Another beautiful day, Yes an amazing day! I am excited to have the first interview for the year today. It took so long because I cannot afford to feed you with just anything, it has to be worth your time and of course, it must feed your mind. Today, we have a Lawyer and a special Marshal of the Federal road safety commission talk to us about road safety and the commission too.
Please sir can you tell us about yourself and your position in the Federal Road Safety Commission.
My name is Fred Ichekwai. I am a lawyer, I was called to the Bar in September 1999 and I have worked in different companies. Investment banking, commercial banking, I.T firm and now it is a conglomerate, Dangote. I am a father; two boys and two girls. The boys are twins. I have a passion for youths andmentoring. I believe in integrity, honesty and truth. Loathe and despise, rudeness, dishonesty, a lack of integrity, especially in young people and generally, everyone. I like to work with a team I can always rely on. I believe in people and give a benefit of the doubt. I do not believe in hearsay and like people to always show me who they really are.
My role in the Federal Road safety commission- I do not work with the Federal road safety commission. I am a volunteer as a special marshal and the unit coordinator for unit 61 attached to All Saints Anglican church or what you call Ojuelegba under the Road safety scheme attached to Iponri command. I don’t get paid as a special marshal. I do not wear the regular marshal’s uniform. As a special marshal, I can arrest people, fine and impound their cars, the difference is that I don’t get paid.
How did you join the Road safety commission and for how long have you been with them?
I joined a couple of years ago, it has been over 10 years. I joined when it was started in All saints Anglican church surulere through the instrumentality of Mrs Chukwura who was then a member of the church and a regular Marshal. She is now the head of operations in Asaba.
What are the core duties of the Federal Road Safety Commission and do they really carry them out?
The core duty is ensuring the continuous and free flow of traffic at all point in time and also manage driver’s license issues, issue plate numbers and do the renewal and maintenance of licenses for drivers, work with the VIOs to ascertain the validity of licenses for everybody so that when you want to do a renewal or get or a fresh license, you can have the It done.
Yes, they carry out these duties. Part of what they do is that they ensure that drivers have a valid license, so every now and then they can stop you and confirm the validity of your license, confirm the state of your tyres because when your tyres are not in good condition, it can cause an accident, they also check for the basic safety gadgets that ought to be in the car- fire extinguisher, C-caution, in the event of you having a challenge on the road, spare tyres.
They randomly stop vehicles to get these done, to ensure that these vehicles are in compliance. They also check if the person driving is not driving under influence. If the person is not in compliance, the person can be arrested or the car will be impounded. So, Yes, they ca
How much is fined for offences?
Fines vary. Different amounts for different offences. There’s N1,500 as a fine, You can have N3,000 as a fine, N20,000 as a fine. It depends on what the guideline has stated as fine for an offence.
Can you please share with us what your experiences on the roads outside Lagos have been like?
I haven’t driven that much outside of Lagos, but I have driven South-West, Ife, Akure, Ibadan, Ogun state and our roads are a bit of a challenge, drivers tend to be a lot more cautious when they are on the high-way but a lot of work is being done on the roads to ensure it is safer. Looking at places outside Lagos like Port-Harcourt, the roads could be a bit free, and people speed up more because their roads are quite wide and meant for speed but what the road safety has done is to put speed limits put on the road to manage the speed at which you could travel.
This is why they introduced for commercial vehicles speed limiters. A speed limiting is a device that you install in commercial vehicles so when they start speeding and they exceed an approved speed limit, the device will call them to order and ensure that they reduce their speed. So, it is a way that the road safety commission is trying to manage and reduce carnages on our roads.
My experiences have been: the challenge you face traveling. On some of our roads outside Lagos, street lights are not a priority and it is something that needs to be thought about, pot-holes used to be an issue but gradually, they are working on them and making it more manageable and it is making the roads more fun to drive.
What will you say is are the significant differences between the roads in Lagos and those outside Lagos?
If you travel outside of Lagos, you might find wider roads in some locations, although with the constructions in Lagos a lot of roads have been widened are better compared to some places outside of Lagos where you have some narrow roads. So, I think the roads in Lagos are better except when you are on the express where the roads are actually not wide.
What are the challenges of the road safety commission and what are the challenges of its members?
Let me put it this way, this I also perceive to be the same issues with lots of uniformed organizations in Nigeria especially the police, the military, although the military is doing well in this regard, they tend to provide accommodation for their people.
How do you explain where somebody is serving in the road safety in Lagos and is posted to Abuja and there is no accommodation provided for him? He has a family? Basically, they sleep in the office. If you don’t have accommodation, how do you function? That is a serious issue.
Also, the issue of operations, they expect them to do so much, and are not even provided with the basic need- shelter.
