6 January 2013

Nigeria: The VIP Killer Convoys


On December 28, 2012, the convoy of Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State was involved in a road accident. While the driver and the governor were wounded, the governor's aide de camp, Mohammed Idris, died. There is no confirmation of recklessness on the part of Wada's convoy, but it has since emerged that the reckless driving habit of drivers in the convoys of very important persons (VIPs) in the country has claimed at least 26 lives in the past three years. This is unacceptable.

The leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party gave credence to this while soliciting the support of the Federal Road Safety Commission(FRSC) to put an end to this embarrassing situation by helping to organise special training programmes for these reckless VIP drivers and put stringent measures against violators of traffic regulations.

Records show that the first major casualty of VIP killer convoys was a journalist. He was allegedly killed by the convoy of the minister of petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on Airport Road, Abuja. An orange seller was mowed down by a speeding convoy of the late Kaduna State governor, Patrick Yakowa, on November 24.

On December 13, 2012, the convoy of former governor of Gombe State Senator Danjuma Goje reportedly ran over Haruna Maigari and injured two others at Tumu village in Akko local government area of the state. Three political aides of the Nasarawa State governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, were killed in a multiple auto crash involving the governor's convoy on September 24, 2012.

An accident involving the convoy of the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, also claimed four journalists in May. In Ondo State, the convoy of Senator Ajayi Boroffice ran into the car of 58-year-old Mrs Florence Olusori; the woman eventually died at the hospital two hours later.

The national spread of these calamities should bother our leaders. We note that some public officers tacitly encourage reckless driving by not cautioning them when they drive at neck-breaking speed to public functions they leave their homes too late for.

During the first anniversary of the United Nations Decade of Action, health minister Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu lamented that Nigeria held the record of the second highest road traffic accident fatalities among 193 countries in the world: at 162 deaths per 100,000, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

This is compounded by FRSC disclosures that between January and June, 2011, 2,218 lives were lost in 2,234 crashes. But the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention says fatal and long-term crash injury is largely predictable, largely avoidable and a problem amenable to rational analysis and remedy.

FRSC corps marshal Osita Chidoka said he recently sent an advisory to governors many of whom were aware of the bad health, poor eyesight and rough lifestyle of their drivers. None is yet to withdraw from his driving pool drivers who are not properly licensed. It is sad too that the governors have refused to allow road safety corps members to be part of their convoys as a check on the excesses. Only three of the 36 governors acceded to the FRSC's position on this.

It is irresponsible for our VIPs, especially governors, to keep killer drivers and escort teams that intimidate, harass and maim other road users and members of the public simply because of the office their masters occupy. FRSC should take this matter further by ensuring that any VIP convoy that is in breach of traffic rules and regulations is punished. After all, these drivers and escort teams have no immunity like their principals.

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