Karu and Nyanya express way, suburb areas within the FCT and Nasarawa state axis has been known to be a death trap to motorists plying the ever busy way known for its unique and frustrating traffic grid for years with traffic officers doing nothing or little to curtail it. Maryam Garba Hassan writes.
For years, lives and properties have been lost and destroyed on the road, particularly at Kugbo, the home of furniture in the city which is sloppy.
The dangerous trend adopted by motorists and motorcyclists popularly known as Okada, which has become a daily affair as motorists are practicing it and that which is even more dangerous and has claimed the lives of many, is driving against traffic particularly at the peak of traffic hours to avoid getting caught- up in holdup that sometimes lasts for hours.
What is more worrisome is that motorists who drive against traffic, mostly do that in the night which is on the increase despite the number of accidents recorded as a result of this careless and lawless act by Nigerians.
More and more people now engage in the act making vehicular movement difficult for drivers who have right of way.
This has resulted in fatal accidents recorded more often than not.
The surprising thing is that authorities and highly placed people and those in government encourage that as convoy of state governors, Ministers and those who use vehicle with siren and sometimes their wives coming from the Villa when the Asokoro junction hold-up is building, drive against traffic blaring loud siren and driving recklessly to make way for easy passage for the “ogas and Madams at the top”.
Impatient and courageous motorists sometimes drive closely behind such convoy by beating traffic in the presence of traffic wardens.
Security personnel such as military men and Policemen mostly from barracks along the Karu axis expressway also take part in this act and motorists follow suit.
Most often than not, motorists caught in the act by committed law enforcement agents and in most cases military men are forced to go back and take the right way thereby paving way for the fearsome officers mostly armed to pass.
Bank’s officials and drivers coming in convoy of Bullion vans and carrying money and sometimes empty also join in the act to have easy passage.
One major concern of Nigerians is that the busy dangerous road has no street lights even as every minute cars breakdown on the road and are sometimes left there without a sign to indicate to motorists to change lane to avoid accident.
It would be recalled that in 2010 a military patrol vehicle driving against traffic in the night on the same road rammed into an 18-seater-bus conveying passengers to the city, resulting in a multiple fatal accident that claimed the lives of many people including children.
In developed countries long vehicles are only allowed to ply a specific lane made for them on major roads and at night to avoid causing unnecessary “go slow” and accidents, this law was however, also imposed temporarily on drivers of long vehicle plying that route after the 2010 accident which only lasted for few months after which the old trend returned.
To checkmate the activities of motorists on the road and to control traffic and nuisance usually caused by the motor park along the major road, men of the Federal Road Service Corps are often deployed to the road and their mobile court made of container is stationed between the Karu –Mararaba bridge which has not been able to address this important issue that needs urgent solution to save the lives of innocent people.
Apparently this is because, officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) pay more attention to ensuring that motorists have all the required vehicle papers before one can drive to safeguarding the lives of motorists and residents of the area.
The FRSC men come out in droves in the early hour of every morning and position themselves by the roadside selecting vehicle to stop and ask for vehicle particulars and retire for the day in the evening when they are most needed.
Some motorists alleged that, road traffic officers neglect part of their responsibilities by attaching more importance to drivers without particulars and drivers’ license because that is how they get money once the case is settled through bribe they share with their bosses.
However, one commendation that must be given to the officers of both the FRSC and VIO is the attention they give to ensure the prompt evacuation of accidents victims to hospital and the evacuation of affected vehicle from the road to avoid obstruction of traffic flow.
This is achieved with the help of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who stations its ambulances on major roads and strategic locations in the country.
A recent report in the media quoted the Kaduna state sector commander of the Road safety corps, Imran Ibrahim, saying Nigeria is the second highest county with road traffic accident fatalities out of the 193 countries captured by the world health organisation.
Ibrahim further said road traffic accidents are the leading cause of deaths in the country and for developing countries.
