In 2014, Nigeria was adjudged the second worst in Africa in terms of road accidents. According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation, WHO, on road traffic deaths in some selected countries, Nigeria alone had 33.7 percent per 100,000 population every year.
WHO in its report entitled “Road Safety in the WHO African Region indicated that approximately 1.24 million people die yearly on roads and another 20 to 50 million sustain non-fatal injuries as a result of road traffic crashes.
Though South Africa came third with 31.9 percent per 100,000 population, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda followed in that order. Nigeria’s position was pathetic because it was suspected that the figure was much higher than reported since most road accidents are scarcely reported.
Africa, the survey showed, had the “least motorised out of the six continents in the world, but suffers the highest rate of road fatalities” of the 37 countries that the survey covered, with death rates well above the average of 18 deaths for 100,000 population. The fatality figures for USA and Britain are 15 and seven percent respectively.
“Road traffic crashes are a public health and development crisis. Every day, it claims nearly 3,500 lives and injure many thousands. The vast majority of those affected are young people in developing countries,” WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, noted.
In an effort to reduce casualties on Nigerian roads, users and pedestrians have been advised to adhere to traffic regulations, maintain sanity on the roads while driving, use pedestrian bridges and also have emergency response numbers in case of accidents.
However, these factors alone are not the cause of road accidents because like the report showed ignorance of road signs or outright disregard of road safety rules are other reasons why death on the road is high.
Beyond these though, the country is notorious for bad roads as even Trunk A roads owned and managed by the federal government are dotted with potholes and gullies some large enough to swallow small cars.
According to the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, between 2006 and 2013, the corps recorded 41,118 deaths from road accidents in Nigeria. The 2014 FRSC report highlights that about 7,924 injuries were recorded in the first quarter, 7,663 in the second quarter and 7,093 in the third quarter.
Of all these fatal injuries, about 1,848 persons lost their lives in the first quarter, 1,406 in the second quarter and 1,176 death cases in the third quarter. Though the corps blamed reckless driving and disdain for road safety measures, it equally but tacitly pointed accusing fingers on the federal government for failing to meet its social responsibility to the people.
Perhaps, few instances of terribly maintained roads in the country would suffice. In Lagos, a 30-minute journey can easily become a four-hour ordeal. True, indiscipline is a factor but bad road is a major contributor to the long man-hour usually wasted on the road.
On the notorious Lagos-Benin route, an eight-hour journey has become a nightmare to many because several portions of the road are replete with potholes and gullies, while the East-West Road, the main focus of the Niger Delta Ministry, has remained a death-trap to its users.
The Abuja-Lokoja road is a classic study in neglect and is infamous for consuming lives with reckless abandon daily. Lokoja to Okene down to Okpella straight to Auchi to Benin City is another classic study of a death-trap in the guise of federal road.
The Abeokuta road via Sango Ota is a scene of confusion with unplanned road works stalling the flow of traffic. The Onitsha-Owerri road, Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene and the Aba-Port Harcourt roads are jinxed. These axis, perhaps account for two-third of the total road accidents and death in Nigeria as there is hardly a day without one or two fatal accidents.
The deplorable condition of roads in Nigeria is such that the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, had in 2014 embarked on strike to draw the attention of the federal government to the plight of members who ply these roads daily, taking into cognisance the high number of fatalities often recorded by its members.
Though Ahmed Isah did not quite subscribe to NUPENG’s reason for holding the country to ransom by refusing to lift fuel and distribute it to the various depots, thereby causing unnecessary panic buying and eventual scarcity, he said “Had the federal government consciously constructed and maintained its Trunk A roads, perhaps there won’t have been reason for that unnecessary strike and the sad consequences of long queues and frustration of commuters.
“It seems safe to say that the federal government is deliberately creating potholes and gullies to kill Nigerians. It beats ones imagination why successive governments have neglected major inter-state roads and others which serve as links between geo-political zones,” Emeka Nweke, a resident of Abuja, said.
Thus, early in the week, when the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, Cross River chapter, said it has lost 36 of its members to accidents on the road linking Odukpani and Itu in the last three months, many could hardly doubt them.
Chairman of the association, Victor Okon, attributed the deaths to accidents caused by damaged portions of the road.
“So, the association took the decision to fill the potholes to save the lives of our members and also protect our vehicles. We have started palliative repair of the damaged portions of the Odukpani-Calabar federal road.”
The chairman said members had suffered greatly along the road due to its deplorable condition.
“It affects us badly. We suffer losses more than any other road user. For your information, we have lost 36 of our members between Odukpani and Itu in the last three months. So, the association took the decision to fill the potholes to save the lives of our members and also protect our vehicles,” he said.
Okon urged the federal and Cross River Governments to take urgent steps to repair the road to prevent further loss of lives. According to him, besides deaths, the bad condition of the road had also affected the state’s economy negatively.
He said members of the association pay their taxes regularly and called on government to reciprocate by ensuring good road network.
He commended the FRSC for the recent launch of the Ember Months Mega Rally in the state and pledged the union’s support to enable it achieve an accident-free yuletide.
Okon also pledged the union’s support for the state government’s transport policies and programmes which he said were progressive.
As their families lament the sudden death of their breadwinners, loved ones and others whose lives were cut in their prime, Jolly Afred thinks it is high time that the government gives more than casual attention to road construction.
Even transporters are lamenting the loss of revenue. They can only operate skeletal services during the day and cannot operate at night because of the menace of armed robbers. Their revenue is down by 50 percent and unless the roads are repaired, transporters may abandon their trade. Already, bad roads have led to a reduction in travel and luxury buses are having difficulty filling their seats. In a country with hardly any railway, a risky air service and now no roads, the citizens feel trapped with nowhere to turn.

READ ALSO  Rites galore as Benin awaits its 38th Oba