TIME TO NAILKILLER DRIVERS

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Jonas Agwu, amnipr, mcipr, mprsa,arpa Assistant Corps Marshal

I love football. In fact, I am crazy and freaky about football. My craze is worse when it is about the Premiership where football lives or when my darling Super Eagers adorn our traditional Green, White and Green jersey. For the records, I am not a Reds even though I love the red color. I am a Gunners and have been one for as long as I can remember. I love Arsenal and will remain a Gunner for life even though my friend and brother, Chris Kehinde Nwandu( CKN) jumped shipped from Arsenal to Manchester United at the height of the crisis following the departure of Arsene Wenger and our flat footed performances over time.

I hope he becomes the prodigal fan, now that we are relishing the FA Cup won to close the 2019/2020 season and hoping to clinch the Community Shield after flogging Liverpool at Wembley today. With all sense of humility, I have nothing against Manchester United, neither against Chris Nwandu who is my brother from a mother I am yet to meet. However, I really cannot stand being called a REDs even though their football is sweet on a good day but I truly fear being tagged a Devils fan

Before I bore you and I lose my readers who are supporters of the REDS, let me pause and inform you that this focus is not about Manchester United or Arsenal. It’s actually first about the fate of one of my favorite defenders in the Premiership, Harry Maguire, the captain of Manchester United who has been in the news lately following his trial on the Greek Island. I hear the 27 –year old was released from Police custody on Saturday following his arrest on the island of Mykonos on due to an alleged altercation with police officers. I read that he is not obliged to be in attendance which I must confess trips me.

Mag, as I fondly call him when he shows up on the pitch with his superlative performance, has already pleaded not guilty. According to media reports, Mag did not comment after leaving court on Saturday. The report further said that “three foreigners were arrested after an alleged altercation with police officers in Mykonos on Thursday. The other two defendants are Maguire’s brother Joe, 28, and family friend Christopher Sharman, 29. Maguire’s father Alan,I read was at the court hearing.

According to media reports, the accusations against the three includes “violence against officials, disobedience, bodily harm, insult and attempted bribery of an official”. Greek police said that officers had tried to break up an altercation between two groups outside a bar and that the three foreigners had then verbally abused and assaulted one of the officers. After arriving at Mykonos police station, the three arrested individuals “strongly resisted, pushing and hitting three police officers” while “one of the detainees tried to offer money so that the trial against them would not be completed”, it further said.

Maguire is perhaps the fourth premiership footballer whose travails has formed part of my focus on this page, I have severally x-rayed the plight of some celebrities especially footballers who daily indulge in flouting traffic rules after too much of clubbing and drinking. Maguire case has nothing to do with flouting traffic rules in the United Kingdom. It is totally a matter that took place while he was holidaying in the Greek Island.

What I find really intriguing, as stated earlier is the flexibility of the court proceedings despite claims by the Police. The flexibility brings to my mind the cases of traffic offenders’ especially drivers responsible for deaths on our road especially the July 26 crash caused by an unlatched container in Lagos which claimed some lives. Observers have wondered why it is difficult to convict a killer driver in Nigeria. I wish my friends and legal pals were reachable to take me through some legal tutoring on the intricacies involved in court trials as it affects traffic infractions that claim lives. Why is it difficult or impossible to convict?

In the absence of my legal friend, I reached out to another whose views I admire and popped the million-dollar question on the difficulty in convicting killer drivers. Why it is difficult to secure conviction in Nigeria in cases where death result from dangerous/unsafe driving practices,I asked .Before you get excited that you now have the opportunity for a pro bono under my watch, kindly note that these views were provided by him during my in my legal lessons,101 class. He began by stating that it is the law that traffic offences generally speaking are strict liability offences.

However, there are exceptions as can be seen from the Nigerian Evidence Act as regards speeding offences that require corroboration and some other such offences viewed as more serious traffic offences. More so, trials in cases where death result from dangerous driving or other unsafe driving practices even though are charged under the various Road traffic laws or the FRSC Act, depending on the prosecuting agency, the standard and burden of proof are usually as high as it is in ” CRIMINAL TRIALS”. It is to be noted that there is this distinction without a difference wherein traffic offences are viewed from the prism of quasi criminal matters.

The courts,he continued have held severally that there are ingredients that must be established in cases of death occasioned by dangerous or unsafe driving. But to address the main issue raised above frontally, it is safe to say that the major militating factors include but are not limited to poor crash investigation and evidence gathering/ preservation, poor or outright lack of data or driver’s driving history/ vehicle maintenance history- the laws provide for statutory returns that must be made to the various regulatory agencies but are sadly mostly observed in the breach.

Others include poor prosecutorial skills, wherein most cases are prosecuted at the Magistrate court by non-lawyers thereby giving room for Defense lawyers who are vaster in the knowledge and application of law to exploit such loopholes to the advantage of a defendant. He concluded by stating that want or dearth of expert evidence during such trials among others are critical hiccups. Further to the above, he said that the prosecution must prove that the following; that he defendant’s manner of driving was reckless or dangerous and also that the substantial cause of death is attributed to the defendant’s reckless or dangerous driving and lastly that the crash occurred on a Federal High Way (if charge is brought under the Federal High Way Act)

In particular reference to the FRSC, the powers to prosecute drivers who cause death by dangerous driving is specifically provided for in section 20 thereof which prescribes a prison term of not less than I year but not exceeding seven years.

While all these turenchi has further confused me, I think I should quit the class and focus on how to navigate the herculean task of checking increasing infractions during this new normal, thanks to COVID-19. My first focus is on how to check excessive speeding which is a key causative factor. For years-on-end, speed- related crashes constitute the single most significant cause of road traffic crashes in Nigeria. Therefore our focus in Zone 7 of the Federal Road Safety Corps comprising the Federal Capital Territory and Niger State Sector Commands will be to improve on daily arrest of deviants which is why we are commencing a dual faced special patrols from the first day in September,2020, focusing on checkmating unlicensed drivers, overloading, traffic light and use of phone while driving infractions.

To hit our target, radar guns, patrol bikes, alcolizers, and other patrol equipment will be deployed for the enforcement of speed violations, drunk –driving. This is in line with achieving the Corps primary mandate of crash reduction and attainment of the ambitious target of 15% crash reduction in 2020 as contained in the FRSC 2020 Corporate Strategic Goals. We hope to collaborate with armed-security agencies if and when necessary to achieve maximum results. A component of the enforcement will be re-strategizing on the enforcement of compulsory installation of speed limiting device in commercial vehicles as directed by the Management of the Corps.