Tuesday, May 21, 2019 2:45 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
It was not that the keyboard of his computer was faulty or that he was trying his hand on a doggerel. Though it sounds like a poem, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, Lagos State Information Commissioner, repeated his lines with emphasis and to let his message, in its urgency, sink into the readers’ subconscious. In his words: “Use the belt on the rear seat…when in the car. Use the belt wherever you are in the car. Use the belt whenever wherever you are in any car in motion. A week ago, I forgot. And I regret it as I write. Be wise. Stay alive!” As he wrote those words, it is certain that, as a good writer that he is (a humorous one at that), he would describe himself, (wearing that orthopaedic neck brace) as a cosmonaut, padded like a father Christmas, placed in a space capsule, ready for exploration in Jupiter or Mars!
On a serious note, Bamigbetan is, indeed, lucky to stay alive to, apart from warning his countrymen on the need to use the rear seat belt, he can continue to be a husband to his wife, father to his children and even serve his state and country in a higher capacity. He is glad to be alive to also indulge in his passions for farming and writing.
Why is he so passionate about people wearing their rear seat belt? “Rear,” in the sense that Nigerian motorists concern themselves with only the front seat belts. What happened to him on 12 May was a great lesson that the rear belts were not manufactured there just for aesthetics.
He explained what happened to him at Onikoko junction in Ife area of Osun State: “His mercy endures forever. The driver, Sunday Olawuni. aka Merit, drove into an armoured carrier on our way from the farm. I was taking a nap in the rear seat. The impact flung me at the windscreen. He dozed off on speed. But our Creator was in charge. He saved us from the calamity. To God be the glory.”
A native of Ile Ife, Bamigbetan was appointed to the Ife Development Board, IDB, by His Majesty, the Ooni of Ife, Kabiyesi Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, where, as he wrote, he gained the rare opportunity to contribute ideas to the developmental think tank of the cradle of Yoruba civilisation. “In less than six months of working together, a strong bond developed among members. The accident brought the best out of the bond,” said he. We had met on Saturday May 11 and held fruitful deliberations with our chairman, Comrade Awowoyin on seat. One of the outcomes, according to him, was a private meeting between him and the chairman of the IFe Central West LCDA, Barrister Oladosu, slated for 12noon on Sunday 12 May.
It was at the appointed time for the meeting that Bamigbetan was stepping out of the crashed car. It was Barrister Oladosu ‘w call that came. He wanted to know if the Commissioner was already at home waiting for him.
Bamigbetan narrated: “I have an accident.. At Onikoko junction. I told him as I tried to wipe sweat off. My forehead only to discover that I was already injured. In another 10 minutes, Oladosu arrived the site. Already arrangement was made to move the vehicle from the scene and a towing van had arrived. The driver, who was miraculously unscathed, went with the towing van to the garage enroute the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital. “The combined presence of these two personalities facilitated the attention myself and the driver Merit got at the emergency ward of SDA Hospital,” Bamigbetan narrated.
In March, 2016, James Ocholi, a lawyer and Nigeria’s Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, his wife and son died in a road accident along the Abuja-Kaduna highway. Eye witnesses revealed that the minister’s car had a burst tyre before somersaulting several times.
An investigation by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), as reported by Premium Times, blamed Taiwo Elegede, the driver of the late Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, James Ocholi, for over speeding and failure of the minister and members of his his family to use seat belts. This, according to FRSC decreased their chances of survival in the crash.
The investigation report was read by the Corps Marshal of FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, during a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council in honour of the late Ocholi at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. “There were 10 persons involved in the accident and 9 were adults. The minister and his son died on the spot, while his wife died at the hospital. The driver of the crashed vehicle was moving at excess of the stipulated speed when he had a tyre burst. The investigation team gathered that the driver of the backup vehicle had noticed that the minister’s vehicle rear left tyre was under-inflated, and availability of radio communication deprived him of access to the minister’s driver,” Mr. Oyeyemi said.
According to Mr. Oyeyemi, further checks showed that the driver’s details were not registered on the FRSC data base as a licensed driver. There was no record on the driver’s licence national database of the driver of the Hon. Minister with the name Taiwo James Elegbede,” he said. The Dunlop tyres of the SUV were not expired but were wrongly fixed and could have affected its performance. The situation would have been salvaged if there had been a mode of communication between the minister’s car and the backup car, as the latter had noticed the state of the tyres and tried to stop them.
“The crashed vehicle’s driver was driving too fast and he slammed on his brake so hard. These two factors materially contributed to the inability of the driver to maintain control when the left rear tyre burst. Skid marks and grooves found on the westbound shoulder made by the Lexus LX570 for about 15m and 9.3m respectively before it began somersaulting severely and the ejection of the minister and his son showed clearly that the travelling speed of the Lexus LX570 presented unsafe consequences in the event of certain road risk that may have occurred. The driver must have entered into a panic situation which resulted to his hard application of brakes and subsequent loss of control that took him into the bush path.