According to UNICEF and the WHO, 260,000 children die and another 10 million are injured in road crashes every year.
One may wonder why it should be so in Nigeria where we have two active road law enforcement agencies that are the FRSC and the VIO as well as men of the Police force who are equally duplicating the role of the two agencies saddled with the responsibility of educating, paying attention to road users and crash victims, enforcement of traffic laws among others.
Ironically, officers of both Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) pay more attention to motorists without the required vehicle particulars and other requirements.
According to a bus driver known as Onitsha who spoke to this reporter, he has been driving 18-seater-Hiace bus on that route in the last 10 years until busses were banned from entering Abuja town early this year with the introduction of the federal government palliative busses. He said motorists and residents of the suburb areas in that axis have the patient to go into hold- up twice a day but government officials find it difficult to do that and will rather drive on one way.
A motorcyclist, who identifies himself as Ahmed Rogo, said motorcyclists who ride against traffic became comfortable with that when law enforcement agents made it possible for them by doing same during traffic gridlock.
According to him, the practice has been on for years until the recent deployment of military to mount checkpoints after the Nyanya bomb blast.
Even as that, he said passengers on motorcycles come down from them when approaching checkpoints and continue when they pass the check points while motorists who drive closely behind convoy of government vehicles with siren, mistaken as part of the fleet are allowed to pass.
He said passengers even pay more to be ferried on one way at night or when the holdup is thick because of the risk involved in it.
‘With the recent security checkpoints, the distance we cover with our passengers sometimes ends at the checkpoint where motorcyclists trek to the bridge at the Karu Bridge and join another Okada to their destinations, but law enforcement agents riding in official vehicle blaring siren drive on one way even when soldiers on duty are at the checkpoints.
Another issue that should be addressed as a matter of urgency is the influx of hawkers on the busy road even though that has been part of the nation’s roads because despite the war wagged at hawkers by authorities of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, to get them off the roads, the problem has persisted.
These hawkers are prone to all disasters that happen on such road, one of such incidents was the Nyanya motor park bomb blast that left many killed and maimed while bodies of others remain unclaimed.
Again, with the season of corn in place, a delicacy Nigerians enjoy, lives of more motorists plying the road has also been put in danger, as hawkers now position their locally made stoves with charcoal by the roadside where they roast corn during traffic hours.
When contacted for her reaction on this dangerous practice, FRSC Sector Commander, FCT, Mrs. Susan Ajenge, agreed that driving on way in that axis persist despite the effort of her men to address the issue.
She blamed people in top positions and in government for encouraging the practice of driving against traffic with siren and escorts.
She however, denied that her officers deployed to such roads close from work before the traffic starts building when they are expected to checkmate the activities of those motorists who engage in the dangerous act.
Ajenge said the Command had arrested a number of offenders and they were fined N5000 as penalty for violating traffic law and order.
On uniform personnel who violate the law, she said the Commission writes to their offices for caution and discusses such issues at command meetings.
She said FRSC officers cannot stop a convoy which moves fast even when the driver is violating traffic adding that by so doing one may get killed, therefore, the only option to take is to allow government traffic law offenders to have their way while the officers take their vehicle number plate and write to their organisations for caution.
She said being a uniformed man does not make an officer above the law or give him the right to endanger the lives of innocent citizens
According to her, “my men deployed to that area stay at work up to 11pm in the night”.
It is clear that traffic law and order, and other laws in Nigeria is only applicable to the poor citizens of the country because the FRSC is yet to tell Nigerians how many organisations it has written to in respect to this issue and how many it has arrested as it has been revealing to the general public the number of traffic offenders it arrested every year.
One may not be in a haste to say that impunity gives room for government officials and the highly placed to violate traffic law which is a big offence in developed countries and go scout free while the law only catch up with the poor.
For any law to be successful, lawmakers and enforcers must set good example by abiding by it too. They should also allow the law to take its cause when they are found wanting.