18 September 2008

Nigeria: FRSC, the Highway Code


The Federal Road Safety Commission announced that it was embarking on a massive procurement of the Nigerian Highway Code, after which it would make possession of the manual mandatory for motorists.

FRSC's chief executive, Osita Chidoka made this known at an occasion while receiving donations from an oil transnational. The Highway Code is a manual detailing a set of rules and regulations on the use of roads by motorists, and was last revised in 1989 and translated into three major Nigerian languages, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.

While knowledge of the highway code is important, the FRSC is overlooking the fact many things have gone almost irreparably bad with our institutions, especially those in the area of operations of the FRSC.

What happened to the Vehicle Inspection Officers? Where are our testing grounds? Are people still tested before they get driver's licences? Where are our roads signs? Why are most of our roads unmarked? How many roads in the country can pass tests on accurate marking for relevant road signs? Is the FRSC aware of the rising number of minors who drive cars and ride motorcycles withimpunity?

Safer roads start with inculcation of a civilised road use culture. The FRSC should work with governments to elicit their interest in roads maintenance as many of the carnages on our roads result from bad roads. Synergy between the FRSC, state governments and the Police can ensure compliance with traffic rules and regulations nationwide. The problem is not with our laws, but with their enforcement.

The FRSC should seek to extend its functions to regulating the quality of roads, including the suitability of materials that are used in the construction of our roads. Mass procurement of the highway code is desirable, making its possession mandatory for all motorists is sound.

But how many of those who drive can read? Will possession of the Highway Code make drivers better road users? Will possession of the Code wipe out illiteracy?

The FRSC has a huge battle ahead of it. The Code is not the answer, where one is dealing with illiteracy. The Code would not be able to take care of only the corruption that hands out driver's licences to people without being able to verify their fitness to be drivers.

As was the case with the reflective stickers for vehicles and seat belts, unscrupulous security agencies took advantage of them to extort money from people, while others quickly made their own copies, for sale to the public.

Road safety cannot be divorced from the standards of the larger society. Roads riddled with pot holes, unlit streets, often without signs to warn about dangerous points, are all ingredients that produce the mindless decisions most drivers make. The number of accidents and their fatality should worry governments enough for them to tackle the issues around safety on our roads.

In order to get results, the desired results, the FRSC has to deepen its relations with stakeholders.

Copyright © 2008 Vanguard. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.