“The DOT number of the tyres were inward which cannot easily be read from outside. This indicates that the orientations of the tyres were not properly fixed which could adversely affect the performance of the tyres. The Federal Road Safety Corps Investigation Team (FIT) determines that the probable cause of the March 6, 2016 fatal crash at KM34 Kaduna -Abuja expressway near Rijana village, Kaduna State, was the driver’s failure to maintain directional control of his vehicle when the rear left tyre burst occurred. Severity of the fatality was increased due to the ejection of the minister and his son as a result of non-use of rear seat belt.”
In April, the same year, FRSC disclosed that top on its agenda was the mandatory enforcement of speed limit device and use of the rear seat safety belt. Oyeyemi said this at a session with members of Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP). He warned that most Nigerians, especially those who are described as “car-owners” and who usually seat at the rear, “should imbibe the habit of wearing their seat belts along with other rear seat passengers or face the wrath of the law. He stressed that, by so doing, “car-owners” will inspire others beside him or her to wear their belts as well.
However, operators of commercial buses and cars do not obey this rule. In fact, their vhicles do not have rear seat belts. Worse still, FRSC has not been enforcing it, despite its obstreperous sermon on the matter.
This does not detract from enforcement of other rules on the roads. Concerning this, Boboye Oyeyemi, the Corps Marshal, visited TheNEWS office and his interview was published on 1 December 2014. It is entitled:
We Will Banish Madness From Our Raods-Opeyemi
The Federal Road Safety Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi visited TheNEWS recently and fielded questions from the editors
What have you been doing since you assumed office as the FRSC boss?
On 18 November, we had a sensitisation programme on speed limiting devices and the essence is to cut down speed on our roads. Last year’s annual report programme shows that speed accounted for 39 per cent of all the crashes, followed by loss of control which is 16 per cent. That’s an aggregate of 55 per cent for speed and loss of control. If we can eliminate these two, the rest is simple. This year alone, speed-related crashes accounted for 50 per cent of all the crashes. It is alarming and we had to do something.
So we involved the policy of getting Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, to approve the designs (speed limiter) as standard because it is the statutory responsibility of SON to give approval to that, and Road Safety cannot just wake up and say as from tomorrow, you must do this because it’s a process that must be followed. So when Standards Organisation Governing Council approves the designs and the settings, it behoves on us to call the stakeholders, which we did in August, and they agreed to the enforcement date of 1st of June 2015 for installation of speed limiter.
Phase one involves commercial vehicles – trucks, trailers and taxis, high capacity buses and mini buses. We focus on commercial because 15 per cent of the crashes involves commercial vehicles’ passengers and loss of lives. If we can save that, then we would be able to say that we have eliminated speed-related crashes and loss of control, 55 per cent; and also we would have been able to save 15 per cent more. We looked at it and realised that a phased approach is the only way to get result.
Modern vehicles are mechatronic and can be programmed to lock your speed and there are some that you have to install. We have to explain these and we are not a marketing outfit; ours is to implement the policies and set standards. What we did yesterday was to raise the level of awareness and we’ve gotten the Federal Government’s backing and 50 per cent of the states were represented.
We are going round now to raise the level of awareness, combining it with our end of the year campaign programmes that, one, we want to assure Nigerians that we we will strive as much as possible to make our roads much safer and we are changing our slogan from Drive to Stay Alive to Drive to Save Lives, because if you drive to save lives, it means that you yourself are alive.
Before, we were asking you to stay alive but now we are asking you to drive to save lives and in the process you save lives. That means we are imbibing what we call the defensive driving techniques – drive as if the driver ahead of the highway is a potential threat, comply with regulations by ensuring that you don’t use the phone while driving, it causes a lot of fatal crashes; you use your seat belt, you cut down your speed and I believe that even though you have the speed limiter, the greatest one is at home – your wife and children.
You should always remember them when you want to increase that speed above the approved limit. Remember that you have the speed limiter at home – your wife and children, your relations. But beyond that, ensure that your vehicle is in good shape. What is important now is that we are ready for the end of the year patrol operations to ensure that all those who go to their villages or to other towns to celebrate New Year or Christmas, the roads are safe for them and as we are making the roads to be safe, drivers should comply with road traffic laws and regulations.
Don’t overload. We do not tolerate overloading and worn-out tyres. If our men stop you and your vehicle is worn out, you will not be allowed to move; if your papers are not complete you cannot move. We have primary offences and we have secondary offences. We believe we will be able to sustain it. Ours is to be firm but fair, but we cannot dictate to the patrol teams: they stop you, they have the power to either book you or caution you. That is the four-point approach we are talking about: persuasion, education, subtle force and enforcement. We want to ensure that Nigerians get home safely and they in turn comply with all traffic laws and regulations, and we believe again in the state governors’ deadline for enforcement (1 June).
