually engage in their dangerous business .I remember way back in 1996 when  acting  head of operations in the Federal capital Territory, I accosted one  of these operators whose vehicle I impounded along the Abuja Keffi route and was forced to push it from Berger roundabout when the driver cunningly abandoned the vehicle on the pretext that he was going to answer the call of nature. My team and I had to push the vehicle from there through to my office in Zone 2, Wuse, in Abuja the Federal Capital Territory.

One of the worst trademarks of these operators is the excessive speed at which they operate.

 They also overload, are reckless and rarely stop when flagged by our operatives in keeping with the provisions of the National Road Traffic Regulations. Like I wrote last week, speed is a driving risk resulting to loss of lives Research on speed states that when you drive at higher speed, you lose the ability to control you vehicle, thus increasing your risk and that of others.

Most of the fatal crashes recorded in December and the early part of 2018   involves drivers who were over speeding and driving dangerously. Driving excessively decreases the amount of time that a driver has to avoid a crash and often results in severe consequences. While we await concrete response from the various State Government, I do believe that we must take a second look at the penalty for excessive speeding which has caused the nation so much loss.  In other developed climes, the debate is on increasing the fines for   drivers who speed in addition to fully deploying the paraphernalia of the penalty point system which should spell out rules for disqualifications and in extreme cases prison sentence especially if the speeding causes a road traffic crash. .

The rules should be such that any driver caught speeding over the speed limit approved by the National Road Traffic Regulations must be served a penalty point, a fine and possibly a disqualification and a prison sentence as earlier stated. As we begin this New Year conscious and concrete interventions should be urgently deployed to avert the predictions that more road traffic crashes, deaths and injuries will be recorded across the globe especially in developing climes such as ours.

 This is not the time for debates that adds no value to the issue of road safety in the country. The debate should disabuse political differences or an individual difference that focuses only on our personal interest. Road traffic crash is a respecter of none. My last two write-ups x-rayed crashes that wiped out a whole family,  claimed the life of a   bride and women leading the bride to the alter .