CCTV Cameras Remain The Only Solution To Tracking Traffic Offenders in Nigeria
-OMOJE sector commander, Lagos state command, FRSC,
What are the importance of traffic lights and other road signs?
I’m happy we are discussing this because this is one area that we have always seen as a missing link in most of our road designs. Except in recent times, when we begin to see these traffic signs back on our Highways and even on our major roads in the city centers. Hitherto, the public had always cried out that the signs are disappearing.
I’m happy that they are appearing again. especially in Lagos with the present administration’s effort in ensuring that traffic in Lagos keep moving, especially after the first Lagos Traffic Summit, which we had last year. The revolution that came out of that summit is what we are witnessing today, that we are having the traffic lights and signs.
These traffic signs, we refer to them as road furniture that every good road must have. Every road built without signs is not complete. A road without signs is incomplete in all ramifications. These signs navigate the motorists within a city center or at any stretch of the road. If the road has adequate signs, even if you are new to the city, you should be able to find your way. This is because; you will see informative signs that tell you to take this way to certain places.
Basically, we have three categories of these signs. We have the informative signs. These give you directions. They tell you which road leads to another road. We have the regulatory signs. These signs regulate your movements. They could be regulatory prohibitory or regulatory mandatory. We shall go into the details of that later. The final ones are the warning signs. These ones give warning ahead of time that there is an imminent danger ahead or that the road has a bend ahead. The most important thing is that, it is giving you information ahead before you get to where what it is telling you is.
What is the importance of traffic lights to road users and do you ensure enforcement when these signs are abused?
Narrowing it down to traffic lights, the function of the traffic light is to regulate movements at interceptions. It helps to avoid chaos and anarchy that could arise at any interceptions that is not signalized. If you look at the usage, especially in Nigeria, it all borders to ignorance of what the sign is saying. Again, it is outright disobedience to the traffic sign. On one side of the divide are people who due to not going through trainings or driving schools before hitting the road to drive, whether commercial or private, they never went through the driving school. God bless them with a car and they go to an open primary or secondary school field with somebody possibly more often than not, the mechanic, sitting beside them, telling them how to start the vehicle, engage the gear, how to release the legs on the clutch and accelerate. After two or three days of such tutorial, the man goes to buy the ‘L’ sign put one in front and the other at the back and off he goes to the Third Mainland Bridge.
Apparently, with no licensed driver sitting beside him, having the ‘L’ sign shows he is a learner. As a leaner, there must be a licensed driver sitting beside you. That is not what we see here. That is the type of driver who will not be able to decode or interpret traffic sign. The next people on the other side of the divide are people who actually went to the driving school. Who knows what these signs are but, the moment they get to a junction that is signalized, they look left and right, found no traffic warder, no road safety officer, no LASTMA official as the case in Lagos, he does exactly the opposite.
In other words, if it is showing RED, it says STOP, but, as long as he did not see anybody that may arrest him, he does it ‘Sharp-sharp’. He has forgotten that, while you were doing it ‘Sharp-sharp’, wanting to run on ‘RED’ there is somebody at the other side of the road that the light is showing ‘GREEN’. He actually has the right of way and at such period, the man is also coming believing that, the other person must have seen that he has the right of way. That is how collisions do occur. They will say the devil has done it. That was not the devil. These are the two categories of motorists that we have who violates traffic lights for one reason or the other.
Others are those who are always in a hurry. Whether there is a traffic warder there or not, he is doing the opposite because he is in a hurry. It is very disheartening. As a traffic enforcer and a law enforcement agent, we find it very disheartening that government will spend tax payer’s money to put up those traffic signs meant to make the usage of the road safer for us and the same government will have to use tax payer’s money to pay road safety official to stay at the same place. They pay LASTMA officials to do the same job. They pay traffic warders about three set of officials. At Maryland bus stop, they are more than that, you even find civil defense corps and KAI official there, doing the same work of the traffic lights. It is a waste of both human and material resources. If we must have these agencies at the point, why do we build the traffic lights with taxpayer’s money?
How do you go about awareness and enforcement?
I didn’t want to start with the enforcement because if you look at it, it all bothers that we need to get to the level in our awareness campaign where every motorist will begin to do the correct thing when he gets to the traffic light voluntarily, consciously obeying these traffic lights. Not because anybody is standing somewhere. The problem now is that even those people who obey; they are just obeying because they are afraid that somebody will arrest them. We need to get to a level where whether there is anybody there or not, you get there you stop. Stopping means stopping right behind the STOP line. Not stopping after the stop line.
