The Vice President of Ghana, Mr Kwesi Amissah-Arthur has called on African leaders to work towards reducing road accidents on the continent through the formulation of policies that would create safer roads.
Addressing a gathering at the 5th annual lecture of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, in Abuja, Mr Amissah-Arthur presented statistics to buttress the need for an urgent action to curb road accidents and said that the statistics on road traffic crashes in Africa was alarming and there was a need to reverse the trend.
The Corp Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corp, Osita Chidoka, acknowledged the challenges but also applauded the establishment of the Corp, saying that deaths arising from road accidents had reduced drastically since the establishment of the Corp in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, reaffirmed the commitment of the Federal Government to ensuring safer roads for all road users.
The Ghanaian Vice President, however, noted that road safety on the continent cannot be left for governments in the continent alone.
The event had many officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission in attendance.
Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, on Tuesday handed over a total of 16 completed inner city roads in Mushin to the residents in a bid to add value to their living standards.
Addressing a large crowd of residents, including traditional rulers, clerics, opinion leaders and community development associations as well as Government officials, Governor Fashola said it was not enough to build and handover roads to the communities, pointing out that the most important thing was to ensure that the roads were put to proper use for the good of the residents.
He, expressed regrets that over time, with habits like dumping refuse on the roads, trading by the side of the streets, washing cars in the middle of the streets and turning the roads into warehouses; life has become a little more difficult than it should be because the roads no longer serve their purpose.
“This pedestrian walk is not a trading place. Let us understand that not everybody has cars, that those who have cars, those who have okada (motorcycle) and those who do not have cars all pay taxes. For those who do not have cars, this is their own road, they should be able to walk without motorists disturbing them”, the Governor said.
The Governor also advised those wishing to lay internet cables to approach the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure to tell them where the ducts meant for such cables are, under the roads. He said: “We need the internet and we also need the road. And we cannot have internet and then lose a road that we have built. So, it must be a win-win situation for us all the time to add onto what we have by putting on more”.
In his earlier welcome address, the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said that by building the roads in Mushin, the State Government has demonstrated its recognition of the need to move the Local Government forward.
“As a Government, we believe that we must transform our city roads and Mushin happens to be one of them”.
The newly handed over roads include Badejo Kalesanmi Street, Kelani Street, Akinyemi Street, Paul Okuntola Street, Apesin Street, Folarin Street, Ajana Street, Akendo Street, Eniola Street, Ishaga Road, Ronke Street, Akinlawon Street, Olanibi Ojekunle Street, Oyewuwo Street, Kekereowo Babalola Street and Sadiku Street.
In a separate ceremony Governor Babatunde Fashola also launched the Lagos State Law Enforcement Training Institute and presided over the graduation of its first 3,311 graduates.
He also announced the creation of a Law Enforcement Cadre in the State Public Service to ensure career progression for all the officers of the two agencies who have been absorbed as permanent staff.
Speaking at the ceremony which took place at the Sir Molade Okoya Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, the Governor stated that the new public servants will be entitled to all the benefits every public servant had including pension rights under the contributory scheme.
“We have created a new cadre of employment in the Lagos State public service. We have created the law enforcement cadre for you alone. As I said, it has been two years of brutal work but I think we have arrived at a safe destination from which to take off and so people will come in with a right of election into the public service to say they want to be in the law enforcement cadre and as such after the training, the choice of posting will determine whether you go to LASTMA or KAI”.
Continuing, the Governor explained that the cadre had been designed to take cognizance of the various levels of academic qualifications that applicants may present. “There will be threshold entry levels so that school certificate holders do not lead graduates and we would encourage in service training so that you can rise from rank to rank until you reach the pinnacle of your career”, he reiterated.
Governor Fashola however, underscored the need for the officers to rise up to expectations noting that as the State Government offers the incentives it also expects the officers to do the job with passion, pride, dignity and fear of God for the citizens who employed them.
“As you go out remember this day and this people so that you resist whatever temptation you come across. Not to let yourself and them down. Please be reminded that in the public space there is no hiding place. It is not only these cameramen and photographers that engage in this profession. Everybody now has a camera phone”.
In a speech, the Commencement Speaker and Editor of the Law Section of the ThisDay Newspaper, Mrs Funke Aboyade said that she was very impressed by the training that the officers had undergone since September 24, 2012, when the programme began.
She noted that as the graduates would begin work with and within communities as advocates of enlightenment they would begin to change the attitude of fellow Lagosians and would also begin to see that the public treatment and perception of them would change for the better.
The Commissioner of Transportation in Lagos State, Mr Kayode Opeifa, has claimed that since the Lagos Traffic Law came into existence with the restriction of motorcycles-Okada- on major highways, accidents involving Okada has reduced by 95 per cent.
Mr Opeifa made this known on our weekend show Sunrise, where he also revealed that a reduction of 32 per cent has been recorded in the number of people committing traffic offence.
“We have recorded 32 per cent reduction in the rate at which people commit traffic offences” he stated, adding that “we have also recorded 35 per cent decrease in the reduction of accidents involving okada and other vehicles and 95 per cent reduction in just okada accidents.”
Confirming this development, the Zonal Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr Ademola Lawal, stated that “the Lagos Traffic Law is helping to get safer roads with the restriction of okadas as drivers can now drive on Lagos roads without thinking that someone can destroy one’s side mirror.”
Meanwhile a social activist, Mr Debo Adeshina, disagreed with the law saying it is part of a tyranny policy in Lagos, to victimise the poor.
He claimed the move by the state government to bring in more BRT buses is a ploy to reward their capitalist friends and ensure their huge returns at the expense of the poor.
