FRSC and revenue generation
In the 1960s, there were deliberate efforts to initiate safety programmes by various agencies and regional government.
Notable among the efforts to institute a formidable road safety programme was the effort of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, SPDC, between 1960 and 1965.
The effort of the Nigerian Army in the training of its officers and men on road safety in the early 1970s also contributed to road safety ideas and consciousness in Nigeria: The Nigerian Army started the First Public Road Safety Campaign in 1972 when it initiated an annual Road Safety Week.
The first deliberate policy on road safety was the creation in 1974 of the National Road Safety Commission, NRSC, by the then military government. The impact of the Commission was however, not sustained.
With the continued dangerous trend of road traffic accidents in Nigeria then, which placed it as one of the most road traffic accident prone countries worldwide, the Nigerian government saw the need to establish the present Federal Road Safety Corps in 1988 to address the carnage on highways.
Prior to the establishment of Federal Road Safety Commission in 1988, there was no concrete and sustainable policy action to address the carnage on Nigerian roads.
Undoubtedly, the unpleasant trend in the nation's road traffic system which resulted in upsurge in road traffic accidents made the federal government initiate a search for a credible and effective response to the challenge.
The functions of the commission generally relates to: Making the highway safe for motorists and other road users; recommending works and devices designed to eliminate or minimize accidents on the highways and advising the federal and state governments including the Federal Capital Territory Administration and relevant governmental agencies on the localities where such works and devices are required; and educating motorists and members of the public on the importance of discipline on the highway.
In particular, the commission is charged with the responsibilities of preventing or minimizing accidents on the highway; clearing obstructions on any part of the highways; educating drivers, motorists and other members of the public generally on the proper use of the highways; designing and producing the driver's license to be used by various categories of vehicle operators and to determine from time to time, the requirements to be satisfied by an applicant for a driver's licence.
Other responsibilities include designing and producing vehicle number plates. The standardization of highway traffic codes; giving prompt attention and care to victims of accidents; conducting researches into causes of motor accidents and methods of preventing them and putting into use the result of such researches, determining and enforcing speed limits for all categories of roads and vehicles and controlling the use of speed limiting devices; cooperating with bodies or agencies or groups in road safety activities or in prevention of accidents on the highways; regulating the use of sirens, flashers and beacon lights on vehicles other than ambulances and vehicles belonging to the Armed Forces, Nigeria Police, Fire Service and other Paramilitary agencies; providing roadside and mobile clinics for the treatment of accident victims free of charge; regulating the use of mobile phones by motorists; regulating the use of seat belts and other safety devices among other functions.
Regrettably, a critical look at the activities of the commission in its over 30 years of operation shows that revenue generation has overtaken other core mandates of the Commission.
Today, the commission has covertly or overtly jettisoned its functions of saving lives on our major highways.
However, it is a sad tale to note that thousands of Nigerians are dying on our major highways due to recklessness of drivers, overspending, making or receiving calls while driving, drunk driving,, among other traffic violations, while our FRSC officers are busy in our feudal roads checking vehicle particulars in the guise of revenue generation.
In the nation's capital, for instance, the way and manner officers of the commission carried out their activities have demonstrated that rather than making the roads safer for motorists, revenue generation has become their core responsibility.
They have no doubt contributed to the gridlock experienced in most entry points into the Federal Capital Territory during peak hours.
Most worrisome is the fact that officers of the commission now operate in feudal roads constructed by either Area Councils or roads designed and constructed by Satellite Towns Development Department of the FCT instead of federal highways as demanded by law.
Terrible experiences are bound on how motorists are being harassed by FRSC officers in Guzape, Lugbe Federal Housing, Apo Mechanic Village, Bwari/Dutse road and other untarred routes within the territory.
Going by the provisions that established the commission, it is the view of this paper that mechanism should be put in place to address the challenges faced by the Commission aimed at repositioning it in line with global best practice. To achieve success, advocacy should be given adequate attention by the commission.
Secondly and more significantly, the allegation by some officers of the Commission that the supervising government arm, that is, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, usually set a target for the commission to meet annually as revenue generation must be checked and stopped.
Government should alternatively look for avenue of funding the Commission so that officers will focus more attention on the core values of saving lives and making our highways safer.
On the other hand, the FCT Administration should borrow a leaf from the Kaduna state government by restricting their activities to federal roads.