In the real technical aspect of that RED sign that you are seeing, if a motorist is coming and the front tyres has passed the stop line and the traffic light suddenly shows RED, the law is that he must complete that journey. Unfortunately, not even too many traffic law enforcement agents understand this. That is why you see some of them jumping in front of the vehicle to say that you have beaten the traffic light. I had stayed behind motorists and I have had to come down to bail them and educate the official that, he did not beat the traffic light, I am the one stopped by the traffic light. I am the one behind the stop line. He has crossed the stop line but remained there for fear of being arrested. If the traffic light changes to green again, he will only move when I start to hoot behind him because by his position, he wouldn’t be able to see the light. It is important that my colleagues in traffic management understand this. Not too many of them do. What we need is intensive and continuous sustained awareness campaign.
It is not just about making arrests. We must get to the level where I do it consciously. What we have now is obedience compelled from outside because he doesn’t want to be arrest. I had been to other African countries and European countries. Benin republic here, you don’t need anybody to tell you that you must obey traffic light. What is surprising to me is that, Nigerians don’t beat traffic light in Benin republic. The moment they return from Badagry, they are disobeying traffic lights again. The big question is do we have anything here that makes us feel like we would not do something right here. It bothers on reorientation. We need a reorientation of our people. The enforcement system will also need to be intensified. It’s high time we get to a level where we have CCTV cameras on our roads.
On the CCTV cameras, since the FRSC have all the data of issued driver’s license, it is expected that these data can be used to track and punish defaulting motorist
It is not that the FRSC does not have a database. Our database is robust enough to support
Any enforcement you want to do. The issue here is that, for you to be able to pin that man down for that offense, you need a camera that will get the light and the number plate at the same time such that when argument arises and the man decide to go to court, which is allowed. Issuance of tickets by our officials can be challenged in a court of jurisdiction. This is for us to show evidence. We hope to get there someday. For now, we don’t have it. We have a challenge of infrastructure. We need to ensure there is power. Most of our commercial road users graduate from Okada to Keke Marwa and possibly Danfo.
Is it not indictments of FRSC that people are possibly not doing the right things at the commission?
if you have applied for a driver’s license in recent time, as a fresh applicant, you will have noticed that the FRSC has revolutionized the driver’s license issuance system in Nigeria. so much that, our driver’s license is of international standard. Before now, people used open field to learn driving. Today, FRSC through the driving school standardization programe has been able to organize the driving school private operators bring them together, train them, certify them as accredited driving school. We encourage private sectors into setting up driving schools, while we sit as a regulatory agency and ensure that they operate within set standard. The first step in obtaining a drivers license by any applicant is the driving school where you are expected to take 26 contact sessions of not less than one hour per day. The driving school proprietor will then present the applicant to the VIO. The VIO will conduct the driving test for the applicant and if successful, he or she will be presented to the FRSC for the bio-metric capturing.
What are the overlapping functions of each of the agencies you mentioned earlier?
The FRSC is the lead agency responsible for road traffic management and its administration in Nigeria. The FRSC establishment act 2007 encourages state government to set up state traffic management agencies as the case of LASTMA in Lagos state and other states like Ogun, Anambra, Edo among others. Their job is to manage traffic within the city center. Lagos is taking the lead in that direction. The LASTMA official in Lagos is to ensure free flow of traffic primarily. That is not to say that the LASTMA official cannot arrest any erring driver driving in opposite direction. They need to ensure the vehicles on the road are road worthy.
What is the essence of the newly introduced speed limit device by the FRSC?
We have been on the speed limit device project since 2007. The FRSC establishment act 2007 states that all vehicles plying Nigerian roads are fixed with speed limit devices. We have started working on it as far back as 2011 trying to bring it up. We realize that speed violation contributes more to the fatalities of our road accidents. Our first effort was the use of radar gun which you must have seen on our roads. Our officials use power bike to pursue offenders and arrest them. That approach was successful because of the presence of tollgates at that time. The absence of tollgates has soon eradicated that because we usually catch up with them at the tollgate.
However, technology has given us the speed limit which we have embraced here. We started with stakeholder engagement. We brought all of them including NURTW, RTEAN, NATO, NSE, SON, and FRSC among others. We came together at a round table.
People complain of the prize of the device
There is no amount too much to preserve one’s life. All the invited parties had an input. SON provided a standard for speed limiting in Nigeria. As at today, a company in Nigeria has started the production of speed limiting devices. We can be sure that the prizes will soon be competitive.