I know there are budgets made for them. How are they funded? Allocations hardly ever go down to anybody. What happens to the money? Every year there are some budget lines for operations- purchase of equipments, for maintaining the existing equipments, and vehicles, yet at the command, broken vehicles are not fixed because there is no money to fix them or the special marshals are called on to have them fixed or asked for money to fuel the vehicles to go for patrol. All these are issues.
This leaves you wondering, if provisions have been made or there is a budget for all these, why are funds not released for all of these things? With all these challenges, how do the staffs cope? This is why we will always have corrupt people, they will always want to find a way out.
I have noticed that in Lagos, You are stuck in traffic for about 30 minutes or more and when you eventually get to where the road is free, you look what caused the traffic and you can’t find it. What do you have to say about this?
Impatience. Lagos drivers generally are impatient. Also, too many vehicles are on our roads and that in itself is a challenge. So, I would propose that if government would find ways to utilize our water ways, they can have private business ventures come up with water transport, more of it. Government should create terminals where people can drive their cars to park, take boats or a canoes across. I know we have things like that now but they are just too few to beat the volume of population we have.
Lagos is cosmopolitan. People come from all over Nigeria and without inside of it, so Lagos should always be thinking of how to recreate means of moving people around. Thank God for the development in the railway sector now, but it needs to be enhanced. They need to do a lot more in terms of coaches and rail lines. Why can’t they run a rail line all the way to Lagos Island? The mono rail? Is it because Fashola is no longer there? Has it been abandoned? These projects are projects that are supposed to ease our burdens as commuters. If Lagos works this way, a lot of us will have better ways of commuting and there will be less traffic, I assure you.
Please tell us some of the important road rules that people break often.
Traffic light. They call you an idiot when you park by the traffic light, they say you are stupid, why did you park there? At times I don’t blame people that jump lights because the lights are not maintained. Sometimes you get to a traffic light, it is all red but guess what? It isn’t working, it is permanently red. Now, danfo buses are a law unto themselves, you are driving and somebody is honking at you, get off the road, light is not working, get away. The lights should be fixed. Also, I see a lot of law enforcement agencies, they are meant to enforce the law but they are the ones breaking it. They have no respect for traffic lights, no respect for traffic signs, they drive against traffic. But if you and I do the same thing, what happens? They will arrest you. I have a problem with that.
Sir, you stated earlier that as member of the FRSC, that you have a right to arrest someone who errs as a road user. Please can you tell us more about that?
Yes that is correct. We ought to be ticketing them. But data in Nigeria is not trustworthy. Different people collect data and accessing data is a big challenge and the data bank in Nigeria is not trustworthy. If we had a robust data bank, we don’t need to arrest them, all we need to do is ticket the person and after a while when his offences are accumulated to the maximum, we can actually invalidate his driver’s license, that is what is done in different climes. Part of the punishment can be ticketing a person who leaves in Ojuelegba to go and pay in Badagry. Usually, it is the regular marshals that do the ticketing, when we go on joint Patrols together, sometimes, the tickets are issued on the road and other times, they impound vehicles.
Everyone blames the government for everything in Nigeria. Do you think the government is to be blamed for the bad road users?
No, I don’t think so. Like I said, the average road user is an impatient person. At times, the roads are repaired then at night some people go and break up the road just so they can ensure there is traffic there, criminals even do that so that when the roads are bad and there are pot-holes, vehicles will slow down and they can attack them. Why should I blame government for that? Why should I also blame government for being a bad road user and do not obey road sign? If I have to blame the government, I will blame them for not being enforcing. They do not enforce these rules. That in itself is a challenge. We are bad, bad followers, we are responsible for our own troubles. If you do your bit and I do my bit, our society will be better.
For the benefits of those who do not know, what are the necessary car documents every car owner must possess?
Valid driver’s license, custom papers, proof of ownership, insurance- a valid insurance certificate, Police tint permit if you use tinted glasses, documents that were used to acquire the car at the point of entry. Then have other things like the C- caution, working spare-tyres, fire extinguisher and a jack.
What is your final advice for road users?
I will advice every road user in Nigeria to please learn to be patient. It is a primary thing for us, if we are patient, we can avoid many road accidents. Also have maintenance awareness culture. Treat your car as you will treat your body. If your car had issues, don’t say you will manage it, fix it. Try to obey as much road signs as you need to, they were put there for your own safety.
Thank you so much for your time sir. It has really been an enlightening session with you. I have learnt so much from this and I believe that everyone who reads this will take a thing or two from it.
Dear readers, thank you so much for the time you spared to read. I believe you have learnt. I would love to have your responses. Please tell us what you think, do you really agree that the road safety has been working, do you have complains? Let us hear you here.
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