By Bisi Kazeem
Thirty-three years ago, precisely on February 18, 1988, the Federal Government of Nigeria established the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) as the nation’s lead agency saddled with the responsibilities of identifying the causes of road traffic crashes and proffering appropriate solutions to the menace that had placed the country in the position of the second most hazardous nations in Africa to drive motor vehicles in.
With its lead agency status, FRSC was set as an institution to make effective use of instruments of education, science and technology to resolve the intractable challenges of motorisation in the country, which was heightened by people’s fatalistic beliefs towards road traffic crashes.
For a nation that had nearly surrendered itself wanton killings on its highways, which most of the people falsely attributed to either “the will of God” or “evil spirits,” the establishment of the FRSC 33 years ago was hailed by some discernible Nigerians as the most comprehensive policy that could address the menace of road traffic crashes in the country.
It’s worthy of note that prior to the establishment of the Corps, there were various efforts made by some concerned individuals, organisations and corporate bodies to create public awareness on the effects of road traffic crashes and tackle the menace to no avail.
With the incapacity of such efforts evidenced by the yearly public enlightenment programmes annually carried out by the Nigerian Army during the ember months particularly in the month of December; the creation of the Highway Patrol Unit under the Nigeria Police and the Oyo State Road Safety, the mandates of the new FRSC were expanded to essentially include conducting research into the causes of road traffic crashes and using all modern tools to adequately address them while prompt removal of obstructions formed an essential part of its mandates.
FRSC thus, started its operations with a renewed spirit of road traffic management system built on public goodwill, integrity, and service delivery by its personnel. Backed by enabling law espoused in Decree 45 of 1988 as amended by Decree 35 of 1992 under the military rule, captioned as Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, but repealed and reenacted as FRSC Establishment Act 2007, during the civilian rule, the statue provided adequate powers to members of the Corps to utilise not just the efficacy of public enlightenment programmes, but to embark on aggressive enforcement of traffic rules and regulations to return sanity to the otherwise chaotic Nigeria highways.
Accordingly, right from its inception to date, successive leaderships of the Corps have strived to build on the solid foundations laid by the founding fathers in creating public awareness on issues of road safety and enforcement of traffic rules and regulations without fear or favour.
First Decade Of The FRSC
The first decade of the FRSC from 1988 to 1998 was devoted to laying solid foundation for the organisation; creating alliances between the organisation and strategic members of the public through enlightenment programmes particularly, among the drivers and raising awareness that could convince every Nigerian that in its enforcement strategies, FRSC would not be “business as usual.”
To this end, offenders who were apprehended for various traffic violations were not only sent to the banks to effect payment of the coded fines, but made to attend post- payment lectures in the commands after which video clips of road traffic crashes were shown to convince them that road traffic crashes were real, and that because they are caused mostly by human factor, they could be prevented with adequate caution and adherence to the rules of the road by the drivers.
However, this non relenting efforts of the young and energetic members of the Corps who shared the value orientation with the leadership of the organisation chaired by the internationally acclaimed Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and managed by Dr Olu Agunloye as the pioneer Corps Marshal, it became evident that most of the notorious traffic violators started showing remorse and promising to abide by the rules and regulations guiding the use of the roads.
As for the elite members of the society who believed that any law could only be enforced on those less privileged members of the society, the target of the public enlightenment efforts at them coupled with enforcement system that did not exclude anyone from been apprehended whenever they committed traffic violations saw them cautioning their drivers and abiding by the regulations.
With the combined strategies of aggressive public enlightenment and robust enforcement coupled with the introduction of the new licensing system by the Corps, Nigeria’s FRSC successfully commenced a new engagement with the Nigerian public in matters of road safety that restored relative sanity to the roads. This tempo of aggression was sustained throughout the Corps’ first ten years of existence with majority of the people hailing its non-compromising stance on matters of road safety as a healthy development.
FRSC In The Second Decade
By the time the FRSC entered its second decade which commenced in February 1998, the organisation had experienced its first leadership change four years earlier. This saw the change of Barton from the pioneer Corps Marshal, Dr Olu Agunloye to Major General Haldu Anthony Hananiya (Rtd) who introduced obvious changes into the organisation’s culture of civility upon which the Corps was founded, to a new regimentation that gave impetus to the organisation as a paramilitary agency.
In line with the new postures of a paramilitary agency, changes were effected on the Corps’ uniforms; trainings, including arms trainings were organised for management staff and some selected members of the Corps, while the general comportment of the staff to make them more reflective of the new regimentation were introduced as evidenced by the launch of a new FRSC Disciplinary Code and dominance of military styles in the operational and administrative activities of the Corps.
