That thousands of Nigerians are routinely killed on roads and highways each year is no longer shocking news to anyone in the country. Collisions occur by the minute that keeping pace with the count is a tough job. In fact one source has it that a Nigerian is killed on the road every 15 minutes, which works out to be four people per hour, 96 per day and 35,040 men, women and children in a 365-day year!
If Nigeria suffered that many casualties in a shooting war with another country in just one year we’ll all be up in arms protesting the country’s involvement in such a life wasting misadventure. We would have been unanimous in calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and most likely the resignation of the leader at the time. But here we are, living with an inescapable reality of a steady decimation of what must be the most productive segment of the population – a clear and present danger to the country’s economic growth and wellbeing – and yet no one is marching on Aso Rock, ala #BringBackOurGirls or #OccupyNigeria.
Every day, it is business as usual. People go out on the road and highways not knowing if they’ll make it safely to and from their destinations at the end of it all. No one seems to be looking hard to see how come we lose so many people to the simple task of road travel let alone the accompanying property and environmental damage or billions of Naira lost to wasted man-hours as a result, plus globally portraying the country as a place of anything goes as far as roads and highways are concerned. No one seems to be asking enough pointed questions about what can be done to put an end to the carnage. No one seems to care that most of these horrible collisions can be prevented if the government so desired or was genuinely committed to doing so.
All the 3-tiers of government remain mostly mute with the federal tier making the occasional feeble noises after each particularly devastating collision. There is never a clear road ahead, no systematic and deliberate roadmap for beginning to take a decisive stab at curbing the menace. The concerned regulatory agencies of government continue to chase the chaff rather than the grain of road transport safety management while the body count climbs relentlessly. A posse of officers would rather be busy asking motorists for fire extinguishers, “C-Caution Signs”, inner lights (sic), etc. instead of doing some useful quality work figuring out how to prevent the so called road accidents from occurring in the first place with a determined effort at public road safety education and enlightenment. Government and its agencies need to step up to the plate, show the light and let the people see the way ahead clearly. We can’t keep doing the same thing each time and expecting different results or wishing and praying, hoping they’ll go away and that it’ll all be alright because it won’t.
Road safety management costs time and money in thinking, planning and execution and there must be a time-line to every aspect of the package for it to make any meaningful impact. Nothing must be left to hang in the cloud if a particular result is desired or expected. Government and its functionaries must learn to update the hardware and software components of their strategy, approach and methodology if they have a remote desire to save Nigeria and Nigerians from the horrors of road transportation deaths and destruction. We live in the 21st. Century like everyone else so we must employ same tools and techniques like everyone else to deal with road safety problems, causes and effects. There’s little sense looking to use a Polaroid camera to snap a digital photograph. It just won’t happen so no point in trying.
Serious economies and nations know what it means to take safety seriously, especially road safety. That is why they leave no stone unturned to safeguard the safety of their citizens because a safe nation is an economically buoyant nation. It means a nation of law and order where everything is in its place and every place has its things. Leaving safety to chance like we do impoverishes a nation beyond compare because it promotes chaos, disorderliness and unruly behavior on the road. Wherever safety is on the back burner, standards and uniform measurement naturally follow. There’s no welfare for the people where there’s no safety because every penny is under pressure to meet the high cost of post-incident cleanup and other recovery processes, each time.
And when it comes to road safety we’re all equally exposed. There are no special safeguards for anyone, not the poor or the rich. Not the president, not the governor and not the unemployed, as has been evident from the roll call of victims of previous road crashes on record. Without safety, road safety – all that talk of economic rebirth will probably end up a pipe dream in real terms. Unless the government finds it necessary to take a deep rooted interest in how these killer collisions occur or are caused by developing a blueprint for determining how motorists can safely handle motoring hazards relating to vehicle, driver, road, traffic, weather and light conditions that combine to deliver the most destructive motor vehicle crashes we know. Giving it less than 100% committed attention is like toying with a killer epidemic.
Let’s wrap this up with something for us to take in deep and reflect upon in our quiet time. How many of you reading this blog come from a town or village with a population of 35,000 or more people? Not very many I would imagine but for exercise only: Just imagine waking up one morning and hearing on global television that all the thirty-five thousand inhabitants of a place you knew is wiped out in the course of a single calendar year. Every man, woman and child, THINK.
Now that is how serious the road safety problem is in Nigeria. Reason enough for the Federal Government to wake up and smell the coffee? You bet.