By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
A Statement By The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) On The Pathetic Issues Of Bad Road Across The Country With Emphasis On The South East Of Nigeria Which Has The Worst Federal Roads Than Anywhere Else, Calling For The Amendments Of The Federal Road Safety Corps Act To Make It Legally Binding That Federal Government Pays N5 Million Each For Any Death By Accident Adjudged By Investigators To Have Been Caused Due To Poor Roads Infrastructure.
Despite the existence of the Federal Road Safety Commission, set up under the federal road safety commission (establishment) act, 2007 act no. 22 which is an extant act to repeal the federal road safety commission act, cap 141, 1990 (as amended) with the responsibility for traffic management, preventing and minimizing accidents on the highways, the supervision of users of such highways, the regulation of traffic thereon and clearing of obstruction on any part of the highways and for educating drivers, motorists and other members of the public generally on the proper use of highways; and for related matters to safety on the highways, road traffic deaths have continued to rise.
Since over ten years that this Commission was set up, there has been a mixed bag of opinion on their performance given that deaths from accidents have increased and the most dominant causative factor is the deteriorating state of the road infrastructures all over Nigeria. Even, the Corp marshal of the Federal Road Safety commission was quoted recently in the media of claiming that road accident kills more than the much dreaded global pandemic of COVID-19.
Incidentally, Investigations and analysis of data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, have shown Nigeria as one of the countries with a high number of road fatalities in Africa.
In May, 2017 during the flag off of the Global Safety Week at the Nigeria Union of Jounalists (NUJ) secretariat, Kaduna, The Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission; Boboye Oyeyemi said that there were 33.7 deaths per 100, 000 people in Nigeria every year, making Nigeria one of the countries with the highest number of road fatalities in Africa
According to the data sourced from the Federal Road Safety Corps, there were 12,077 road accidents of which 5,400 persons died in 2015. In 2016, the National Bureau of Statistics said there were 11,363 crashes with 5,053 deaths, and in 2017, 10,026 crashes and 5,049 deaths.
In the 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated road traffic fatalities in Nigeria at 39,802, while the estimated rate per 100,000 deaths stood at 21.4.
In 2019, between January and November, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) recorded 8,527 road traffic crashes (RTC) across the country in which 4,163 people were killed in crashes during the period. In the first quarter of this year, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) recorded 3,947 road crashes and 1,758 deaths, just to mention but afew.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), has listed the causes of accidents to include speeding (4-5 per cent); driving under the influence of alcohol and other psychoactive substances; non-use of motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints; distracted driving; unsafe road infrastructure; unsafe vehicles; inadequate post-crash care; and inadequate law enforcement of traffic laws.
Virtually all of these causes are prevalent in Nigeria, especially unsafe road infrastructure. Most of the road networks are in decrepit state and can best be described as roads to hell where human lives are wasted daily.
Emphatically, in the south east for instance, most federal roads in that region are dilapidated; a situation which has made vehicular movement cumbersome and more expensive. Currently, many stretches of the federal roads are death traps accounting for recurring high rate of accidents daily.
In a survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the zone, the people blamed the deplorable condition of the federal roads on poor handling, substandard job and poor maintenance culture by successive governments in the country.
Given the humongous lives that are wasted on our roads across the country with the attendant socio-economic losses, all stakeholders must join forces to make Nigerian roads safe. Roads make a crucial contribution to economic development and growth and bring important social benefits.
They are of vital importance in order to make a nation grow and develop. In addition, providing access to employment, social, health and education services makes a road network crucial in fighting against poverty. Roads open up more areas and stimulate economic and social development. For those reasons, road infrastructure is the most important of all public assets.
Judging by existing legislation in Nigeria at both federal and state levels, road safety would appear to be a key and extremely important governance issue. The existence of laws with provisions, designed to regulate road traffic, and the establishment of a specialised road safety agencies to enforce those provisions, one would had expected that the importance of road safety in view of its economic, social and quality-of-life implications and in its vital role in the establishment of public order ought to have been realized, but the reverse has been the case
Being that chapter 5 of the Act setting Up the Federal Road Safety Commission says that the Commission may make regulations generally for the carrying out of the supervision of the user of highways; the restriction or exclusion of type or class of vehicles; the restriction of the use of highway by any breed of animals; the line to be kept on a highway and the direction to be followed by vehicles, and given that here has been a mixed bag of opinion on their performance occasioned by deaths from accidents, there have been calls for the federal Road safety commission to be further empowered to effectively enforce sanity on our high ways.
The issue of government’s obligation to enhance road safety and the vicarious liability of federal and state governments for all the deaths recorded on the Nigerian highways cannot be overemphasized.
Therefore, we are by this statement calling for further amendments of the Federal Road Safety Commission Act to make it legally binding that the federal government pays N5 million each for any death by accident adjudged by investigators to have been caused due to poor roads infrastructure.
Equally, we call for action to have seamless mode of maintenance of the highways similar to what obtains in civilised societies including the United Kingdom whereby accidents caused by bumps are actionable and the United Kingdom’s government is held liable for such. Replicating similar standards will stop the road rage and terrorism.
Generally, stronger leadership is needed to advance road safety in our country. Strong leadership around legislation on key risks such as speeding, drinking and driving and failing to use seat-belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints; safer infrastructure like sidewalks and dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists; improved vehicle standards such as those that mandate electronic stability control and advanced braking; and enhanced post-crash care.
The pathetic poor road infrastructure across the country has been having major negative impacts on the socio-economic health of the country. For instance, the high accident rate often robs families of their sole bread-winners, either by death or permanent disability, and the nation of young people on whom a lot has been invested in terms of education and training.
Also, there is substantial loss of goods being transported, pushing up insurance premiums and providing transporters with an excuse to avoid insuring their goods. This impacts negatively on the effectiveness of the value-recovery mechanism that insurance is supposed to provide so as to help businesses remain financially and economically viable. GOVERNMENT SHOULD WAKE UP AND BE MORE PROACTIVE!