Jonas Agwu, Assistant Corps Marshal Federal Road Safety Corps.
On Sunday, July 26,2020, a 27 years old female passenger was killed alongside her colleagues when an unlatched container fell on the bus she was travelling in while returning from work. The crash occurred at Ilasamaja bus stop in Lagos State. The bereaved mother has called for the prosecution of the driver who cut short her daughters dreams and aspirations. There are others who have expressed similar shock at the incident. I must confess that I was speechless when I saw the picture of the lady whose name I have deliberately chosen not to mention even though media reports the report is all over in the media
This piece was first published in 2015 as a response to the spate of crashes involving articulated vehicles including crashes like the one that killed the 27 years old in Lagos. I am tempted to run this piece again which addresses some of the issues and actions that were agreed upon… It is about ten days since the summit on haulage operations in the Country was held to address the recent spate of crashes involving articulated vehicles. While some are awaiting the outcome of this talk shop, reactions have already trailed it with Sokoto State Governor,Aminu Tambuwa giving kudos to the summit. He spoke during NUPENG/PTD NEC meeting which was held in Sokoto, the Sokoto State capital, saying that the summit was essential in eradicating road traffic crashes involving tankers including the menace of unlatched containers which was equally the focus of the meeting
Two prominent players on whose shoulders the success or failure lies were also quick to assure Nigerians that the summit was not cosmetic. The first to give this assurance is my boss, Boboye Oyeyemi who while speaking at the same NEC meeting of NUPENG assured that the all resolutions will be implemented; a position reechoed by NUPENG/PTD Chairman, Salmon Oladiti who said his Union was establishing a data bank for usage of the FRSC and other road traffic agencies to ease enforcement. While we all hope on these assurances, what really were the action plans arrived at by the summit? Today I wish to run through the plan of action of the summit with few side comments.
The one-day summit resolved on the following as the way forward under four classifications; standards, enforcement, institutional capacity and legal: Let me start with the challenge of standards where it resolved that more attention is required to be focused on vehicles’ technical wellness/characteristics by haulage operators to ensure reduction in crashes arising from mechanical deficiency. It also upheld the need for modern vehicle testing to be introduced in all states of the Federation to ensure sustained vehicle technical wellness stressing that there was the need to establish age limit for trucks to be used for haulage purposes and the need for comprehensive welfare package for haulage drivers by their employers in other to motivate them.
The implementation of standardized speed limiters installation in all newly manufactured vehicles in Nigeria was also upheld in line with the resolve of the Federal Road Safety Corps to commence full enforcement with effect from 1 September 2015. As a plank to improve enforcement which it identified as weak, the summit held that this can be achieved by the establishment of safety standards for haulage operators through enforcement of safe-to-load program .Considering Nigeria road network density and length vis-a-vis, compulsory rest and rest period of 30minutes to be observed after 4hrs of unbroken driving, there is the need to decentralize the concentration of tank farms within the same location and accessibility in Lagos as well as close down the illegal ones.
It observed that indiscriminate parking of vehicles along the highways (road shoulders) should be checked while all deviant drivers should face the wrath of the law when apprehended in addition to the need the nation’s roads to be improved upon, potholes mended while better network are to be constructed to ease traffic flows, illegal location of markets and other road encroachments on the highways are to be eliminated. It urged the Corps to sustain continuous public enlightenment at the centers where tankers and trailers load products or (rest areas). This is to be complimented by the setting up of task force to check on drivers’ activities especially to decongest Lagos’ ports roads and at the rest areas, by stakeholders including the FRSC.
While acknowledging the Commitment elicited from NNPC/Tank farms of major independent marketers, it insisted on minimum standards by trucks that lift products: ditto for cement companies, flour companies etc ensuring stoppage of indiscriminate parking along the highways (road shoulders).Full compliance with the road transport safety standardization scheme (RTSSS) provisions. The nod on the RTSSS exited me because this is one policy that has the potential of addressing most if not all the issues raised. The Road Transport Safety Standardisation Scheme, which is designed to regulate the activities of fleet owners and leading to certification and grading of fleet owners in Nigeria has remained a reference point in Africa. On the Implementation of the maximum road speed limiter for vehicles, it endorsed the commencement of subtle enforcement (with no booking) from 1st June, 2015 and full compliance effective 1st September, 2015 and called on all haulage drivers to respect road traffic regulations and traffic officers to stem constant conflicts on the highways.
On the issue of institutional capacity, it maintained that training / retraining of tankers and trailers drivers need to be intensified and sustained and this should be done in conjunction with the FRSC. The summit held that there was the urgent need for renewal of petroleum tankers and other haulage vehicles through fleet acquisition renewal scheme with collaboration with financial institutions i.e. bank of industry or the infrastructure bank, urgent need for life insurance for all Nigerians for ease of compensation of citizens in case of loss of lives in road crash incidence. Modernization of law enforcement (personnel and equipment) – training and re-training, and logistics enhancement to ensure more effective discharge of duties was equally endorsed. The need to repair broken down petroleum pipelines to ensure decentralization of supply was also upheld in addition to the re-introduction of the weigh bridges to check excess axle loads. The summit called on government to prohibit importation of substandard and fairly used tyres, (tokunbo), ditto for sub-standard vehicle spare parts, dedication to tankers/trailers crash investigation by FRSC. It further urged government to utilize other ports in the federation so as to decongest Lagos ports while
State governments are to relocate markets away from highways as a matter of urgency and provide standard garages and rest areas.
On the need for proper legislation it focused on the best time for tankers and trailers movement noting that it has become a necessity and should be established given the high density of vehicles on Nigeria roads and possible spiral effect in case of crash occurrence in addition to the need for the prosecution of recalcitrant haulage drivers which must be intensified by all law enforcement agencies.