FRSC and its primary task

Charles Ofoji

If you juxtapose the hazards that still exist on Nigerian roads with the billions of Naira already spent on the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) since its inception, then you begin to realize that the well-intended venture has failed to achieve its primary objective – to keep Nigerian roads safe for drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

It would be a denial to say that over the years the commission has not made noteworthy attempts at combating the perils common to Nigeria highways. Nevertheless, as archetypal of Nigeria, the commission, under various chairmen, instead of vigorously pursuing its primary task and tackling the root of the problem of lack of safety on our roads, has continued to chase shadows. The primary task for which the commission was set up is to keep our roads safe. And so many years after, has it succeeded in achieving this? The answer is no.

The lack of safety on Nigerian roads is mainly due to bad driving. There is a preponderance of dangerous driving largely because people who should have no business on wheels drive. Nigeria is a country where someone would buy a car even before he learns how to drive. Thereafter, he would beg one of his friends or relations to show him how to drive on a Sunday morning at a backyard primary school field. After two or three exercises, he jumps into the road as a driver so long as he could cough out about N10, 000 for a driver’s licence. The issuing office is only interested in the money. Once this money is paid, the issuing authority is ready to issue a blind person, even someone who is mentally deranged, a go ahead to drive on Nigerian roads.
90% of the drivers never went through an approved driving school, where, apart from turning the steering and gearing, driving rules and signs are taught. While another sizeable percentage possesses a driver’s licence, but can’t even drive. They are those who use it only for identification purposes at banks etc.

The FRSC under Osita Chidoka is like the proverbial man that is chasing rat while his house is on fire. The changing of plate numbers recently undertaken is an unnecessary cosmetic which will not impact its major chore. What I have expected the commission to do since its inauguration is to review every driver’s licence. I can authoritatively say that 80% of people driving in Nigeria ought to have no business driving. The truth remains that there are a lot of mad men on wheels. They disobey all accepted traffic norms and signs and pedestrians are mostly endangered. The first rule about driving in civilized climes is that the pedestrian is king. But unfortunately in Nigeria, it is as if they are disturbing traffic. Vehicle users will not even let them cross at zebra crossings or when there is a green light for them to traverse. Dangerous driving poses amplified menace for newcomers to Nigeria, who come from climes where driving is done only by the rules.

I also expect the FRSC to evolve a mechanism by which it controls every holder of a driver’s licence. It can introduce the Point-System, whereby, by each traffic offence a driver loses some points and when one loses over ten points, he forfeits his licence for a specified number of period or ad infinitum, depending on the gravity of the offence(s). It is balderdash that driver’s licence expires. How can a driver’s licence expire? The knowledge of driving is a lifelong ability. It is not temporary. Even when people go to renew their so-called expired licences no new tests are conducted. So where is the aim? Instead of putting driving licence owners through such unnecessary, stressing and aimless renewal procedure, the Road Safety Commission can better check abuses more effectively with the Point-System thing.

I have also long expected Chidoka and his men to introduce breath screeners in their management of road safety. This writer has often gone out with friends at night and after a drinking spree, they will jump into their cars and drive home. Yours sincerely has always been consternated. This can only happen in Nigeria. In fact, most of the times, you hear drivers saying that they need to “booze” first in order to “clear” their eyes. Then you can only laugh in your stomach. Such is only possible because the Road Safety Commission is not awake to its primary responsibility. The road Marshals have to be extra active at night when more alcohol is consumed by the populace in order to eradicate drink-driving, which is a major cause of roads mishaps.

Chidoka is a brilliant corps marshall. There is no doubt about this. Nevertheless, what I put to question is his ability to bring genuine reforms, which would help the commission realize the primary goal for which it was set up. The FRSC was not established to beautify plate numbers, etc or do a monthly show-off jogging exercise. It was established to keep our roads safe. Therefore, I expect him to introduce fundamental reforms which will enhance safety on our roads and he should refrain from superfluous aesthetics.

*first published August 16, 2012

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