By Olutayo Irantiola
We woke up on Friday, April 12 2019 when a Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) van was said to be involved in a Road Traffic Accident (RTA). I was awestruck at the various ways in which our lives have become trivialized as those who should reduce road carnages are the ones leading commuters to their early graves because of their ego that took over reasoning in an attempt to arrest an erring driver.
The accident has brought up the memory of the various social media posts aimed at hoodwinking these safety officers. One of such pictures showed officers who were enjoying themselves at a pub during work hours. One would ask, if FRSC officers are enjoying the afternoon at a pub, won’t they drive themselves to the office and eventually to their houses? This ironically reinforces the message of Don’t Drive and Drive.
Similarly, there was another picture in which FRSC officers are seen moving their wares to another location an overloaded van. We, then, have to ask for the moral justification of these officers to arrest overloaded vehicles, especially vehicles trying to move wares of businessmen and women who are traveling to the hinterlands for their lawful businesses.
FRSC officers are usually dreaded on the road, motorists have known their typical hideouts on certain roads and they try to dodge them. Some motorists usually drive closely behind trucks in order to escape being flagged down by the officers. The unending plight of motorists is heightened by all forms of paramilitary outfits on the Nigerian roads- with and without arms- the Nigerian Customs Service; Vehicle Inspection Service; the Nigerian Police Force- Traffic Control; Rapid Response Squad, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS); the Federal Road Safety Commission and the Traffic Agencies being set up by various states in the country. It now looks like a crime driving a vehicle.
With all these encumbrances on the road, drivers and commuters now have a daily prayer of being rescued from the hands of all these forces that laces Nigerian roads. The way in which they haunt for commercial vehicles is limited when compared to the travail of private vehicles. In fact, a young person is fortunate to purchase a tokunbo car, he is a potential prey and a good source of illegal income if he defaults by not having all the completed documents of the car. He would pay through his nose and he may be dismayed from driving henceforth if he is not bold enough.
As for commercial vehicles and trucks, they are typically the harbingers of death. Either it being boarded from a motor park or from a bus stop. One would continue to pray for safe arrival. However, it seems like they are usually free from the pestilence of these forces. One can comfortably say that the carefree attitude of the FRSC to these vehicles and trucks has aided road traffic accidents- containers not properly strapped falling off the trucks; tankers with bad tyres amongst others.
The FRSC officials and those at the upper echelon should be leading the advocacy for the construction of motorable roads for Nigerians. If the roads are in good state, Nigerians would find it justifiable to have FRSC carry out their duties on the roads. The bad spots on the roads are major source of concern for Nigerian travelers and it has negatively affected domestic tourism.
I remember an analogy of a friend about the FRSC vans, these vehicles are driven like Snails but when there are vehicles to chase, it comes alive like Lions. In my own thoughts, FRSC should be more corrective than punitive. We are so great at punishing in Nigeria, if a driver wants to abscond from the long arms of the law; the officers should let him be. Let’s find alternative to arrest erring people, just like the Vehicle Inspection Service is doing currently in Lagos, it is a heinous crime for FRSC officers using their vans to lead commuters into death.
In my own opinion the carrying of arms by FRSC officials, if I am to draw a conclusion from the occurrence of last Friday, it means that the lives of more Nigerians that will be lost on the roads will skyrocket because the ego of an officer who is bent on punishing a driver will eventually become a trigger-happy cop. However, if there would be a special unit for the office of the Corps Marshal, that’s acceptable but they should never be on the roads.
We keep hoping that the Africanness in us will give way to how things are done globally. We cannot continue to waste lives in their prime due to the ways in which our cops handle guns. There is a need to reduce even the number of guns on the street now in Nigeria as we are not in a war zone. All the guns that are being brandished across the country should be reduced so that our society can be regarded as a sane land.
Olutayo Irantiola is a PR Specialist in Lagos; Creative Writer; Convener, Literary Reading Group and a Cultural Activist. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org