Nigeria: Regulate the Use of Siren

18 February 2020
editorial

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, has ordered state police commands nationwide to impound all vehicles illegally using the supernumerary (spy) number plates, sirens, revolving lights or covered number plates. He gave the directive during a recent working visit by the Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Boboye Oyeyemi, to the Force Headquarters, Abuja. The IGP also directed that errant motorists should be diligently prosecuted, stressing that the practices are illegal and posed monumental security risks to the nation and its people.

In a statement issued in Abuja, the force spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, said "All vehicles found to have spy number plates not duly issued, using sirens, or revolving lights without permit or having covered number plates will be promptly impounded." Meanwhile, the IG has commended the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, for taking action against unauthorised concealment of number plates and other related offences.

The corps marshal, who visited the IG in company of his management team, sought improved collaboration between the police and the FRSC in key operational areas. The IGP equally restated his commitment to the continued partnership between the Nigeria Police and the FRSC, especially in the areas of operations, training, intelligence-sharing and prosecution of offenders.

Sirens are for the good of humanity, and are essentially designed to be used in an emergency. However, siren in Nigeria is used to harass, intimidate, and sometimes inflict injuries on road users and innocent members of the public. Siren-blaring bullion vans and VIP convoys force oncoming vehicles to either stop or clear off the road in a manner that exposes law-abiding road users to hazards. For instance, the reckless driving by the convoy of a former Kogi State governor, Captain Idris Wada, claimed the life of a former National President of ASUU, Dr Festus Iyayi, while on a journey by road to attend an ASUU National Executive meeting in Kano.

Pedestrians, including school children, often come under constant harassment from the wailing sirens of illegal users that include lawmakers. Many highly placed political office holders and private individuals install and use the siren device anytime, anywhere, and in complete disregard to traffic rules. The persistent and regrettable abuse of privilege by VIPs who see siren as a status symbol has rather turned sirens into a nuisance on our roads. The presence of law enforcement agents from the police force in VIP convoys makes the nuisance more mystifying. In other climes, only the police, the fire service and ambulances (apart from the president of a country) are allowed to use sirens in emergency situations. Sirens are essentially designed to be utilised in emergencies even by those authorised to use them.

Lip service has continued to be paid by lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to the need for regulating the use of siren. The recent order on the use of siren given by IGP, Mohammed Adamu, was issued by nearly all his predecessors. The orders have never been enforced. The announcement by the FRSC through a paid advert published in the Daily Trust newspaper of October 4, 2011 to introduce convoy number plates was an undertaking that never happened. It is ridiculous that pilot cars are still not carrying registered number plates. Section 10(3p) of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 empowers the commission to regulate the use of siren; register and keep records of all vehicles (including ambulances) with sirens, flashers and beacon lights; and issue convoy/security number plates.

Similarly, the bill passed by the House of Representatives in July 2009 banning the use of siren by unauthorised persons including the First Lady as well as governors' wives, military service chiefs and ministers on any road in the country failed to see the light of the day.

In order to sanitise Nigerian roads, we call on lawmakers to reintroduce the bill on the use of siren and ensure that all legislative actions including assent of the president are followed to a logical conclusion. The FRSC and the police should collaborate to stop the misuse of siren by unauthorised persons. Aside of guaranteeing compliance of VIP convoys to road safety rules, the FRSC has a duty to ensure that pilot cars carry registered number plates.

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