Despite these massive structural changes however, the Corps’ core values of ensuring safety on the nation’s highways and civility in enforcement remained uncompromised while the civil approach to patrol activities and pursuit of public enlightenment programmes were adhered to religiously. The various changes in the military leaderships of the country within the period especially with the stepping aside of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (Rtd) to the brief Interim Government of Chief Earnest Shonekan, to Generals Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar within a spate of five years, the FRSC’s first and second decades also witnessed leadership changes. These ranged from General Hananiya to Deputy Corps Marshals Dahiru Yakassai and Engr Abba Wakilbe.
Importantly, within the same period, the Corps also experienced merger and demerger with the Nigeria Police and its return to General Hananiya in November 2003 in the aftermath of the demerger, all of which affected the operations and structures of the Corps in various ways.
Despite the celebrated “second coming” of General Hananiya, he only held the saddle of leadership of the Corps till a new Corps Marshal was appointed from outside in May 2007, few months before the celebration of the Corps’ 20th anniversary, which ushered in a new chapter in the organisation’s tortuous journey.
The Third Decade Of The Corps
The third Decades of the FRSC which effectively commenced in February 2008 saw a new leadership of the Corps undet Chief Osita Chidoka. The new Management came with the introduction of a digital era of rapid development in information and communication technology; consolidation of the gains of the past twenty years of the Corps and chatting a new course for its future as a technology-driven organisation. The decade’s activities commenced with an international Conference on Road Safety, which was organised to mark its 20th anniversary celebration at the Sheraton Hotel Abuja.
The third decade was characterised by a new dynamism in road safety management with the launch of several road safety programmes that are technology-driven: reaffirmation of the FRSC as a veritable tool for achieving the socioeconomic goals of the government and membership of the Corps to the security and other socioeconomic bodies across the States. Meanwhile, with more funding and active participation of the Corps in road safety activities, various local and international recognitions came to the organisation.
Seven years into his tenure and four years before its 30th anniversary, Chief Osita Chidoka was appointed as Minister of Aviation, leading to the appointment of Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, the first Corps Marshal from within the organisation who is the currently saddled with the leadership of the organisation.
Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, a founding officer of the Corps took over the mantle of leadership on 24th July 2014 and has since been pursuing the modernisation policy of the Corps with commendable dexterity. A firm believer in policy continuity, the Corps under his leadership has in the last seven years been propelled by a new force that aligns with the principles of the founding fathers: More Federal Government’s moral and logistics support have been secured; road safety strategy document was first approved under him while the second edition of the strategy is currently in operations.
There have been greater vigour in the pursuit of anti-corruption war in the Corps under his Management with the formal launch of anti-corruption app in partnership with some strategic stakeholders. Meanwhile, more collaborative initiatives have led to greater vigilance on the activities of members of the Corps with those caught engaging themselves in anti-corruption practices being arraigned by the EFCC and ICPC to courts while others are facing the FRSC Disciplinary panel for trial and appropriate sanctions on various allegations to serve as deterrence for others.
The policy of expansion of the Corps’ presence nationwide to bring its operations closer to the grassroots which the Oyeyemi-led Management initiated has led to the opening of a liaison office in each of the remaining local councils across the country where FRSC was yet to establish a full unit command, while liaison officers have been appointed to all such councils since last year. In pursuit of the new agenda, more unit commands, zebra and roadside clinics are being opened while training programmes for staff to prepare them adequately for their tasks have been on the increase.
Moreover, the Corps has also witnessed improved provision of patrol logistics, rescue and tow trucks by the federal government under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to prepare the Corps to carry out its statutory responsibilities most efficiently. There’s no doubt that FRSC has over the years endeared itself to the generality of people of Nigeria and positively impressed the government which has continued to give it supportive hands.
With the growing desire for urbanisation by the government coupled with the central role which transportation and safety plays in the liveability of the people, there is every possibility that the demand on the FRSC to perform more optimally will be on the increase and the present Management is up to the tasks in closing such gaps.
FRSC In The Next Decade
By the time Nigeria will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of FRSC in 2028, it’s expected that all the lessons learnt over the years would have come to assist the organisation to stand firmly on its feet in order to continue to deliver on safety to the people. Therefore, It is also expected that the capacity of the Corps would have developed to a level where the personnel would be in a position to address whatever traffic challenges that the nation maybe faced with more professionally and efficiently.
In addition, with improved funding by government and closer collaboration with stakeholders, the entire Nigeria road network would have been effectively covered with the activities of the special marshals been more widely embraced by Nigerians from all strata of life which aligns with the collective nature of road safety campaigns. Happy 33rd anniversary to the FRSC.
Kazeem is an Assistant Corps Marshal (ACM) fsi and Corps Public Education Officer (CPEO)