33 YEARS OF ‘ROAD SAFETY’ IN NIGERIA

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The FRSC has done remarkably well, writes Bisi Kazeem

The ugly narrative of road traffic crashes in the early 70s led to the establishment of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in 1988. The commission was specifically empowered by legislation to coordinate road safety administration and traffic management in Nigeria with an ultimate aim of halting the trend of road traffic crashes and fatalities on all the 204,000 kilometres of roads that traverse the country.

Prior to the establishment of the FRSC in 1988, the World Health Organization (WHO) had adjudged Nigeria, the second only behind Ethiopia, as the most dangerous country in the world to drive a motor vehicle. FRSC has not only changed that narrative as lead agency in traffic and safety management, it has recorded tremendous achievements in the area of traffic engineering, road safety administration, traffic management, rescue operation, and crash reduction. It has achieved this feat as a result of a chain of leadership ingenuity that led to the fusion of the services of volunteers called Special Marshals and social responsibility groups. To this end, road safety administration in Nigeria has witnessed a paradigm shift from the traditional approach to the use of state of the art information technology facilities. The corps has also enhanced its operational capacity aimed at promoting public safety and security.

Considering that road transport sector in Nigeria accounts for over 90% of passengers and freight movement, this exerts undue pressure on the FRSC in discharging its cardinal responsibilities. But the corps recorded a commendable reduction in crash from 40,881 in 1976 down to 10,522 in 2020. The statistics above show that the corps is gaining grounds accordingly.

As a performance driven organisation, FRSC is today the only law enforcement organization in Nigeria certified by the International Standard organization. The corps has over three decades designed and operated 28 web applications for its operational activities so as to create an accessible platform for the general public.
The introduction of the toll free 122 emergency number and a 24 hours call center has reduced emergency response time from 50 minutes to 15 minutes thereby decreasing the number of fatalities in crash situations. The introduction of Verification Portal for drivers licence and number plates, Road Transport Safety Standardisation Scheme (RTSSS) for uniformity and harmonization of fleet operators and the Driving School Standardisation Scheme (DSSP), speed limiting device and the vehicle tracking system among others, are policies formulated and implemented to fight road traffic crash in the country.

Moreover, as one of the nation’s custodian of critical data infrastructure, the corps has successfully strengthened inter-agency cooperation with relevant stakeholders such as the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), and banks in Nigeria with evident success.

The current management led by Dr Boboye Oyeyemi has so far constructed and inaugurated 16 permanent structures in various sector commands, with other two awaiting inauguration. Oyeyemi’s swift response to the incessant abuse of traffic rules also led to the putting together of the ‘Operation Cobra’ which has become instrumental to the decline in crash rate as apprehended offenders are usually referred to a government health facility for Emotional Stability Test.

On a regular basis, the corps also embarks on consultation with stakeholders who have become more involved through the mechanism of the special marshals, celebrity special marshals and road safety clubs. The deployment of FRSC personnel to Tank Farms has also helped in reducing the rate of crashes associated with articulated vehicles, particularly tankers carrying petroleum products. Through its Safe-to-Load initiative, these articulated vehicles have been subjected to checks before they are allowed to load from the various depots across the country with trained personnel of the corps to ensure strict compliance.

In pursuit of aggressive public enlightenment programme, the FRSC management under Oyeyemi established the National Traffic Radio 107.1 FM in October, 2019 as a medium for educating members of the public on traffic matters and updating them of road conditions across the country. The corps further introduced a massive welfare scheme through the Post Service Scheme and the 20,000 Housing project for Staff.

With its present 12 zonal commands, 37 sector commands, 213 unit commands, 41 out posts, FRSC academy, FRSC training schools, FRSC staff college, 214 driver license centres/work stations, one signage plant, one national driver license print farm, 43 emergency ambulance points and 17 staff clinics; it is quite evident that the corps has witnessed tremendous expansion in these past 33 years.

On the global scene, FRSC takes leadership role of West African Road Safety Organisation (WARSO) and the corps has provided technical assistance to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ethiopia and a few other countries on the sub-region. It has also secured engagement with international organizations for capacity building including world bank project on Safe corridor Project, etc. Apart from succeeding in securing the endorsement of National Road Safety Strategy in 2016, FRSC made Nigeria the first African country to be admitted into the International Traffic Safety Data Analysis Group (IRTAD) and became the first African country to accede to six United Nations Conventions on road safety.

These efforts have earned the organization both national and international awards, including being rated as the best lead agency on road safety management in Africa. The corps’ success story has been attributed to the introduction of a world class drivers’ licensing standard which is difficult to forge, building and maintenance of a dedicated work force including regular marshals and a volunteer arm and optimal deployment of technology, a feat which has been described as unparalleled in Africa, South of the Sahara.

Experts in the transportation industry have also identified data utilization and transparency as quick win strategies that have ensured effective management through a weekly reportage of traffic trends, utilisation of data for performance monitoring and targeted interventions, effective monitoring, evaluation and planning, in addition to transparent evaluation of trends and sustained drive for improved performance.

In recognising the leadership role FRSC has played in shaping Nigeria’s road safety in 33 years, it is important to acknowledge that the collective responsibility of all Nigerian road users and the political will by the government is the reason for the achievements so far recorded.

Kazeem is an Assistant Corps Marshal at FRSC