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Motorists, passengers, FRSC call for road safety during the Yuletide

Burnt cars in a gory motor accident

As the Yuletide and New Year draw near, road users, including passengers, drivers, transporters and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), are united in the call for precautionary measures to reduce road crashes during the season, when many citizens travel to the hinterlands to celebrate with their families and loved ones. In separate interviews with The Guardian, the stakeholders enumerated measures put in place to ensure safe journey to their destinations. At the motor parks and garages in Lagos, passengers, transporters and transport union officials bare their mind on how the season could be made crash-free, even as the listed precautionary measures they have put in place to achieve that, while calling on governments at all levels to fix the bad roads to make travelling less stressful and reduce incidents of robberies as a result of bad spots on the roads, Shakira Adunola, Maria Diamond, Kemi Shokoya and Dare Odunowo write

Chukwuma Nwabueze does not spend his Yuletide in Lagos. This is not because he is under any immediate compulsion. He has to be at the yearly family gathering, which holds in his village.As this year’s celebrations draw nearer, he is already making preparations on his movement. He is, however, not the only person planning big for the Yuletide festivities, especially navigating around this period. It is the habit of Nigerians all over to travel from place to place to celebrate with family members.

With roads in very bad shape, the situation becomes worrisome, not only for Chukwuma, Emeka and Elvis, but everybody, who is likely to travel during this period.Nigerian motorists appear united in the search for accident-free journey. They are also adding prayers that would ensure safety in their journeys home.

Speaking with The Guardian, Emeka Ndubuisi, who was in one of the transport companies operating in Lagos, to make inquiries about movement to the Southeast during this Yuletide, lamented the poor state of Nigerian roads.

According to him, “they are in bad shape, and sometimes, I don’t like travelling because of fear of being attacked by armed robbers… when there is traffic on the road, caused mostly by potholes, it is very easy for these gentlemen of the road to operate.”

He added, “it is not often a palatable story seeing these boys with guns when you’re stuck, especially at night, and the police is no where near to protect you. The government should please act fast on this, because Christmas is near and it is impossible for me to spend it here in Lagos. I must go to my village and celebrate with my people. If this is done, I’m sure every Nigerian who used to spend close to 10 hours on the road will appreciate the improvement.”

Aside from being safety cautious, travellers have also been told to be security cautious, especially in the inner cities as a result of gridlocks on major roads.Oluwafunmilayo Macaulay said pickpockets at Iyana Ipaja, Lagos, recently robbed her, as she struggled to board a BRT bus heading to Oshodi.

“I didn’t know that someone was already opening the side zipper of my hand bag and made away with my money and personal effects.“It was shocking, as I didn’t even sense a rummage until the bus conductor asked for my fare and I started fumbling with my bag and could not pay,” she recounted.

Adetola Adebose told The Guardian that around Lawanson and its environs, young boys now attack people at night and in broad daylight. “They harass people with guns and sharp objects at day time to collect their phone, jewellery and money,” she said.

Similarly, Onyekachi Chuks said she was recently attacked in her car at Anthony Village on her way back from work around 8pm. A hoodlum had walked up to her in the traffic and asked for money at gunpoint.“There was traffic and I was alone in the car. My AC (air conditioner) was bad and I was feeling hot, so I wound down, and as if this guy was waiting for me, he just walked up to me almost immediately and told me to give him money.

“At first, I took it with levity and attempted winding back up, because I assumed he was only begging for money until he stopped me from winding up with a gun.”

Mr. Seye Agunbiade, a manager with PCM Transport, an Ajah-based firm, said, what they do as a company is to ensure that their vehicles are in order.

Sounding off, Agunbiade said, “since we can’t repair the roads, because we don’t have the resources to do so, the best we can attempt to protect travellers is to put our buses in good shape. We also make sure our drivers maintain the minimum speed limit, and they drive with caution. More importantly, they are compelled not to drink before and during movement. Above all, they are well trained drivers so they know all these things.”

