David Panda Noah was appointed Executive Director, ED, of Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority SLRSA at a time when the organization was in crisis. The then Board Chair and the then ED were at logger heads. Today, he has stabilized the entity and repositioned it to a higher height. Noah is poised to transform the SLRSA into an organization that will be comparable to similar establishments in the world. He remarked that SLRSA will catch up to take the lead in Road Safety in Africa. He spoke recently to ABUBAKAR HASHIM on some key issues in the organization
The “New Direction” philosophy of HE President Julius Maada Bio is People-Centered. SLRSA is safety- focused. What has been the journey so far in this direction?
As you said, “New Direction” is people-focused. At SLRSA, we are here to safeguard people. In Africa today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that 90 percent of the road crashes in the world are from Africa. 54 percent of the roads are paved or motorized in Africa.
We believe people should be safe on the roads. We have set ourselves to be more road safety in our activities. The “New Direction” points at education for development. So the more educated our people on the roads, the lesser the crashes.
We have different road users: those that drive, those that walk, that are called pedestrians, cyclists and truck pushers.
Drivers now have to appear for a test, both theoretical and practical.We ensure they are updated with the languages of the road to avoid unnecessary fatalities. We are also reaching out to schools to educate students on how to cross the road, where to walk on the roads and the roads signs like pedestrian crossing, zebra crossing, the red, yellow and green light.
All vehicles are now required for yearly tests in all our stations nationwide, an MOT test guaranteeing the right candidate to be on the road. Before you get your vehicle licensed, you must get an MOT test.
This is to further ensure our people are safe on the road.
In collaboration with other relevant stakeholders, we have mapped out certain roads that endanger our citizens’ lives.
So the SLRSA team is passionate in educating our people to make them safe in line with the “New Direction” that is people-centered.
SLRSA celebrated Africa Road Safety week recently. What is the importance of this occasion?
The theme of the Africa Road Safety week is “Roads have stories”. We tried to enlighten the people. We showcased what we do as an institution. We informed the people about road safety and the responsibilities as road users. We showed road causalities as a result of mere carelessness.
We talked about speeding, drink-driving, using mobile phones on the roads, safety of vehicles and road infrastructure. So it was a week of demonstration of precautionary measures by people themselves to minimize road crashes. A week of reflection on the causes and prevention of road accidents, to enhance safety on our roads.
We received tremendous feedback from the people. This feedback will help us to re-modify our work to further enhance safety on our roads.
What other development components under your stewardship at SLRSA since your assumption of duties, can you elaborate on?
We have instituted the mandatory MOT as compulsory criteria for all category of drivers. The amount of vehicles that have metal seats have been minimized. Drivers’ Unions now ensure safety of vehicles to save lives of our people.
Another development component under my new administration is the introduction of SMS alert system to be lunched soon with the mobile companies, wherein as soon as you get a ticket, for an offence, your phone instantly receives an alert. So also on renewal of vehicle, you equally receive an SMS alert to notify you accordingly.
This is to minimize issuing of tickets without notification of our customers. An SMA alert is also sent to expired licensed holders.
We are about to sign with ORANGE money for an instant payment of fines for clamping of vehicles. We realize that Banking hours are limited for payment of fines for vehicles that are clamped as payments are only paid through the banks.
We have also instituted an internal communication system where we call each other and even conduct meetings through this communication devise. We also have the 244 call system where calls are made for emergency situations like crash on the road or any traffic violation for vital information. This is also ready and will be lunched soon.
There is also inter-connectivity of all our stations nationwide to speed up issuing of license and other core services we offer to the public.
We are embarking on the acquisition of land for use as impound yards in the city and the provinces. We are looking at Grammar School, Freetown Teachers College and other sites to keep impounded vehicles. We are thinking of land at Mile 38 and beyond. These are among the other components of development drive under my stewardship so far.
What is your relationship with other similar bodies in Africa like the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Nigeria and others?
I’m relatively new on this job. However, I’ve been on a few conferences abroad. We are having excellent relationship with similar bodies in Africa, particularly with Nigeria’s FRSC. I’m impressed with that institution and I’m implementing most of its advices. I just came back from Marakesh in Morocco where we launched the Africa Road Safety Observer Team. We are also member of the West Africa Road Safety Observer Team.
I’ve met with members of other similar road safety organizations in Africa. We are all poised to implement the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety.
These are all geared towards minimizing road accidents on our roads. Africa has the fewest paved roads in the world, but the highest road accidents in the world. We are poised and ready to work with other African road safety bodies to reduce crashes on the roads. We are forming relationships and partnerships with similar bodies in Africa.
We are at the moment behind others like Ghana and Nigeria, but we will catch up with them and take the lead in road safety.
How do you view the foreseeable future of SLRSA?
In the beginning, you mentioned about the “New Direction” of being people-focused. The President is a people- centered person. He will like to see people die naturally and not from road accidents, SLRSA is now poised to take the lead on not only the safety of the people on the roads, but also in the fight against corruption, indiscipline and education for development. We also intend to fight against poverty. We shall build the capacity of our people and institutions in terms of equipment for road safety.
We will continue to work with outside agencies and other relevant stake holders to ensure we have a viable and safety-conscious institution, with the ultimate goal of sustaining road safety in our country.