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Saturday, October 03, 2015

Re: FRSC declining morals - Putting the records straight



Our attention has been drawn to a publication in the National Mirror  authored by Dr. Sherrif Folarin on 29 September, 2015 titled “ FRSC DECLINING MORALS”.


The Federal Road Safety Corps is a child of necessity born out of the need for a credible and effective response to the rising increase in road traffic crashes in 70s, which was a result of the upsurge in vehicular traffic resulting from the economic boom during the period.


Deriving from this concept, eminent personalities with impeccable records on public administration such as Prof. Wole Soyinka and Dr. Olu Agunloye were from inception, saddled with leadership roles which took the Federal Road Safety Corps to enviable heights from 1988 when it was established, till date. It is however, imperative to put the records in proper perspective by stating that Prof. Wole Soyinka was pioneer Chairman of FRSC Board while Dr. Olu Agunloye was Director of Organisation and Chief Executive of the Corps and later transited as Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the FRSC.


Presently, the Corps still remains committed to the visions of its  founders as made manifest through the leadership initiatives and penchant for improved service delivery of the Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi, who was part of team that started the FRSC from its cradle stage.


The law setting up the Commission allocated 24 “core” mandates to it, including the design and production of driver’s licence and number plates in addition to other related functions, anchored on creating a safer motoring environment in Nigeria.  It is instructive to recall that Section 4 of the 1999 constitution empowers the National Assembly to enact laws in the course of discharging its statutory obligations.


This same authority culminated to the FRSC Establishment Act, 2007 as a product of the nation’s legislative body and from Sections 5 and 10 of this Act, the FRSC was empowered to make regulations such as establishment and regulation of ambulance services, make laws on the speed at which motor vehicles of any class or description may be driven either generally on any specified highway or within a define area, make laws on the design and production of drivers’ license, regulate the establishment, investigation and certification of driving schools, clearing obstructions on any part of the highways, educating drivers and other road users on proper use of the highways, collaborate with government agencies and other relevant bodies engaged in road safety activities or in the prevention of road crashes on the highways,  make laws on excessive noise or emission from vehicles, maximum laden weight of vehicles and trailers and the maximum weight to be transmitted to the road or any specified area thereof by any vehicle or trailer and to also determine the various fines to be paid by traffic offenders.


Improved road use education remains part of the FRSC core mandate from inception as encapsulated in its 2015 corporate strategic goals which seeks to improve stakeholders’ collaboration and public advocacy on proper use of the highways. This article of faith has remained a critical of the Corps as numerous public enlightenment projects have been initiated and vigorously pursued by the Corps, in its resolve to make Nigerian highways safer. 


Worthy of note is the Corps’ status as an elite government agency with properly defined and structured modus operandi. The Corps has never and will never ambush motorists in the discharge of its statutory functions.


In the last decade, the FRSC had introduced a new dimension to its advocacy by reaching out religious leaders and moslem clerics, in addition to traditional rulers, to utilize them as complementary agents to shore up the safety consciousness/driving culture of their congregations and subjects.


The new drivers’ license was widely presented and demonstrated to the different levels of the polity and stakeholders, including the media executives and journalists. The FRSC also embarked on extensive consultations to attract public understanding and buy-in for the new scheme. 


It is noteworthy that the new driver’s licence scheme is the result of a tripartite arrangement involving the Commission, state governments and the Joint Tax Board (JTB) which is the coalition of the internal revenue services of all the states and FCT, chaired by the executive chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). FRSC has no statutory responsibility to fix road taxes and so, it was the decision of an appropriate authority and in this case the JTB that approved what is the prices for the drivers’ licences and vehicle number plates. In the same vein, the sale and issuance of the licences and number plates are the responsibility of the state governments and FCT.  They sell and collect the revenues that accrue from those items, while FRSC design and produce same in line with its statutory responsibility. 


 We wish to reiterate that the FRSC was not established as a revenue generation public institution and has never operated in this direction. Price fixing for number plate and driver’s license is not under the purview of the FRSC but exclusive preserve of the Joint Tax Board.



The FRSC has not abandoned its primary responsibilities even in the face of increasing spate of road crashes involving articulated vehicles.  It is on record that the present dispensation of the Corps has initiated and sustained series of strategies towards road crash reduction in Nigeria such as the Road Transport Safety Standardization Scheme (RTSSS), Driving School Standardization Programme (DSSP),  re-certification of commercial drivers including routine medical checks and other proactive strategies towards addressing the menace of road crashes involving heavy duty vehicles such as a comprehensive research in 2010 which indicated that articulated vehicles accounted for 40 percent of crashes in Nigeria between 2007 and 2010. This finding was also followed up with multi-pronged advocacies with relevant stakeholders to reverse this unpleasant trend. It is therefore unfair to state that the FRSC “pulled the panic button” by suddenly embarking on nationwide awareness programmes to conscientize Nigerians on safer road use.


Also noteworthy is the present status of the Corps which has enhanced its capacity to fulfill its statutory mandate of enthroning sanity on the nation’s highways namely :  staff strength of 12,000 in 2007 to about 23,000 today; absence of internet facilities which has changed to 371 V-Sat installed in all Commands, turning it into one of the largest Wide Area Network (WAN) in the public sector; data collection that used to be an annual ritual has turned into a daily activity using the technology platform developed; the number of ambulances available to FRSC for rescue activities has grown from about 17 in 2007 to about 64 in 2013, out of which a carefully orchestrated plan to deploy them at about 75 kilometer intervals on critical highways, code-named Zebra, has commenced. To date, 24 emergency ambulance centers have been set up.


