3 February 2013

Nigeria: 'Our Mobile Courts Prosecuted 95 in a Week'


The Federal Road Safety Commission commander in the FCT, Fashola Joshua Kayode, in this interview said his command's mobile court has drastically reduced traffic offences in Abuja and more.

What are the mobile courts meant to achieve?

Due to increased human and vehicular movement there is a resultant increase in traffic offences. Many get away with it and this is capable of permitting lawlessness. The best way to prevent this is the establishment of mobile courts provided for in the Act establishing the FRSC. We are working with the FCT Judiciary and mobile courts are in place. The court sits twice every week.

Those who commit traffic offences get instant judgment. We simply arrest them and take them to court and there is a magistrate to attend to the cases immediately. In the past one week we have convicted 95 people for various offences.

Most offenders were those who made use of their phones while driving which is illegal. This offence has become so rampant now. This is distracted driving. And research has shown that distracted driving is worse than drunk driving. The mobile court sits at the central business district but moves around periodically.

Some others were convicted for not using seat belts, parking wrongly and others for driving mechanically deficient vehicles.

What major strides has your command made so far in reducing traffic offences in the city?

Our work is divided into three major areas: one is the prevention of road crashes through public enlightenment and through enforcement of traffic rules. We try to prevent crashes but we know that we cannot prevent all crashes in the city. When these crashes happen we carry out rescue and give quick medical attention. We found out that many people who lose their lives do so not because of the seriousness of their injuries but because of late rescue and medical attention.

The third part of our mission is to clear the debris of road crashes so that they will not lead to further accidents. This is called post crash services. We also carry out road audit or research where we try to advise the government on roads that need urgent attention. Based on these functions we can now score ourselves on the strides we have made so far. I would say we are doing our best in all these areas.

On traffic jam prevention, we do daily patrols to ensure smooth flow of traffic within the city and on the highways. This we ensure on the major outlets out of the city-Airport road, Nyanyan road and the Kubwa axis. We do this especially on the Nyanyan road which witnesses massive movements of vehicles every morning and you know that the road is not as expanded as the two other routes. Although we have challenges there, we are doing our best.

We do the combination of enforcement and education. When we arrest people the law says they should pay a fine for most offences but when they come to our office we enlighten them first before they go and pay the fine. We have a hall at the command where we do the enlightenment. We call this better road user program. Our aim is to make the road user a better person in terms of road usage.

What is the time frame for attending to crashes?

The time frame is at least 10 minutes of getting the information, within the city centre. Within the city we have created what we call zebra points. These are where we keep ambulances and towing trucks for attending to crashes immediately. These ambulance points are spread evenly within the city. We have one at the military cenotaph at the federal secretariat, at area 10; there is one in Kugbo, Keffi junction, one at Gwarimpa along Kubwa express. There is one at city gate and another strategically located, we can easily get to any crash point within the city in a matter of minutes. These ambulance services run 24 hours a day mind you. We are also aware that information is very critical in emergencies. That is why we have a dedicated toll free line-122 where reports of emergencies can be lodged to us for quick attention by our officers. By simply dialling 122 on your mobile phone irrespective of your service provider or whether you have call credit, you can call our attention to any road safety issue or emergency.

The issue of road blockages as a result of security challenges is a troubling one. There is one even at FRSC headquarters. What are you doing to reduce these indiscriminate blockages?

It is as a result of the security challenges. It was not like that about 2 years ago. It is a phase we are passing through so we must endure. Those concrete barriers will be removed someday and the FCTA is making moves to resort to modern security equipment rather than concrete barriers.

How do you react to the allegations by commercial drivers of the highhandedness of some of your officers while on duty?

Law enforcers are human beings. None will wake up every day with the intention of causing trouble for motorists. Some of the drivers are actually to blame for what they are complaining about. The road safety officer has been trained to respond in a civil manner to motorists. And where there is highhandedness on the part of any of them he or she knows they will be sanctioned if reported. As officers, two laws guide our operations, the ethics of our profession and also the general law that supercedes all. We are all under the law.

Do you train your officers to protect themselves in crisis situations?

The training we give our officers is a comprehensive one. We have that on traffic enforcement, first aid, administration, rescue, legal aspects and also physical training. We insist on physical fitness before you are even employed in the commission. This is because we know that the job we have to do is physical so you have to be healthy.

It entails physical exertion so we recruit the best in all ramifications. We also teach them how to physically defend themselves. We do not need arms because we do not want to criminalise traffic enforcement. The job can be done without carrying arms.

How is the collaboration like, with similar agencies such as the police, VIO, NSCDC, parking companies etc?

We are all working towards public safety and security. It is a big continuum. Whenever there is a big public function we all gather there to ensure its success in terms of safety and security of lives and property. We all have the same goal- to serve the public.

Truck drivers plying the Kugbo-Nyanya route have started flouting the rule on movement at peak hours. What is the command doing about this?

The rule is still in force. But you know that when laws are made there will always be law breakers. It is because of that there is law enforcement. That is why we keep permanently, law enforcers on the road to arrest such law breakers. The law is still in place and we have officers on that route to ensure this.

When will the commuters and motorists along Mararaba axis eventually heave a sigh of relief over the horrific traffic situation there?

With the expansion of the airport and kubwa road there is now free flow of traffic. The problem we now have on those routes is drivers' over speeding. On the Nyanyan road the capacity of traffic there exceeds the road infrastructure available.

But the road is wide enough if we all follow the rules guiding traffic. It takes one odd person or motorist to cause the blockade. Also a lot of low and middle income earners live along the route and all of them come and leave the city centre at the same time. It is not traffic jam but heavy traffic volume. And also you must agree that the life of a rapidly growing city like Abuja is in the nature of traffic.

It is like a human being, what shows you are alive is the pulse, blood flows and heart beats. It shows the city is alive. It happens in all mega cities around the world. In the future by the time we have light rail, the roads are expanded and then we have a good bus system just as the FCTA is planning the problem will be reduced.

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