Recently, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, issued a well-worn order banning indiscriminate use of sirens on Nigerian roads/highways. The order has been frequently issued but obeyed in the breach over a long period of time that no one takes such measures seriously anymore.
Successive Inspectors-General of Police have come raving with anger over the arbitrary use of sirens by every Tom, Dick and Harry but no sanctions are meted out to violators to the extent that such orders are laughed off as the barking of a toothless bulldog.
Way back in 2009, the reckless use of sirens, flashes and such irritating ways of expressing bigmanism became so rampant on our roads and highways that the House of Representatives proposed a bill to tame the madness. The bill sought to amend the Federal Road Safety Commission Act 2007 to regulate the use of sirens, flashes and beacons in Nigeria and provide a punishment for offenders.
Under the ill-fated bill, only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Vice President, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and his Deputy, Chief Justice of the Federation, state Governors and their Deputies were allowed express use of sirens on Nigerian roads and highways.
The proposed bill forbade the First Lady, wives of the state governors, deputy governors and cabinet ministers from blaring sirens all over the place. Service chiefs as well as the Inspector-General of Police were also to come under the ban. The bill was pursued desultorily and later abandoned, leaving the Inspectors-General of Police that were to be forbidden from using sirens with the ordeal of issuing orders that are flouted freely.
Some 11 years down the road, every influential private citizen including foreigners, speakers of various Houses of Assembly, local government chairmen, state police commissioners, top judicial officers at the federal and state levels have made it impossible to silence the cacophony on the highways.
Even with those permitted to use the sirens, many road users have had nasty experiences both in the cities and on the highways. Overzealous security men in various convoys are known to harass and/or run other road users out of their lanes or force them to park not caring whether or not it was safe to do so. Many road users have been rushed to their early graves in the process of making way for the Very Important Personalities (VIPs), resulting in fatal accidents. Most of these VIPs are afflicted by the superiority complex syndrome as though they would remain in such positions for life. They derive maximum pleasure seeing their fellow human beings in such nasty situation so long as it massages their ego.
The perennial orders banning indiscriminate use of sirens are similar to the directives withdrawing police personnel guarding all manner of high profile personalities all over the country. Successive Inspectors-General of Police have formed the habit of issuing such directives the moment they are appointed, as though it is fashionable.
According to available statistics, no fewer than 200 policemen on the average are attached to each of the 36 state governors, totaling 7,200. The 36 ministers are protected by five policemen each, bringing the number to 180. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Head of Service and their counterparts at the state level have security details. Special advisers, senior special assistants, directors-general, permanent secretaries and other political appointees also have security details to watch over them.
The Senate president and his deputy have between them about 150 police personnel for personal protection. Each of the 106 senators has at least a policeman to ensure they are safe.
The speaker of the House of Representatives is guarded by 30 policemen. His deputy and other principal officers have at least two each, while each of the remaining 360 floor members has one policeman in tow.
The long list stretched down to states, covering high profile political office holders and their cronies in the private sector. Then, there are numerous police chiefs, ranging from the inspector general of police to the state commissioners of police.
Many have expressed worries over why several attempts to wean police personnel from the succulent milk of the big shots they are assigned to illegally have always met stonewalls. Something must be wrong with the system. However, it is the general belief that successive police leaderships are profiting from the illegality.
We urge the National Assembly to revisit the moribund bill seeking to ban indiscriminate use of sirens on the roads and highways with a view to pursuing it to its logical conclusion. Those who kill or maim innocent road users on account of getting free passage should be sanctioned for contributing to the high fatalities on our roads.