Deaths on the nation’s highways have assumed a worrisome dimension in 2019, despite all efforts to make the roads safe for motorists and travelers. The statistics on road accidents released by the Federal Road Safety Corps for 2019 showed 18% increase in road crashes compared to 2018.
The statistics by the Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi, in Abuja, released, showed that a total of 4,737 persons died in 9,698 road crashes that occurred so far in 2019.
The Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi, gave the grim statistics during a press conference for the end of the year special patrol operations at the FRSC Headquarters in Abuja.
He disclosed that 68,193 people were involved in the road crashes and 63,456 of the victims were rescued, while 30,744 others sustained various degrees of injuries.
According to him, most worrisome crashes were the ones that involved tankers and trailers, adding that a total of 604 trailers and 296 tankers were involved in major road crashes within the time under review.
This avoidable carnage has been attributed to the deplorable conditions of the highways, unserviceable vehicles and the attitude of motorists who flout traffic laws with reckless abandon.
Also very disturbing is the behavior of tanker and trailer drivers on the road. Apparently under the influence of alcohol and other hard drugs, these drivers, majority of them in their early twenties, show no regard for the lives and safety of other road users.
Most of them drive for days without resting or taking a nap and this has resulted in many avoidable accidents when they doze off on the steering and crash into other vehicles.
For instance, in October this year, no fewer than 69 persons were burnt to death in Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra State, when a petrol-laden tanker l lost control and exploded into the Asaba Motor Park at the Upper Iweka area of the city.
Eleven vehicles, mostly commuter buses and motorcycles were also razed in the inferno.
Another factor that has contributed to this high rate of accident recorded within the year is the poor state of the road. The major highways across the country have turned into death traps, even though the Federal Government has continued to assure motorists that efforts are on to fix the failed roads.
Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola, on different occasions, explained the measures taken by the government to repair existing roads and construct new ones, within available resources.
He disclosed that the FG will not embark on fresh road projects until all awarded projects are completed despite that the Works Ministry got the highest percentage of the 2020 budget.
He said that the Federal Government has to prioritize and commit its resources to completing critical roads that are nearing completion across the country instead of embarking on new ones as a result of “constrained fiscal environment”.
According to him there are 78 of such critical roads and bridges that the government wants to concentrate resources on and finish before contemplating new projects such as the Loko-Ogbeto Bridge, Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, Kaduna-Abuja-Zaria highway, the Suleja-Minna highway, and the roads that lead to the sea Ports, which he said drive the economy.
Fashola however said new road projects can only be embarked upon when there are compelling needs to do so.
He said, “now in terms of the budget size, how much is proposed, N261 billion, it will not be enough to discharge all our obligations, like in any home you want to buy books, you want to buy clothing for your children, you want to pay rent, you can never have enough money so you have to prioritize. So one of the things we have recommended is to first slow down, if possible stop new projects and commit our limited resources to completing projects that are nearing completion.
“So we have about 78 of these types of projects that we want to concentrate resources on and finish them like some of the bridges you have shown the Loko-Ogbeto Bridge, Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, Kaduna-Abuja-Zaria highway, the roads to the Ports, those are roads that carry heavy vehicles and those are the roads that drive the economy, they lead to the Ports, roads like Suleja-Minna highway so those are going to be our priorities , roads to agricultural areas like the Enugu-Port Harcourt that connect Ebonyi, Anambra and some of those states.
“No nation ever has enough money anyway, so those are the priorities but we also have outstanding payments and we have made this known to the President and his commitment to do his best within the constrained fiscal space to support the infrastructure objective not only of my Ministry but transportation to aviation are so critical because these are the things that will grow the economy, let us focus on the high priorities of the economic objectives of this country.
“Let us use our limited resources to complete what we have started, it is completed roads that really add value to the economy instead of adding more that we cannot complete but that doesn’t mean that if there is a compelling need to start a new project we will not, rules must first be general before we look for the exceptions to the rules”.
He explained further that “the Federal Government is committed to infrastructure development in spite of the difficult financial climate, oil prices have dropped from where they were pre-2015 but in spite of that it is evident that the government’s commitment to infrastructure is unflagging and the reason is clear, without infrastructure business will be difficult, the economy won’t grow so the focus of the government is appropriate.
”We have 525 projects going on simultaneously across the country, some of them are slowed, some of them have picked up, some of them are challenged by finances and so on but I think it is important to note that the present weather conditions are a difficult period for anybody who is involved in delivering, managing or maintaining public infrastructure especially transport related infrastructure all over the world”.
However, the Corps Marshal assured that “the Corps will be resolute in its commitment to changes that could stem the tides of crash fatality rate, using this End of Year Special Patrol Operations as a launching point”.
He also informed that the Corps had earlier in the year set a target of 20% reduction in the rate of crashes and 25% for fatality rate.
According to him, in order to ensure safety on the highways, a total of 157,678 traffic offenders were apprehended within the last one year.
He said that the Corps has one year left to achieve its set goals as outlined in the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011-2020.
Enumerating the achievements of the Corps in the last twelve months, Boboye said, “in our commitment to pursuing the goals of road traffic crashes reduction and fatality rates, the Corps recorded some breakthrough achievements within the year. These include securing the Presidential accent to the six UN Conventions on Road Traffic Safety, making Nigeria one of the ten countries in the world to have achieved this feat and the only one in Africa.
“The Corps visibility was also enhanced with the injection of additional seventy-seven vehicles, establishment of additional eleven outposts, twelve Unit Commands and inauguration of four permanent Office Complexes in the state capitals”.
Also expressing worry over the rate of avoidable deaths through road crashes, the Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Babatunde Irukera, tasked the FRSC to step up measures that will protect travelers.
According to him, the Commission will be collaborating with the FRSC on how best to ensure the security, safety and comfort of road users, especially during the yuletide.
He said, “We are committed to everything that will secure lives on our roads during the festive period. As we go into this period, there are few things that are important and they include the conduct of those who operate motor vehicles and as the Agency charged with the responsibility of regulating vehicle operations you must ensure that they operate in a manner that is safe”.