Nigeria and 2016 World Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims, By Chude Ojugbana

road-crash-victims

Truly, life has its special way of producing reasonable and unreasonable coincidences or even a mix of both, depending on how one’s lenses are polarized.

Specifically, about a week before the November, 20th commemoration of 2016 World Day of Remembrance, WDR for road crash victims, as the Management of Nigeria’s lead agency on road safety, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC was busy effectively co-ordinating activities in respect of annual memorials for road crash victims and drawing public attention to the huge preventable road deaths, suddenly, a worrisome headline appeared in many Nigerian newspapers, “Missing Nigerian Journalist Found Dead”.

According to a major online media, Sahara Reporters, “Mr Adeparusi left his Kugbo, Abuja apartment on his motorcycle at around 1:00 p.m on Sunday. After not returning home, Mr Adeparusi’s neighbours, friends and colleagues placed several calls to his mobile phone that went unanswered.

His employers, Naij.com noted that this was unusual, as Mr Adeparusi was a “very professional and clear-headed individual; not the kind of person to wander off.” He was subsequently declared missing and was found dead on Tuesday in an apparent motorcycle accident”.

The sad narrative of the late Adeyinka Adeparusi, a renowned photojournalist who died on the spot of the road crash and his corpse later discovered in a morgue in Abuja is not an isolated case. It happens every day on the roads of Nigeria and in most African countries.

Adeparusi’s death coming in the week of 2016 WDR which is dedicated to improving vital post-crash actions with emphasis on Medicare, Investigation and Justice should not be dismissed as mere coincidence but a disturbing urgency that calls for a candid reflection on the plight of an average African road user that is usually denied of all the above mentioned necessities in the event of a road crash.

As Nigeria joins other governments and nongovernmental organizations around the world to commemorate the 2016 WDR by remembering the millions of lives lost or hurt by traffic crashes, the awful truth is that after eleven years of UN recognition and 21 years of observance of Remembrance Day by road safety interest groups, these important events are yet to attract appropriate political will of the Nigerian government on its worrisome road tragedies.

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Yet, Nigeria remains a country where every road user is a probable road victim with long list of Policy makers including Ministers, Federal Legislators, Governors, top government officials and their family members lost to preventable road deaths.

It is fair and good to recognise that Nigeria has a purposeful National Road Safety agency, FRSC that its staff and Management have demonstrated knowledge for addressing road traffic injuries especially with innovations and expressed best efforts but what is the capacity of the agency in terms of human, facility and financial resources to address the needs of over one hundred and forty million Nigerian road users.

Candidly put, as we remember the hundreds of thousands of road deaths in Nigeria on this 2016 WDR especially those that occurred in the year including the late Ocholis, former Minister of State for labour, the two children of a serving Senator,  many innocent youths, noble Nigerians and loved ones that their lives were abruptly terminated through road crashes, it is hard to be satisfied with the level of attention extended to the disturbing road death statistics by all tiers of government especially given that road crashes claim more lives on daily basis than any known insurgence or war situation in Nigeria’s post-independence.

How did the Nigerian road safety crisis get to this depressing situation and what can be done, one may ask? Certainly, it is a shared blame that requires a collective response approach by all stakeholders including all road users.

Sadly, given the many challenges that confront Nigeria in recession, what is increasingly clear is that the road safety situation may get worse if necessary remedial steps are not speedily taken. Indeed, as with every recession, vehicles will not be well maintained, roads will experience increasing deterioration and the commercial driver population will drastically increase as many workers in Nigeria have already found it expedient to use their personal cars to augment their income.

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With such a situation that puts more pressure on our roads and over stretches the limited facilities of the FRSC with negative consequences of increased road crashes, there is great need for the Nigerian government and its citizens to speedily embrace the recommendations of the 2016 WDR in strengthening vital post-crash actions by enhancing rescue facilities for the FRSC and expanding capacity of those that can provide care for road crash victims.

However, with Nigeria in a recession era, it is difficult to imagine that the FRSC, an age long underfunded agency will be protected from the effects of the massive contraction on government spending. Thus, we must expand our thoughts on how to take care of crash victims whilst urging the Presidency and Legislature to explore cum encourage innovative funding options for road safety in a manner which will ensure that all those that make commercial gains from road development and road use should compulsorily fund road safety including companies that contribute to increased motorization and alcohol beverage manufacturers that grossly increase road risks.