An opinion also shared by Mr. Augustine Nwalieze, senior manager, Okeyson Motors Ltd.He said, “we make sure the vehicles are sound before travelling, and also the drivers are made to obey traffic signs and before now we used to maintain speed limit of about 100 to 120 before the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) reduced the speed limit to 90. We make sure our drivers adhere strictly to these traffic rules. If there is any complaint from passengers, such driver is punished either by suspension or worse still, sacked. We also scan our passengers before they are allowed to board our vehicles and also scan their goods, for the safety of all passengers.”

Expressing readiness to take up the increasing number of passengers that might be travelling across the country during the festive period, the transporters told The Guardian that necessary measures have been put in place to ensure stress-free and safe journeys.

Managing Director of Ejiro Motors, Prince Akinola, said during the festive season, the company would not embark on night journey for safety and security reasons. “To avoid road accident, we don’t go on night trips, because it is not advisable to ply the road at night, as some roads are bad and armed robbers operate mostly at night,” he stated.

According to him, his firm always adopts safety and precaution measures through the year, adding: “We don’t wait till holiday season to apply cautions, because people travel everyday of the year.“The first rule in my company is that a driver must not drink alcohol when embarking on a trip and he must not carry more than the required passengers for a trip.

“Some transporters take advantage of the festive season, which is a rush period, to make quick money by carrying more than the required number of passenger the vehicle can convey for a trip. “For example, a Siena space bus is meant to carry seven passenger for a trip, but some logistic companies carry nine passengers.“A bus is meant to carry 15 passengers, while some carry 18 passengers, because of their selfish interest or love for money.”

He said his company’s drivers are only permitted to travel thrice in a week, so that they can rest and service their vehicle and prepare for another trip.“Over-working of drivers is one of the major causes of road accident. So many drivers risk their lives and the lives of passengers because of their selfish interest.

“Let us say a driver coming from Port Harcourt got to Lagos around 9pm and met passengers and no vehicle at the park, instead of him to go and rest, because of money, he would and go on another journey.

“There is no way such driver won’t be tired, he can’t cheat nature and that may result in accident.”He noted that the maximum speed limit accepted for all drivers in the company is 80/120 kph and all vehicles have speed limiters enforce by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

“So many drivers will love to drive at a higher speed, but people’s lives are at risk. We paid N50, 000 for the speed limit device and all our buses have it,” he stated.

Another transporters in Mile 2 garage, Samson, who plies Benin-Onitsha route, said he sleeps and relaxes very well before embarking on the long journey.“What I normally do for precaution is ensure the vehicle has a spare tyre in the event of flat tyres, wheel spanner, fire extinguisher, jack and reflective triangle in case of emergencies.

Samson said, to avoid sleeping while driving, I look for someone that I can talk with to seat at the front passenger’s seat. At times, I chew bitter kola or chewing gum.“I also don’t exceed the speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour, maximum of 100.”

Beyond speed limit, a driver, who wished to be identified simply as Elvis and travels from Mile 2 to Ghana, said, “what we normally do when we are travelling at night is to get a nice place or hotel for the passengers to sleep in the middle of the night to relax for a while, then continue the journey in the morning.

“We also ensure that the person seated at the front is someone that does not sleep, just in case of danger signs, the driver might not easily see, even though we trust in God for safety.”Kola, another transporter, said: “I drink Alabukun or eat chewing stick if I feel sleepy and don’t exceed the speed limit of 90 kph.”

For him, “as precaution measures, I check the water level, engine oil, tyres, brakes, etc before embarking on the journey. In case of emergency, we normally make calls to numbers written on the manifest to the family of the passengers or put the passengers in another vehicle in case of faulty vehicles.”

The Vice Chairman at Miode Park in Ojota, Afis Olawode, said the union has started creating awareness among drivers on safety and precaution during the season.He stated: “This morning, we enlightened all transporters loading in our park to take cautious while driving, because life does not have duplicate.” He said the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) had been around to raise drivers’ consciousness on the relevance of the speed limiter as a means of achieving safe driving on the road.

Nwalieze, however, feels government needs to help them. “I won’t say they don’t know about these, they know so they should help with lasting solutions ahead of the Yuletide season, because this poor state of our roads also end up creating opportunity for armed robbers to operate. In ensuring the safety of our passengers, we make sure we don’t travel late at night. If the roads are this bad during the day, then you can imagine what they would be at night, worse or even write off, so to say.”

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