23 February 2013

Nigeria: FRSC At 25 - the Flip Side

Monday, the 18th of February, 2013, was a stock-taking day for the Federal Road Safety Corps. At the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, dignitaries from all shades gathered to celebrate the Corps on its 25th Anniversary.

On that day, Osita Chidoka, the driver behind the wheel and all personnel of the Corps, including my humble self stood tall as accolades were poured on the Corps for the feat achieved within the past 25 years. Today, I wish to specifically focus on the accolades by three Presidents. The first to fire the salvo was former President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who was the Chairman of the occasion. He expressed delight at the feat achieved by the Corps within these twenty five years of existence in addition to its successfully transformation into a world class organisation and a reference point in road traffic administration and safety management. The former President reiterated that the story of FRSC should rekindle in all Nigerians our hope for the future of our country, Nigeria. He recommended the FRSC as a model organisation for all other government agencies to emulate and attempt to surpass.

President Goodluck Jonathan equally thumbed up the Corps for its international recognition as a model in fighting the scourge of road traffic crashes. While paying tribute to former President Babangida for the vision behind establishing the Corps, he equally appreciated the pioneer Chairman of the FRSC, Professor Wole Soyinka who devoted his knowledge, time and international reach in moulding the organisation along civic values that have endured over these years. He assured that the present administration is consolidating on the vision of the founding fathers to strengthen the FRSC to perform its functions most diligently.

He said his administration has in the last three years increased the capital and overhead budgetary allocations of the FRSC to about 300 percent, while staff strength has increased by about forty percent. Significantly, President Jonathan expressed delight that the Country has also acceded to the 1949 Vienna and Geneva Conventions on road markings and signage to which Nigeria hitherto was not signatory. FERMA had in a publication which formed my write-up on signage's noted that road signs in the Country except for the Federal Capital Territory and some parts of Lagos did not meet international standard in all ramifications. The President stated that the Federal Executive Council has approved the incorporation of road safety education in the nation's school curriculum, while the policy on standard school bus for the country has also been approved by the Federal Government.

These are excerpts from his address which is a pointer to government buy-in into the Corps strategies on safer roads. "As part of our practical demonstration of commitment to road safety initiatives in Nigeria, I personally commissioned the new driver's licence and number plate in November 2011, which is geared towards providing credible database of drivers and vehicles operating in the country. All these efforts were put in place to strengthen and bring FRSC at par with global best practices in road safety management. I have taken personal interest in the activities of the FRSC and constantly shared my ideas and vision of the organization with the Corps Marshal. I am happy that he has been implementing these ideas, and the success of the vision has been attracting recognitions from credible institutions in and outside the country. For instance, just recently, the World Bank adjudged FRSC as the best example of a road safety lead agency in the West African sub-region. There has been series of request from member counties of the ECOWAS, which formed the West African Road Safety Organisation (WARSO) to FRSC to render technical assistance and help them set up Nigeria's model of road safety lead agency in their own countries. As a leading nation in Africa with Afro-centric foreign policy, the Federal Government will support the FRSC to render such assistance to save the countries from threats of road carnage.

While restating Federal Government's continuous support to make the Corps perform better, let me stress that keeping the road safe is not a responsibility of a government agency alone, but all citizens and stakeholders. Accordingly, let me appeal to the stakeholders, state governments, law enforcement agencies, transport unions, organised private sector, non-governmental organisations and civil society groups to rally round the FRSC in its task of making the road safe for all. On this note, I must particularly commend the World Bank for its collaboration with Nigeria in the on-going safe corridor project being executed on some selected roads across the country.

As part of our continuing demonstration of commitment to safer road environment, I have directed the Corps Marshal to work in concert with relevant stakeholders to come up with action plan on the provision of parks for trailers and tankers that park indiscriminately on some major roads across the country. These vehicles constitute hazards to other road users, and government is determined to address the challenge. This international conference which is part of the activities to mark the silver jubilee celebration of the FRSC is a commendable initiative that would go a long way in increasing public awareness on road safety, not only in Nigeria, but Africa and the world at large".

Senate President, David Mark, who was the special guest during the closing session where a legislative dialogue held described the Corps as a pride. But while the excitement lingers, Labour Minister, Emeka Wogu says the FRSC should brace up for the task ahead as the improved road network has thrown up excessive speed as a new traffic challenge.

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