How we ensure safety on our roads — Oyeyemi, FRSC corps marshal
Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi is the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the agency saddled with the responsibility of ensuring safety on the nation’s roads. In this interview by SEGUN KASALI, Oyeyemi speaks about the activities of the agency.
How have you used your human capacity development to actualise the objectives of the agency?
You see when people are trained, it enhances productivity. When your people are productive, you will achieve your goals. Every year, we have a focus of what we want to achieve. We read it out. If you don’t train the people, they cannot implement your vision. It is like the government and the civil servants. The government formulates policies while the civil servants implement them. That is why there is always training. If you don’t train them on how to do it, they are lost.
Fortunately, over the past six years, as the corps marshal, we have invested more in human capacity development and technology. If you have the people and you don’t invest in human development, you cannot get results. You have people, technology and process. The first thing we did was to plead for the understanding of the Chief of Defence Staff for us to have slots at the Command and Staff College, Jaji for junior and senior courses and then National Defence College. And I must thank the Chief of Defence Staff, General Olorunsakin for giving us slots every year. We also have slots at the National Institute for our senior officers. Then, for our middle-level officers, they have been going to Army War College and also the ASCON (Administrative Staff College of Nigeria). Last year, we decided to take the bull by the horn to establish our own Command and Staff College which is temporarily located at Udi where we have our academy and hopefully it is going to be sited at Ibadan where the Road Safety originally started from.
Some officers of the agency were recently abducted, and it took several efforts before they were released. What really happened?
There were 26 of them in two buses. It is unfortunate this is not the first time we have been doing this. People go on courses and we encourage them to go in groups because when you travel in groups, there are no dull moments. I think there was a security lapse somewhere along the way because it was a direct attack on them. In the process, we lost two, and 10 were kidnapped. Then, 8 were unhurt, while six were badly injured. They are still in the hospital in Abuja. This happened on Monday 14th September and by Sunday 20th, we have been able to get their release with the help of the Chief of Defence Staff which I personally spoke with. The Inspector General of Police was very supportive, as well as the Director-General, Department of State Services. These three organisations were very supportive. Their officials and men rallied round, they provided us information and coordinates. So, of those 10 kidnapped, three managed to escape on that day and they were rescued by the police. Of the remaining 7, two were released in the first batch; another two were released on the second day and the last three were also released. We didn’t lose them because all the agencies involved rallied round to guide and ensure that they were not hurt.
Do you think the situation would have been better managed if the officials had been authorised to carry guns?
Over the years, we have believed in the civil approach even though the law that set up the corps gives us power to bear arms. In 2014, we got approval to train about 5,000 personnel at the Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji. And some were trained at the Second Division in Ibadan and 82 Division in Enugu. Some were trained at the Military Base in Keffi. But, because there was a change in government, we couldn’t complete the whole focus.
Any plans to complete the process now?
I believe with the continuous increase in the attack on our officials, we are making a case to the Federal Government to look into the issue of armed squad.
The issue of trucks and tanker crashes is worrisome. What do you think are the reasons for the frequent incidents of this nature in the country?
We have been battling with issues involving tankers. First of all, we look at road safety management in Nigeria and the issue of articulated vehicles. Ninety per cent of articulated vehicles are over 30 years. If you use the VIN, you would know the year of manufacture of these trucks. Besides, many of those articulated vehicles are not designed for the purpose they are being used for in Nigeria. They are not supposed to be on the road again. I believe the government needs to address this issue.
The major problem with these articulated vehicles is that sometimes they experience brake failure because of their weight. Besides, many of the drivers are not properly trained. Some of them are motor boys and did not actually go through proper training. Then, the road worthiness of some of these vehicles is in doubt. We have been advocating for an intervention fund for the nation’s transportation industry, and I think government is looking into this. They need help. For instance, a trailer head, at my last pricing, costs N60 million. The body is about N7-N10 million. So, that means, you need about N70 million to have a trailer, ready for use. The question is how many individuals can afford to raise N70 million today?
Are you saying that these crashes are mostly caused by speed limit violation?
Yes, speed limit violation. Speed is the number one problem that we have today. And we need to raise our level of enforcement before the year runs out. Speed is a major issue we need to battle with. It would interest you to look at our activities and the offences and the number of arrests we have made from January till date. We arrested about 364,000 people. Look at 364,000 arrests in the past eight and a half months. Yet, we are not there. The corps has established offices in all the local governments. We have just finished training our personnel. They will work with other security agencies. We have a flow of our operational commands. The reason for the chain of command is to ensure that our presence is in all the local governments. That will enable us to get real-time information on road traffic crashes and road conditions; we usually conduct road safety audit and accident investigation which we pass to the Federal Ministry of Works or to the appropriate state or the Federal Capital Territory Administration.
We observed that since posting our personnel to the tank farms, crashes from tankers have dropped. What we call the commonsense speed limit is to cut down the speed.
But some stakeholders like the NUPENG PTD have attributed most of those crashes to the deplorable conditions of the nation’s roads?
I can tell you that in the country today, we have 204,000km of road network; 35,000 belongs to the Federal Government, 36,000 belongs to states and 109,000 belongs to the local governments. Like NUPENG PTD, we are going to do retraining and certification for them.
How sustainable is the full enforcement of the speed limit devices and training of tanker drivers?
This year NUPENG PTD has not been able to train their drivers because of COVID-19. For almost five months, no training has been done. Again, how many commercial drivers have you seen using glasses? None. Last year, we conducted periodic checks during a festive period, and we specifically focused on commercial articulated drivers. Out of the test we conducted right on the highway, 30 per cent failed the vision acuity test. They are very hardened and stubborn. Again, we must handle them with care so that we don’t disrupt the movement of petroleum products. That is why we talk to the leadership, more. I must commend DPR. They complied with the directive and they have designed a template to compel all the truck owners on downstream and upstream to comply with the National Road Traffic Regulations and also to ensure that all the drivers are certified.
As part of the agency’s drive at leveraging technology, you launched the e-booking platform. How does this technology work?
Your vehicle details are verified because the e-booking is linked to the offenders register, driver’s licence data, vehicle registration database. So, if your driver’s licence is not genuine, it would reject it. If your vehicle registration is not complete, it would tell you that the number plate does not belong to that vehicle. If you have been arrested before, it would flag that you have already accumulated some points. The e-booking is not only for offenders. There is what we call the First Information Report (FIR). In that report, the details and the photograph of the incident goes straight into the database. It is preserved for the crash investigators.
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