On the specific call by 2016 WDR for enhanced Medicare for road crash victims, the FRSC and the Federal Ministry of Health have done well to address the problem of hospital rejection but what about victims that need prompt attention on road crash scenes? On this, there is no reason for road users to allow Nigeria’s temporary economic decline to destroy their Good Samaritan instinct in helping people in need at road crash spots. This is where it becomes necessary to restate that the earlier recommendation of the 2007 Accra Declaration on road safety for compulsory First aid knowledge by drivers and the call by Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire to make persons who apply for driver’s license for the first time to undergo a ‘First Aid course’ before being issued a license is overdue for implementation especially in such recession period. On this, the need for the Ministry of Health to encourage all NGO’s working on other health related issues to support the FRSC on first aid training for persons that live in communities along major highways is an urgent call that will assure that first care and response for crash victims are not left as burden for only FRSC officials.

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In a country like Nigeria that road traffic injuries have become  top killer disease where there is increasing number of persons that leave their homes to use the roads but never return, some are later declared missing or found in the morgues, ignoring the theme of 2016 WDR will further worsen a situation that affects all. The present huge statistics on preventable road deaths which is major threat to the nation’s ambition to meet the Sustainable Development: SDG target 3.6, which aims to reduce global road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2020, should be a major concern for every road user.

The commemoration of 2016 World Day of Remembrance in Nigeria will be incomplete without advocating and appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari, a Nigerian leader that enjoys the trust and confidence of the International Community to lend his voice on the sad issue of preventable road deaths. Indeed, President Buhari’s call on global partners of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety, major International Donors, Jean Todt, UN Special Envoy for Road Safety and local philanthropists to support his government’s good intentions will not only help change the complexion of road safety funding but help reverse the statistics of Road Traffic Injuries in African’s most populous nation.

May, the souls of Adeyinka Adeparusi and the many innocent victims of our past collective disappointment on road safety, rest in peace!

Chude Ojugbana, Project Adviser, PATVORA Initiative Road Safety NGO & Country Ambassador, International Road Federation, IRF. Geneva.

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23 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. On point! Highly Preventable road injuries and fatalities is a very disturbing topic! Road safety in Nigeria deserves healthier attention. This write up is sufficient to instigate policy makers to initiate proper actions. Enough of pointless and avoidable road casualties.

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    1. Many people have been made to believe that road crashes are as a result of some form of blood sucking demons. As such, nothing can be done to halt or reverse it. Unfortunately, some religious leaders, mostly pastors apply such fatalistic beliefs in their preaching, indeed, such skewed sermons make people think that road deaths have a spiritual undertone. We need new orientation on road safety and this can be achieved if the FRSC finances are enhanced for public enlightenment. So, in truth the FRSC will need external support.

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  2. The road safety situation as explained by the writer is articulate. Bluntly, it is an apparent stoppable disease that can waste any life. However, what seems missing from the bright analysis is the issue of road safety audit of new and existing roads.

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    1. The unpleasant frequency of perished persons associated with road travel in Nigeria is heartrending. Indeed, it is a human tragedy that must be reversed. Government MUST take action to erase every doubt on its assumed or deliberate neglect.

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  3. A clear testament on this is aptly demonstrated when people travel together in public transport vehicles. Indeed, before embarking on a journey in a public transportation, time is spared for prayers. Whether it is a Muslim or Christian that leads in the prayer, the chorus is usually Amen or Ameen. What this actually explains is that the dreadfulness of road transportation in Nigeria prompts a very thick troublesome emotion that can even be touched as it is only such that makes both Christians and Muslims to recognise that we serve the same GOD. The observations and suggestions in this article are highly laudable.

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    1. Well written but more should be done regarding legislation on alternative funding for the FRSC. A special trust fund on road safety is very necessary. I think the Presidency should really look into the vital issues raised in this article.

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      1. Reducing global road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% before 2020 is a very ambitious target. For Nigeria to achieve this, we really need to inject so much accelerated measures for proper funding of the FRSC. For instance, we have 774 local governments areas in Nigeria but I doubt if the FRSC has offices in one third of them. Even Patrol vehicles may not even be in all local government areas. Thus, we need private sector partnership to support the FRSC.

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        1. We must not wait for government to do everything for us. Nigerians are capable of engaging themselves on first aid. After all, it is a life time knowledge that is needed even in our homes and offices.