In the same vein, road safety studies have been incorporated by the National Council for Education and approved by Federal Executive Council (FEC), and today, primary and secondary school pupils would be availed of an educational strategy that would lead to a culture change in the future. The absence of regulatory frame-work for many facets of the road safety sector has been addressed by the introduction of standard school bus adopted by the National Council for Education. 

The introduction of a Driving School Standardization Programe (DSSP) that has led to the certification of over 750 driving schools, creating employment for instructors and currently has over 73,000 students in driving schools around the country; a national call center, with a toll-free number 122, set up by the  FRSC which has received to date 9,554 emergency calls and responded to these calls, saving many road crash victims rescued alive since its establishment.


Patrol vehicles, the main tools of operation in FRSC, which as at 2007, was about 170, has grown to over 454. In conjunction with FERMA, we have set up about 18 road side clinics, which in 2012, received and treated free of charge road traffic crash victims and neighbouring communities.
 

Similarly, the FRSC had attracted  a World Bank funded Safe Corridor project in Nigeria which  has delivered a Country Capacity Review, acquisition of over 38 patrol vehicles, 24 bikes, 17 single carrier Ambulances,1 double carrier Ambulance,7 heavy tow trucks and capacity building programmes that has taken Road Safety from a rule of the thumb road traffic control organization to a modern road safety administration that encompasses safety engineering, road safety audit, data driven road safety education, scientific accident investigation of which the report forwarded to relevant government institutions like the Federal Ministry of Works and FERMA, for remedial actions, are on the FRSC website. Since we initiated road safety audit in 2011, a total of 85 audits have been conducted.


There is also a structured vehicle data base arising from the new number plate and a biometric-based driver’s licence, of which the Italian Police, in a letter to FRSC, acknowledged as being of a higher standard than most European countries’ driver’s licence. As at today, due to the features introduced in the upgraded licensing scheme, Nigeria secured reciprocity with several European countries and many states in the USA whereby holders of the new Nigeria drivers licence can replace same with the drivers’ licences of these European countries and the affected states in the United States of America.

FRSC  has also designed a platform called ‘’One Driver One Record’’ which enables FRSC to track and match records of a driver with his driver licence, vehicle number plate, insurance and traffic offences in a single view, which can be shared with other security agencies for crime prevention and the promotion of national security.


Still on the drivers’ license, the Corps has remained committed to its desire to restore the integrity of the drivers’ license by putting in place concrete measures to not only expunge fake drivers’ license from circulation but to “weed” out the unscrupulous elements behind the racketeering syndicate.


As at last count, the special Unit which the Corps’ management inaugurated to address this trend has not only arrested but also investigated and recommended the dismissal of about 137 staff of the Corps while formidable structures have been put in place to deliver on the road map towards effective motor vehicle administration in Nigeria. Added to these measures is the establishment of over 200 work stations to ensure seamless drivers’ license administration in the country.


It is also instructive to recall that speed induced road crashes remains a major concern in our collective strive to enthrone safer road use in the country. Our findings last 2 years indicated that speed limit violation accounted for 58 percent of road traffic crashes thus indicating that if decisive steps are taken to address the menace of speed-induced crashes, greater sanity will be achieved on the nation’s highways.  This informed the Corps’ renewed drive to bring relevant government agencies such as the Standards Organization of Nigeria, National Automotive Council and major stakeholders in the transport sector to initiate the speed limiting device as obtained in other climes to mitigate  against speed-induced road crashes.


In the same vein, series of awareness programmes have been initiated and executed in tandem with aforementioned government agencies and fleet operators to rev up consciousness among the Nigerian motoring public on the relevance of installing this device on vehicles. We are still committed to this course and will soon activate nationwide enforcement with commercial vehicles and fleet operators on the first phase of the proposed enforcement plan.


Under the FRSC leadership, the West African Road Safety Organization has since adopted Nigeria Driver’s Licence and Vehicle registration standards under the ECOWAS Regional Vehicle Administration Information System (RVAIS), while  FRSC was declared by the World Bank as the best example of a lead agency in Africa, with recommendation that other African countries should emulate the Nigeria’s model. Already, Sierra Leone has secured technical support from the FRSC to set up its own lead agency in traffic management while Ghana is currently under-studying the FRSC model.


The FRSC is committed to its resolve to achieve the Accra declaration of 50% reduction of road traffic crashes in Nigeria by 2015 and United Nations decade of action on road safety 2011-2020 by reducing road crashes fatalities by 2 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.  The Corps is further poised to make Nigerian roads among the 20 safest roads by 2020 within global circles.


Let me also state at this juncture that FRSC is vigorously working towards addressing the trend of road crashes associated with Tankers and Trailers even as the Corps has secured the undertaken of the Petroleum and Tanker Drivers under the auspices of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers not to allow un-latched Trucks to leave the loading bay while drivers who contravene this directive will be severely dealt with as part of measures to restore order and decorum in their operation. As a follow-up to this drive, the Corps also unveiled a nationwide enforcement exercise throughout the month of August 2015, tagged “Operation Scorpion”. This exercise was targeted at trucks and trailers across the country. This initiative culminated to the arrest and prosecution of 3,067 trailer and truck drivers for violating 4,467 traffic-related offences.


As the nation’s lead agency on safety management and traffic administration, the FRSC remains committed to its resolve to reform the attitude of road users in the country through its numerous efforts to bequeath an enduring legacy on road safety management to Nigerians.


We therefore request that you remain consistent in your strides to complement the Corps’ functions through meaningful suggestions, consultations and contributions to further conscientize Nigerians on appropriate road conducts. Road safety is a collective responsibility.
*contributed by Bisi Kazeem, Head, Media, FRSC Abuja

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