*Making Roads Safer In Nigeria
By Adewale T. Akande
Precisely a year and few days, at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development( EBRD ) conference held in London (4th of July 2008) where the Nigerian chief marshal of the FRSC, Osita Chidoka made a remark in his opening speech that “There are an estimated 161 deaths
from accidents per 10,000 vehicles in Nigeria...” Up till this moment, the figure is still increasing despite all efforts by the corps and no thanks to human factors and the bad state of the roads especially due to negligence and lack of maintenance culture.
Most state and federal roads are death traps as they are short of safety infrastructures. According to FIA Foundation Organization, “every six seconds someone is killed or maimed on the world’s roads”. The majority of these deaths, about 70 percent occur in developing countries. The road traffic injury mortality rate in Africa is 28.3 per 100,000 people. Hundreds are crippled and injured everyday on Nigeria roads. The deaths toll keep on beating our imagination with increasing number of Nigerians being killed daily and subsequent trauma felt by their families. Road deaths and injuries are sudden, violent, traumatic experience events that require special attention by all and sundry.
One of the greatest threats to travelers in Nigeria is road safety. Recently, I made a phone call to former CEO of a notable publishing company in Ibadan( the publisher of my first book ) to inform and discuss with him about my new road traffic safety projects. Coincidentally, I hardly finished my discussion with him, when he told me of a ghastly motor accident that occurred on Lagos-Ibadan expressway less than an hour on his way back to Ibadan. He said many lives were lost due to non availability of emergency medical services or even traffic police officers that are supposed to be seen every minute on the highway roads. They don’t have any other job than to save lives on our roads.
This sad news reminds me of what happened in November, 2007 in one of my regular visits to Nigeria. Few hours on arrival, I decided to drive myself from Ikeja to Ibadan. Controlling the steering wheel on the expressway was a big fight, talk-less of numerous gapping pot-holes, black spots, debris on both sides of the road. I kept on wondering if government officials or representatives travel on this same road. After all they were voted to represent us and make us live and work in safety.
Barely forty minutes on the wheel I witnessed two ghastly road accidents within few kilometres of the one-hour drive of Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The most horrible part of the sad scenes was that I could not see neither a police officer nor an emergency ambulance or doctor/nurse attending to the victims groaning in pain for more than twenty minutes, but I counted eight police check points between Lagos and Ibadan on the fateful day. What are their purposes? All these police check points should be turned to SOS emergency centers staffed
with police officers, ambulances, doctors and nurses.
Every Nigerian has the right to live and work in safety. Every Nigerian has the right to walk, ride and drive on good and safe roads. This generation should not be wasted with road accidents. In less than twelve months, Nigeria will be celebrating its 50 years independence anniversary( Golden Anniversary as it will be called ). The federal government of Nigeria should come out now with a new National Safety Action Plan or Road Safety Improvement Action Plan for 10 years(
2010-2020 ). This should be based on comprehensive and strategic plan
of action which will involve federal road safety, police, federal and all state road, transport, health and education ministries, road engineers, policy makers, insurance companies, automobile companies, motor associations, psychologists, industrial representatives, consultants and researchers on road safety, driver trainers( driving schools ), media, community leaders, youth organizations and others who have stakes in road safety.
The goal of this Road Safety Improvement Action Plan Committee is to meet, discuss and develop blue-print recommendations for advancing
road safety for a decade( 2010-2020 ) or even for five years as deemed
most expedient. The aim of this laudable strategic highway safety plan should be concentrated on the “4Es” of safety which include; the contributions of Engineering, Education, Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services.
The committee will also be involved with road safety issues such as; road traffic education, nationwide emergency medical services( SOS ),
rehabilitation of accident victims, crash data, research, publicity, traffic laws enforcement, vehicle safety standard, driver training, testing and licensing. Others areas of concern for the committee include, the issue of human factors which account for road crashes such as age, speed, health status, state of mind and substance influence.
Road safety measures are great success in other countries like Malaysia with Road Safety of Malaysia( 2006-2010 ), National Road Safety Plan in Kenya(2005-2010) and in South Africa under different
road safety projects. United Kingdom recently launched a decade of action plan to make roads safe. Road safety is a shared responsibility and concern of everyone. Road traffic systems are the most complex issues people have to deal with everyday.
We should all join hands together to ensure effective implementation of my proposed road safety plan. Road users education, awareness, positive attitudes, defensive driving techniques should be developed to avert unnecessary accidents. We can save more lives, be safe and be responsible road users if we can contribute effectively to safe roads by respecting traffic rules and regulations, road signs, speed limits and do not drive or ride under the influence of alcohol or hard drugs.
Road Safety Improvement Action Plan is very important and laudable project to Nigeria at this stage of development. It needs an urgent action. The government should implement road safety measures as proposed and should see expenditure on road safety as an investment and not as a cost.
Adewale T. Akande
Author and Road Safety Consultant