Re: Nigeria’s killer containers
JULY 20, 2015 : JOEL ADEMISOYE
I am writing a rejoinder to Lekan Sote’s article, “Nigeria’s killer containers” published in The PUNCH, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The author failed to hold the Federal Road Safety Corps responsible for the lax enforcement of traffic laws concerning unlatched containers on trucks found on Nigerian roads. Also, the article glossed over the many fundamental issues why unsecured containers are ubiquitous on Nigerian roads. For instance, the author merely referenced government agencies’ (the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Customs Service, Vehicle Inspection Office, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation) official positions on and their reaction to the problem of unlatched containers in the country. The agencies in the safety chain provided standard responses with little insight into the crux of the problem and how to resolve it. It is obvious there was no claim of responsibility as they merely passed the buck among themselves. Therefore, accountability by a particular agency becomes elusive.
Which government agency is responsible for the safety of containers on trucks plying Nigerian roads? If someone observes unlatched containers on trucks on the roads, to which government agency is the report made? Over the years, I have observed many trucks with unsecured containers go thru the FRSC checkpoints without being stopped. The million naira question is, why in the world is this blatant failure of the FRSC to enforce the traffic regulations of the country?
A few months ago, on the Owo-Ikare Road in Owo Town, a freaky accident occurred involving a truck with two unlatched containers. The containers on the truck fell on a small car parked on the roadside. The car was compressed like a “sardine.”There was no death reported due to the accident. But it was observed that the FRSC officers were busy on the scene controlling and managing the flow of traffic around the accident site.
The recent horrible accident on the Sagamu Interchange-Benin Expressway, which took the lives of 11 students and a driver from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye is the latest in the series of unlatched containers accidents on our roads. It also underscored the poor state of enforcement of traffic regulations in the country. How can you imagine a truck driver driving into the wrong lane facing the oncoming traffic? This is part of the impunity syndrome that Nigerians have had to live with daily. According to Sote’s article, the FRSC is unable to trace the driver and the owner of the vehicle. The truck is supposedly licensed by the agency. So, what happened to the vehicle’s information? This raises many issues among which is the FRSC’s bureaucracy and record keeping capacity in terms of its ability to provide vehicle information in the country in the case of an accident.
But, there is a silver lining in the Sagamu-Benin Expressway accident in terms of pushing the problem of unlatched containers to the public domain for discussion and it provides the opportunity for changes in public policy.
This author has not lived in a country where containers are loaded on trucks at the seaport without properly secured. The Nigerian experience where unlatched containers are loaded on trucks, and allowed to ply the highways, is contrary to the international norm. How can the governments in Nigeria be an exemption to the international standard and practices? Consider a truck carrying a load of unlatched containers from the Lagos seaport to Abuja. the nation’s capital. The truck may have passed through a chain of law enforcement checkpoints (FRSC, VIO, NCS, NDLEA) without being stopped. It is the responsibility of the government at all levels (federal, state and local) to make the highways safe for the commuters. It appears the current FRSC is weak as a public institution, which lacks the capacity in terms of trained manpower to effectively safeguard our roads. Corruption is part of daily life in the Nigerian society, the operations of the FRSC as a public institution have not escaped this tendency. According to the article, motorists obtain the MOT certificate without bringing their vehicles to any of the testing grounds. This may help to explain why there are so many junk vehicles on Nigerian roads. At night, it is a common occurrence to find vehicles without number plates, head and brake lights and other violations. In fact, there are many old, unfit vehicles on Nigerian roads that belong to the grave yard – vehicles’ junk yard.
The Federal Government needs to reform its motor vehicle policy concerning the operation of trucks on the country’s roads, particularly relating to unlatched containers. As part of this reform, the state governments must require regular inspection of vehicles to ensure road worthiness. The government should formulate a national policy and create a national data bank for all commercial trucks plying Nigerian roads. This bank will contain all pertinent information concerning the vehicle, owner, state of residency, insurance, etc. As asserted in the article, the FRSC accuses truck drivers of excessive speeding, drunk driving, drudgery and sleepiness from long distance drives, poor attitude to vehicle maintenance and ignorance of the highway codes. These allegations levelled against the drivers reflect the frustration being experienced by the FRSC officers. What are the corrective measures or programmes being implemented by the agency to mitigate against these issues?
What is the way forward in reducing the truck accidents on the roads? It is imperative that the Federal Government provides leadership and employs a comprehensive and integrative (vertical and horizontal) approach to a national policy to manage the commercial trucks plying the roads. It is obvious that the FRSC cannot do it alone. This requires all government law enforcement agencies (FRSC, NPA, NCS, NPF, etc.) to cooperate and work together through a multi-agencies organisation. This is part of the strategy to providing a better management structure to improve the performance of the FRSC. It is okay to solicit for the cooperation and voluntary compliance to traffic regulations from stakeholders (National Road Transport Owners, Licensed Custom Agents and Freight Forwarders). But, the effective implementation of the vehicle regulations remains paramount and more potent instrument in reducing truck accidents. As part of the reforms, all commercial trucks in the country must be officially registered with the Federal Government in each state capital and the FCT. Thus, each truck will carry a registered number boldly written on it for an identification purpose.