Nothing gladdens the heart of a citizen than the empirical indices of positive changes and development of his country. When the nation is blessed with crop of leaders who formulate and implement policies that guarantee the safety and security of lives and properties of all and sundry, that feeling of assurance is second to none. The feeling has a magic wand that could trigger up immeasurable degree of patriotism. It breeds confidence, nurtures trust in the government, eradicates apathy, and entrenches great deal of citizenship participation in governance.
A case at hand is the Federal Road Safety Corps and the crop of leaders the lead agency in road safety administration and traffic management in Nigeria has had since creation. In its over three decades of entrenching safety and creating a safer motoring environment in Nigeria, the agency, through coordinated formulation and implementation of life saving policies, has in no small measure, clamped down on factors that have bedeviled the highways and successfully reduced to the barest minimum, the cases of road traffic crashes and fatalities on our roads.
Since 18 February, 1988 when the Corps commenced full operational activities geared towards eradicating road traffic crashes, the Federal Road Safety Corps has brought down annual record of crashes from over Forty Thousand deaths per year to below Five Thousand deaths.
The foregoing, of course is not the crux of this article, since several publications abound on how the Corps achieved the aforementioned strides. My opinion will dwell mostly on the resourcefulness, inventiveness, dexterity and administrative prowess of the present Corps Marshal, Dr Boboye Oyeyemi whose administration defined its cause in tandem with UN Decade of Action as well as the mantra of functional 21st century organization by chatting a path to meet the Accra Declaration of 50% reduction in fatality by 2015, achieve the UN decade of action on road Safety of 50% fatality reduction by 2021 and the rollover of UN Decade of Action in 2031 among others.
The Corps Marshal, Apart from succeeding in securing the endorsement of the first National Road Safety Strategy in 2016, made Nigeria the first African country to be admitted into International Traffic Safety Data analysis group IRTAD, became the first African country to accede to six (6) United Nations Conventions on Road Safety. These efforts have been systematically coordinated to align with global best practice as the standards have been domesticated and part of this domestication led to the birth of the National Road Safety Strategy for the years 2021-2030.
This quest to have a coordinated road safety framework anchored on the safe system approach and the five pillars of UN Decade of Action was aggressively pursued by the Corps Marshal owing to the fact that according to the United Nations, Africa faces specific issues exacerbating road traffic crashes. The UN report revealed that the population in Africa is steadily growing. The region’s economy is growing faster than any other continent, less affected by the global economic crisis, which results in a rapid expansion in middle class and increasing motorization in the continent.
The UN submitted that, in most African countries, urbanisation is growing and road infrastructure is expanding, while safety consideration in land-use planning and road design is not adequate to serve the mixed traffic that exists in the region. Road transport is the dominant mode of motorised transport, but traffic operation is unsafe due to many variables including poor road use and old vehicle fleet. Generally road traffic concentrates at and near urban centers and on specific major roads. In most African countries, post-crash care is weak or nonexistent. Above all, with these risk factors of road crash, governance and commitment are important concerns in Africa thereby worsening the situation.
Expectedly, the need to set Nigeria on a path that will exonerate her from the identified risk factors, is the propelling factor that triggered Oyeyemi’s resolve and determination to ensure that Nigeria has a working document that will not only coordinate the implementation of road safety policies, but also encompass everyone ranging from the public to private sectors, civil society to non-governmental organizations and government at all levels; vis Federal, State and Local government.
Retrospectively, the year 2011 was marked by the launch of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. For this occasion, the UN called on Member states, international agencies, civil society, businesses and community leaders to ensure that the Decade leads to real improvement, and recommended governments to develop national action plans for the decade 2011-2020.
As a response, several countries released or updated in 2011 their national road safety strategies. The achievement of this ambitious objective significantly reduced the consequences of road traffic crashes as well as physical and mental torment of direct victims and their relatives. In addition to the purely human dimension, road traffic crashes also carry an economic dimension; therefore a substantial reduction in road traffic accidents represents considerable savings for the whole society.
By adopting the first National Road Safety Strategy, Nigeria joined in with countries where citizens have shown their will to fight against the new global epidemics – epidemics of serious consequences of road traffic crashes. As such, a major precondition for successfully achieving the objectives of the new Strategy is to have road traffic safety adopted by each and everyone as their personal right and responsibility. This was also part of the variables that informed the management of the Corps under the leadership of the Corps Marshal to facilitate the involvement of Governments at all levels towards the realisation of the objectives of the NRSS document to create a safer motoring environment in line with the safe system approach where road crashes do not occur at all, and even if they do, would result in zero death.
Hence the inauguration of the National Road Safety Advisory Council, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with the Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dr Boboye Oyeyemi as Secretary.
Other members of the 29-member Advisory Council include six governors representing the six geo-political zone, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Minister of Transport, Minister of Works, Minister of Health, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Minister of Environment, Minister of Labour and Employment, Minister of Police Affairs, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, National Security Adviser, President, Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON.
The National Road Safety Advisory Council is a critical aspect of the updated or second version of the Nigeria Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 adopted by NEC and approved by the Federal Executive Council late last year. The updated version came following the expiration of the first document in December, 2020. And its primary function is to set National Road Safety Strategy target(s), Ensure co-ordination between Federal, States and Local Governments in achieving Road Safety targets, Drive the implementation of the NRSS via: Requests for progress reports from relevant agencies, Invitation of relevant agencies to defend proposed activities and road safety efforts on a quarterly basis, Endorsement of disbursement of pre-approved funds for strategic initiatives, Endorsement of disbursement of pre-approved funds for strategic initiatives and Monitoring of funds disbursement for strategic initiatives among others.
The Council is a very important body in Road safety management in Nigeria whose key role is to enhance the entrenchment of safety of all road users anchored much on the successful implementation of the Nigeria Road Safety strategy (NRSS) 2021-2030 where it is expected as earlier stated that crashes when they occur, result in zero deaths. The main objective of the NRSS document is to stem the menace of crashes through a systemic, nationally coordinated; deliberate and all inclusive crash management process that manages all the variables that interact on the road. Viz; road, road users, vehicles and road managers.
The National Road Safety Council is part of the general organised efforts of the Corps to ensure that all hands are on deck to end road traffic crashes in Nigeria. The move is to get the buy-in of major stakeholders in the public sector that play critical role in policy formulation. This is why the understanding and effective implementation of the provisions of the NRSS from the grass-root to the state and federal level will facilitate the achievement of the national goal of having a country where road traffic crashes results in zero death on Nigerian roads. As such, it is now more than ever, the time for every citizen to wake up to the realities of the present time and begin to contribute towards the actualization of the safety mandate because road safety is indeed, everybody’s business.
It was based on these stated fact, that I leveraged on these successes to summarily adjudge the Corps Marshal’s leadership of the Federal Road Safety Corps as the proper placement of a square peg in a square hole and commend President Muhammadu Buhari for re- appointing Dr. Boboye, whose drive and sense of commitment to duty and professionalism is no doubt a clear justification of President Muhammadu Buhari’s confidence in appointing him Corps Marshal.
Assistant Corps Marshal Bisi Kazeem, fsi, Amnipr is the Head of Public Education Office at the FRSC National Headquarters, Abuja.