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      2. I agree with the writer that funding remains a major issue for road safety development in Nigeria and that there is a role for alcohol manufacturers to play. This issue can be resolved by the Senate. Emphatically, passing a bill that will ensure 3% of the annual budget of Alcohol beverage companies goes directly to special funding account for road safety improvements in Nigeria is a fair demand. The is good logic because if the products manufactured by a company causes harm to the public, then the manufacturer should provide some form of comfort to reduce the harm. Such resources can be done through providing sobriety check points, breathalyzers for the FRSC and equipping the monitoring team to enforcement. If this is implemented, road crashes will reduce and it is very possible that the FRSC may be able to increase its present budget.

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  4. NGOs are used to laying blames on door steps of the government but this is a clear departure from the past. Let all stakeholders play their respective roles. In fact, road users set the ball rolling by learning how to manage crisis on road accident scenes through attending first aid classes. On the other hand, the Government of Nigeria should seek varied funding methods as no African government with competing needs for its resources can adequately take care of road victims.

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    1. The greatest fear in life for most people is travelling on the roads of Africa and I believe that many Nigerians share this horror. The neglect for support of Road safety in Nigeria has brought pains, tears and sorrows to many families. This article mirrors the Nigerian situation and ways to improve the facilities of the FRSC

      Reply
    2. It is mostly when road crashes involve top ranking government officials that you hear our leaders in government express concern over the issue of preventable road deaths. After the mourning period, nothing else happens. James Ocholi is a ready example. I just read the excellent tribute written by President Buhari on http://www.naijaloaded.com.ng/2016/03/17/read-president-buharis-tribute-late-james-ocholi/. It is almost a year, the Minister died, nothing has CHANGED on the safety conditions on our roads. The WDR is a credible reminder that any person can actually be a victim and I am pleased about many remarks in this narrative on our shortcomings and road map for road safety in Nigeria.

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      1. The story on the journalist is very sad. In the spirit of the World Day of Remembrance that called for Medicare, investigation and justice. Let the FRSC start here by instituting an appropriate investigation and ensure justice is done please.

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    3. Hon. Benjamin Ikechukwu Okonkwo · Edit

      I am impressed with this healthy conversation on this publication and the vast ideas being proposed. That we need new investments in FRSC is not an issue of debate. The FRSC ranks amongst the highly functional agencies in Nigeria but I have seen them in very distressed situations where some of their officers risk their lives while assisting accident victims without even being well kitted or protected.

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    4. Aside this writer’s apposite view of seeking funding from Beer and alcohol wine producers, the National Automotive Council and Nigeria Port Authority which collect money for every imported vehicle ought to fund road safety as they also benefit from increase in motorization which brings about more task for the FRSC.

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  5. Unnecessary road deaths are really a major neglect that we could have avoided in developing countries through better road use, funding and discipline. Unfortunately road safety does not have the voice of any champion in the African continent. The suggestion that President Muhammadu Buhari should take the lead is highly endorsed.

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  6. A clear and vivid Xray of Nigeria road travel situation. A clear suggestive and interventionist approach at finding solution to a long existing yet neglected problem. Road safety should and is a general concern therefore all must collectively lend support to address the needless death and losses. Mr Chude Ojugbana deserves commendation and award. He should be part of Nigeria’s Road Safety Decision. President Muhammadu Buhari should please intervene.

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    1. I think those at the highest levels of democratic governance in Nigeria should rethink their lack of involvement in curbing the many needless deaths on our roads.

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  7. Good commentary but what next? Is it another NATO “No Action Talk Only”? I think focused NGO advocates can take the fight against road deaths from here. Nobody should expect the FRSC to succeed in asking for more resources because such will not produce positive response.

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  8. Adeyinka Adeparusi’s death at the period the world was commemorating WDR is not a coincidence that should be ignored. It affords us the opportunity to raise consciousness on a major problem that confronts every Nigerian. His colleagues in the media should take action that will enable us understand what happened, why it happened and how we address such.

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  9. I agree that the right political will to develop road safety is far from being achieved in Nigeria. However, it is vital to state that governments in Africa rarely respond to issues until there is citizens’ action. The Civil society groups should fight for our safety on the roads and I believe this will even make the private sector show better response in terms of funding.

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    1. Nigeria will achieve great results on reduction of road death if we change our attitude on how we use the roads. The human capacity and monitoring vehicles of the FRSC are insufficient for the task of addressing preventable road deaths.

      Reply

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