The FRSC may do well to enforce traffic laws

That the roads in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are the widest and smoothest in Nigeria is not in doubt. But driving on those roads is now being increasingly undermined by the dangerous habits of some young boys. As the seat of the federal government and the foremost political city in the country, this paradox is unedifying. The road network whose master plan was derived from some of the most efficient cities in the world must not continue to witness largely avoidable calamities.

At weekends, it is now common sight for children of the high and mighty within the city to pull all kinds of stunts on major highways with their very expensive cars and power bikes, threatening the lives of others in the process. For instance, in December 2017, Yusuf, son of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was reportedly engaged in power bike racing at night with his friends, had an accident in the Gwarinpa axis of the federal capital where he broke a limb and sustained injuries in his head.

More worrying is that road accidents have become a common feature of life within the city. In March 2018, an accident happened in Nyanya, an Abuja suburb, involving nine vehicles and resulting in 10 deaths, in addition to many injuries. The one that occurred in Wuse, Abuja the following month was caused by a truck that rammed into three cars. Four persons were killed. All the crashes cited happened at night. Similar disasters have continued to cause anguish and also tarnish the image of a potential choice business and tourist destination – complete with a pleasurable, memorable nightlife. Understanding the psychology of these classes of motorists and tackling their excesses frontally would be necessary steps towards achieving order and safety.

The figures of related tragedies are indeed alarming. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the record of people lost to road accidents across Nigeria from January 2013 to June 2018 is as follows: 2013 (5,539); 2014 (4,430); 2015 (5,400); 2016 (5,053); 2017 (5,049) and in the first half of 2018 (2,623). These data clearly show that at least 28,000 lives were sent to their graves in just 68 months. That is approximately 415 people per month, 14 persons daily, and an individual every two hours. In May 2017, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) revealed that there were over 33 deaths per 100,000 people nationally every year. The report made Nigeria one of the nations with the largest amount of fatalities on the continent. Unfortunately, two years after, not much has changed.

Any real search for solutions to this sad situation should start with a proper understanding of its likely causes. Thankfully, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has already identified reasons for road accidents. They include over-speeding, driving under the power of alcohol and other intoxicating substances, non-use of protective gadgets like seat belts, distractions caused by passengers, decrepit or substandard road amenities, unsafe vehicles, inadequate post-collision response, and poor enforcement of traffic laws.

Interestingly, the profile of the offenders is as diverse as the triggers of road mishaps suggested by WHO. Some public transport drivers, their private and corporate counterparts, uniformed personnel, chauffeurs of dignitaries and convoys are united in unsettling an otherwise tranquil motoring environment. The exuberance of the last group of transgressors is traceable to the ubiquity of Very Important Personalities (VIPs) in the city.

On a final note, like what obtains in other aspects of the nation’s life, impunity often leads to more law breaking. Punishment of convicted persons is, therefore, mandatory. Functional street lights are vital for optimal visibility. Appropriate road signs are also requirements for harmonious driving. The nation stands to gain greatly from a capital that ceases to unwittingly jeopardise the lives of its road users.