Worrisome carnage on Nigeria’s highways


ALMOST daily, reports of traffic accidents on Nigeria’s roads with resulting casualties assail the public. Fatalities have reached an alarming level, requiring the relevant authorities to find lasting solutions. This is an urgent task for the federal and state authorities; there should be a renewed seriousness in road safety and traffic management by all tiers of government.

Recently, seven persons were burnt to death in an auto crash at Iyana Oworo inward the Third Mainland Bridge involving a commercial Mazda bus conveying passengers from Oshodi to Ajah. The details were gory: the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency said 12 persons were trapped, while the driver escaped with burns, one male adult was treated, three female adults rescued and seven burnt to death.

The year had opened with a report that eight persons died and five others sustained injuries in an accident on the Ondo-Ore Expressway at Bagbe, Ondo West Local Government Area. In August, a truck loaded with cement crashed into a Toyota Picnic van killing some of its occupants. Another road traffic crash claimed five lives at Ibiae, Biase LGA, Cross River State. In the same month, a crash involving two vehicles in the early hours of the day in Alaro City, Epe, Lagos State, claimed 16 lives and injured five others. Twenty-three male adults were involved in the crash; 16 died, five were critically injured, and two escaped unhurt.

The death toll rose on September 5 when a girl and four adults died in an accident involving an SUV and a truck at Enugu-Agidi, off Awka-Enugu Expressway, Anambra State.

RTCs have been identified by the World Economic Forum as the eighth leading cause of death for all ages. Among children and young adults aged five to 29, it is the leading cause of death. Experts identify four primary effects: physical, emotional, social, and economic. In Nigeria, RTCs constitute one of the leading causes of deaths.

Between 2013 and 2020, reported the National Bureau of Statistics, 41,709 persons died in RTCs in the country, with 3,574 dying in 2020. Though the FRSC said it achieved a 54 per cent reduction from 1987 when it was established to 2021, the carnage remains high. It recorded 13,027 crashes nationwide in 2021. According to the World Health Organisation, its estimate of 41,693 deaths on Nigerian roads was 2.82 per cent of the global total. The World Bank ranks Nigeria 54th in the world in the number of road accidents. About 3.0 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP is drained by RTCs, says the WHO. A 2010 study estimated that RTCs impose an economic cost of N80 billion annually on Nigeria—in property lost or damaged, cost of medical treatment and in lost productivity.

To curtail this trend, the 36 state governments and the FRSC and other relevant agencies should collaborate. NBS figures show that except in 2014 when 4,430 deaths were recorded, fatalities in Nigeria topped 5,000 annually.

Fashioning effective remedies should start with identifying the causes of RTCs. One is the poor condition of the roads. Most of Nigeria’s roads—federal, state and LG—are in a bad shape and poorly maintained. The FRSC identifies excessive speeding, reckless overtaking, and faulty, ill-maintained vehicles as major causes of crashes. Other factors cited include speed violation, light/sign violation, wrongful overtaking, dangerous driving, and bad tyres bursting.

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Motorists, led by public officials and security personnel, break traffic rules at will. Federal and state governments pass traffic laws which they often fail to enforce, with officials only hiding under them to perpetrate extortion. Many states’ Vehicle Inspection Offices and their personnel are more interested in revenue mobilised from fines and charges than in compliance with safety regulations.

Many VIO and FRSC personnel are on the highways demanding vehicle documents and imposing fines. But many offenders simply bribe their way through. This way, the roads are plied by vehicles in rickety condition and inebriated drivers. In 2019, 37 FRSC officials were arrested by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission for extorting motorists in six states across the country. Thirty-five drivers were arrested in August this year by the FRSC in Imo State for trying to bribe its men.

The three tiers of government must fix the country’s roads; of the country’s 195,000 kilometres of roads, only 60,000 km are paved and of these, declared the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, “a large proportion is in very unacceptable condition due to insufficient investment and inadequate maintenance.”

Road construction and rehabilitation are not given adequate attention; major economically important ones such as Lagos–Ibadan, East-West Road, Apapa link roads, Kano–Kaduna–Abuja, Second Niger Bridge, and Port Harcourt–Aba, are either ignored or are undergoing interminably long rehabilitation that ignore commuter convenience and safety and done at snail-speed pace.

Planners must borrow from the world’s best. The WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety lists Micronesia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Kiribati, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Singapore, Spain, and Norway as the top 10 safest countries to drive in. The World Bank Group said Singapore’s roads are the safest in South-Asia and the Pacific region; they also rank among the safest globally. It cites enforcement of safety rules and regulations, and vehicle safety standards focused on 52 items specified by its Land Transport Authority as its success factors, while “road safety and driver education are core tenets of Singapore’s road safety strategy.”

In Nigeria, laws, regulations, and standards are not rigorously enforced; the country has given up on enforcement of mandatory wearing of helmets by motorcycle riders despite the frequency of accidents recorded by this segment.

The FRSC and state VIOs should take the campaign on safety on highways to garages and parks in the country. Adoption of technology to monitor the highways, drivers and for law enforcement is important. FRSC and counterpart state agencies should be well-funded and equipped.

Success requires commitment, popular buy-in through the reactivation and improvement of part-time volunteer schemes like the FRSC’ marshals, and similar ones at the state levels, better roads as well as stronger road safety laws. ,

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