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Promoting Road Safety In Nigeria

Lizzy Agbaji

Concerned citizens have expressed dissatisfaction on many occasions on the rate of obedience to traffic rules and regulations among motorists in Nigeria. They allege that law enforcement agents who are expected to uphold the rules and regulations also encourage disobedience to the laws.

They note that law enforcement agents and aides of political office holders seem to have a penchant for breaking traffic rules. Mr Matthew Sonipe, a civil servant, says disobedience to traffic rules and regulations are common among most security officers. “Security officers and political aides have no respect for traffic rules as they think they are above the law. So, they break the laws rather than being obedient.

“Who would then be the custodian of these laws and what examples are they setting for other road users? “It is a bad image for the country as a lot of foreigners living in or visiting the country will have a negative impression of Nigeria and see the citizens as lawless,’’ Sonipe says. Sharing similar view, Miss Ojima Peter, a law student, notes that security agents, aides of political office holders and banks bullion vans push road users off the road with sirens in some instances. “The rate of accidents caused by the convoy of politicians and top government officials, security agents, bank vehicles is on the rise. “A lot of road users and innocent Nigerians has been killed by this act of recklessness and lawlessness. “Rather than protect lives and property, they have contributed to the death of some people; the incoming government should ensure that sirens are used by appropriate authorities,’’ he says.

In her view, Mrs Theodora Philips, a business woman in Abuja, advises the incoming administration not to let disobedience to traffic laws with impunity continue. “This is what they cannot try abroad and so, if they respect the laws elsewhere, they ought to respect the laws in Nigeria,’’ he insists. But CSP Shogunle Abayomi, Assistant Police Public Relations Officer in Abuja, disagrees with the views expressed about security officers contravening traffic rules. He explains that when such security officers are responding to emergencies or distress calls, police vans, ambulances, fire service and other vehicles are permitted to use siren.

“In FCT, only the president, vice-president, senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives are permitted to use siren. “Ministers and state governors are not allowed to use sirens within FCT. “In a situation where a police van is seen breaking traffic rules or using siren unnecessarily, people could take a clip of the scenario, report to the police and appropriate measures would be taken. “Nobody is above the law and we will ensure compliance with law and order in the country,’’ Abayomi said. Irrespective of this clarification, critics insist that on many occasions, some security agents claim that there is an emergency situation while there is none just to escape gridlock or move faster using siren. But the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) insists that the law is no respecter of anyone and no any security agent is allowed to contravene traffic rules.

Mr Susan Ajenge, Sector Commander, FRSC, FCT command, says by the rules of the commission, both the officers and citizens are liable to prosecution when they violate traffic rules. “On the issue of traffic light violation, emergency vehicles are exempted when there is an emergency because waiting for the traffic light could sometimes cause more   harm than good. “Motorists in general are, however, urged to obey traffic rules and ensure the safety of pedestrians, especially those walking on Zebra crossing. “We have carried out several enlightenment campaigns on the enforcement of traffic rules.’’ “Although some people regard it as trivial, once charged and prosecuted for any road traffic offence, that person becomes an ex-convict,’’ Ajenge says.

He, nonetheless, admits that disobedient to traffic rules is not limited to security personnel as most Nigerians are guilty of it. According to him, the obligation of having a society that works is in the hands of every Nigerian by conducting themselves in an orderly manner when driving. In his view, Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos believes that Nigerians could only ensure the success of the incoming administration by being law-abiding. At the opening ceremony of the 32nd Synod of the Diocese of Lagos, Anglican Communion recently, he said: “I see abiding by law and order as the most important issue that we have not really focused and the incoming administration would correct that.’’

Corroborating this viewpoint, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari recently urged all security personnel attached to him to obey traffic laws as abiding by law would be the guiding philosophy of his administration. “All military, police and other security personnel should be in tune with this philosophy to ensure bringing the rule of law in the conduct of leaders during their movements on public roads.

“ Without leadership by example, ordinary citizens would become copycats of the lawlessness of their leaders. “In a democracy, leaders should not inflict inconveniences and unbearable ordeals on the citizens for their own comfort,’’ he said. Buhari further expressed concerns about situations where ordinary citizens were punished at traffic points and public roads because of the arrogant lawlessness of leaders, emphasising that his administration would not tolerate it. All in all, observers insist that preservation of the laws of the nation is fundamental to development and it is the responsibility of every Nigerian to ensure road safety by obeying traffic rules and regulations. (NANFeatures)

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