The former Secretary General of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) argued that “the poor is the victim of every policy in Lagos” and this he described as a tyranny.
Mr Adeshina advised that the state government should have created a dedicated lane for the okada instead of banning them.
He also claimed that the state government has given a false perception that for every accident that occurs involving a motorcycle, the okada driver is at fault, whereas there are also careless drivers on Lagos roads.
Emerging from a meeting with Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, leaders of commercial motorcycle (Okada) operators in the State, on Tuesday, pledged to comply with and self-enforce the new Lagos Road Traffic Law among their members.
At the meeting which had in attendance the leaders of the various associations of okada riders who spoke one after the other at the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House, Alausa, the Chairman of the Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State, Ambassador Tijani Pekis, pledged that the associations’ leaders would go ahead to sensitize and sanitize their members for total compliance adding that the leaders would also help in the enforcement of the law.
Echoing the Governor’s statement that obedience to the law is better than the sacrifice of lives of the people Pekis declared, “The Governor has asked us to go and comply with the law. The issue of 2010 is beyond 2012. May be then some of us did not take it serious but now we are out to sensitize and sanitize our members for compliance”.
The Chairman, who described the Governor’s address at the meeting as touching and human, said the address had made them to understand that the present administration meant well for them and interested in their future, adding that personally, he had obtained a written document from the State Commissioner of Police through the Operations Officer to enable the various unions enforce the law among their members.
He told newsmen after the meeting, “The Governor has told us to obey before complaint and we are going out en masse to sensitize our members for total compliance. Every association, whether recognized or not will pick a date when they will go out to enforce the law. We will meet all the DPOs with the document from the Commissioner of Police to get enforcement backing”.
“One big statement that has been giving me problem since I sat here is, am I going to ask my child to come into this business? I think that question has personally knocked me out of the okada business”, the Chairman said.
Earlier, in his address, Governor Fashola , who took time to explain the objectives of the law as the safety, good health and improved quality of life for all, urged okada operators in the State to comply with the law first before complaining promising that his administration was ready to listen and make operational changes where there are genuine complaints.
“Obedience to this law is better than to sacrifice the lives of the people. Go and obey first; our doors are open and we will be ready to listen to you when there is genuine complaint”, the Governor said adding that compliance to the law was in the best interest of every citizen including the operators themselves.
Governor Fashola expressed dissatisfaction with the way the okada operators acted in total disregard of restrictions and rules of operation made by the Government in 2010 even after a meeting and agreement with their parent unions, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Owners Association of Nigeria saying their activities became even worse after the meeting.
“You are operating in Lagos and you are attracted to Lagos because there are opportunities. Some people worked very hard and invested their lifetime to create those opportunities. I appealed to you about a year and a half ago to stay off certain routes, close at particular time. What I saw immediately after that meeting was even worse”, the Governor said.
Pointing out that he has received numerous letters of complaint from other citizens of the State against okada operators, Governor Fashola declared, “Now, I am the Governor for every citizen of this State. You want to do business, some people are complaining; they have the same right as you have. In the same way I will stand up for you if anybody does business at your expense, I will stand up for them if you do business at their expense”.
The Governor noted that many women and children have become widows and orphans while many have been made invalid for life as a result of the recklessness of okada riders adding, “You have a right to do business but that right is not absolute. It means you must respect other peoples’ rights so that they will respect your own”.a
Pointing out that he receives scores of letters and e-mails from the public complaining about the activities of okada operators in the State, the Governor said, “Now you think I am restricting you; some people want you banned”.
He advised the various associations of okada and tricycle operators to go and harmonize themselves into the ones recognized by Government pointing out that the Government recognizes only the NURTW, RETEAN, MOALS and NAKOWA. He declared, ”Yes you have a right and freedom of association but we have the right to choose who we want to do business with”.
Governor Fashola appealed to the association leaders to endeavour to educate their members on the need for compliance to the traffic law noting that the State Government is spending huge sums of money on free medical care for victims of okada and tricycle accidents. “Such taxpayers’ money can be judiciously utilized on other sectors which could be beneficial to everybody”, he said.
Debunking the idea to suspend the law for now, Governor Fashola pointed out. “The law is now in force. From the day I signed it, it became a law so the idea of suspending the law is not something I can do even if I wanted to. But what we have said consistently and I repeat is that our intention is not to arrest people; our intention is not to jail people. Our intention, and that is why we are having this meeting, is to explain to you why this law is in your interest and in the interest of other citizens so that you have a choice as an adult to say ‘I will comply with this law. It may require me to make some sacrifices but the gains that I see will be bigger’ and, therefore voluntary compliance is the real objective of this law”.
On the 475 roads restricted from okada operations, Governor Fashola, who pointed out that the law was made after painstaking consultation with the people, noted that the number was less than 10 percent of the 9, 100 roads in the State adding, “The State Government is not unmindful that change is difficult, as a responsive and responsible Government whose primary responsibility is to ensure the protection of lives and property of the citizenry, the motorcycle and tricycle operators in the State need to comply with the law”.
He promised that Government would continue to support law-abiding motorcycle associations and any of the members who could not continue with the business as a result of the law was free to register with the Skill Acquisition Centres across the State or take to farming as a profession.
Concerning the operation of the NURTW and RTEAN, Governor Fashola urged them to find a better way to collect dues instead of the present method which disturbs the peace of the people both at the various motor parks and the highways urging them to build a better image for themselves.
Also present at the meeting were the Deputy Governor, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa and his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba while motorcycle operators’ associations in attendance included MOALS, ANACOWA, ACOMORAN, Okada Welfare and while KORAN 3 Wheeler Unification of the NURTW and 3 Wheeler Association represented the Tricycle Associations.