Dr. Kayode Olagunju is the Zonal Commanding Officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in charge of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states. In this exclusive interview with Newsdiaryonline, he spoke on impunity by drivers in the zone and how the Command is fighting to control that, among other things: Excerpts
By Abdallah el-Kurebe, Editor
Most drivers in this zone drive recklessly. They also overload their vehicles and some are not properly licensed. How is the Command tackling this problem?
To improve, we looked at what is on ground and the trend over the years. We then designed a two-year road map to see those things we could do better in order to improve in road safety. In the first place, we have stepped up our public enlightenment activities. We are collaborating with other agencies, including non governmental organisations, professional bodies like Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), traditional leaders, heads of local communities to raise the level of awareness in the people.
Secondly, we realized the need to raise our level of enforcement. This was further augmented by Sultan Muhammadu Saad Abubakar’s call to step up our enlightenment campaign because of the high level of impunity in this area. Excessive overloading, excessive speeding and other road traffic violations are practiced n this area. Most of the vehicles are not well registered and most drivers are not well licensed. We are looking ar all these areas in terms of enforcement. Again, training is key because I think these drivers do what they do based on the level of their ignorance.
We feel that our high profile citizens too must be driven in accordance to the rules. We have started with the drivers at the Sultanate so that we could have them properly assessed in terms of whether they possess valid drivers license. We intend to enhance their skills as well as test their visual strength to see if they actually see when they drive.
It could be fatal to have our senior citizens being driven by blind men. We test their blood pressure to ensure that is normal. This will be extended to drivers of senior government officials in the zone. We have extended our enlightenment programme to motor parks where drivers and other operators are also trained. We are also looking at the way drivers of corporate organisations, transport companies and so on do their things.
In terms of traffic control, we are taking note of gridlock areas, especially at peak periods. So, we deploy our men to man those places and advice the government to reactivate traffic lights so that they could replace men at such places they are mounted. We have touched so many areas of our activities and the aim is to improve on what we met on ground based on the road map that every commander has keyed into.
We have increased our visibility on the roads by over 40 percent. This means we have more contacts with road users. They see us more on the roads and therefore try to obey traffic rules. We have also increased arrests by over 30 percent. Like I said earlier, we are combining public education and enforcement. In the zone, we are adopting a four system approach – persuasion, subtle force, enforcement (using the stick) and then prosecution. Here the recalcitrant ones would be taken to court. We are talking to governments at all levels to have mobile courts that could instantaneously try traffic offenders on the spot. That will enhance the level of compliance.
But these drivers have embarked on late evening traffic offenses
We now have two operations – operations good morning and evening. Operation good evening involves going on normal patrol and return to base. We then go into squad – with more men, more patrol vehicles and then have higher level of supervision. We return to the road when the drivers were expecting us not to be on the road and get many of them arrested. The impact of such operation last for a week. In operation good morning, when the drivers expect us to be on the road by 8am, we will be there earlier. This is not regular so they don’t predict what might happen.
What are the Command’s challenges like?
The level of awareness is relatively low compared to one or two other areas in the country. Again, the level of impunity is high. We are talking to our national headquarters for more operational vehicles.