We don’t need to wait, we are doing sensitisation all over, so we need your assistance to sensitise the public, especially the commercial vehicle drivers, and we are going to work with the Nigerian Automotive Council, Standards Organisation of Nigeria and Customs so that by 2016, all the vehicles coming in would have been fitted already with the speed limiter. And the ones being manufactured or assembled in Nigeria are fitted with the device. What we want to do is bring down the crashes. That is our first goal and we are determined – with the support of the stakeholders and with the backing of all the state governors – to ensure that we achieve this.
Let’s take you back a bit. As the first career person within FRSC to be appointed to this position, in what ways do you think this can make changes in the FRSC?
Being in the service for almost 27 years, we understand ourselves; we know how to make ourselves work. For example, being an insider makes it easier to talk on an issue. We have been together since 1989. With the management too, policy formulation is much easier. It will take a new person the next three months to understand the environment or the terminologies.
When we talk about penalty point system, the man will be enquiring: “What is penalty point system?” When we are talking about dangerous driving, what is dangerous driving? When we are talking about uniform licensing scheme, the new man would be enquiring: What is uniform licensing scheme? But it is easier now; even my administration is much faster. When I see files, I see the request for something and I know what it takes. I’m the one that pushes the department to do some things. Like it is end of the year now; I know that I need more reflective jackets, more tools to work with. I’m the one that says, “Look, I need to know the deficiency in all these things.” So it’s easier; being part of the system over the years we know what it entails.
Then, in addition, we are all trained officials in road safety management so we know the expectation of the President. His mandate is this: Reduce the crash list, improve on road safety management in the country, carry everybody along and we are working towards this. On lane discipline, all these trailers, tankers falling, we are trying to run a campaign now and it is part of our focus for the end of the year. We are going to be more aggressive than that so that people will keep to the right lane except when overtaking. Those are the things people were looking at. We are happy with ourselves because the understanding is there; they don’t need to start explaining things to me.
From your explanation so far, the emphasis is more on enforcement than smooth flow of traffic…
Education minus enforcement is entertainment. I’m not here to entertain road users, I’m here to enforce the law. We’ve been educating, advocating and enlightening for the past 27 years so both go pari passu now. We will continue to do advocacy and enlighten the public. You come to our office, the next 45 minutes there is education; we go through driver’s education. When you want to renew your licence, you go for capturing, you are given driver’s education, so it is not like we have dropped that bit. For goodness sake, we need to punish recalcitrant offenders. I’ve been in operation over the years and the lawlessness is too much, let’s call a spade a spade.
So many drivers are lawless, let’s get them punished. And with the driver’s licence and the biometric, if I confiscate your licence you can’t get another one. So I want to punish drivers so that our roads can be safe.
Look at what just happened in front of your office (accident on Acme Road). This is a built-up area and the speed for this area is not more than 50km; the driver must have been on a very high speed. The World Remembrance Day on road traffic for 2014 was on speed. We need to cut down the speed and if in the built-up area you can experience this kind of serious crash… imagine if passengers were inside that vehicle, those lives would have been lost or badly injured. It would have been fatal but the vehicle just parked and the man rammed into it.
And imagine it would have been front page story headline tomorrow. We need to punish these recalcitrant drivers. Let’s get them punished, let’s knock their heads so that next time they won’t do it; confiscate their licence and when they cannot get another one the man will become sober. Look at developed countries. Why is it that Nigerians are afraid when they are driving abroad that they don’t lose points so that they don’t get arrested. Why can’t we replicate the same thing here? Why can’t we respect the traffic laws and regulations? I think it is high time we punished recalcitrant drivers. On that I stand. We will eliminate madness from our roads.
We were listening to you this morning on television, where you were talking about the point system. Given the peculiarity of our environment, do you think the point system can work here, via- a-vis the technology, via-a-vis the character of our people?
It will work. We are no longer using long hand for booking offenders; we’ve shifted to ipads and tablets. We don’t use long hand again, it is electronic booking. As you are booking, it is going straight to the data base. So if there is an infraction, and I collect your licence now, once I enter your licence number, if you have been arrested before it will bring out your data, it will show me the number of points you have accumulated.
By the time I finish, I should be able to tell you, you already have ‘x’ number of points. And if you accumulate between 10 to 14 points you get a warning letter, signed by the sector commander for the FRSC, and you must come for five hours driver’s education. The letter will stipulate you must come for it and at the end you will get the certificate that you have gone for driver’s education. If you accumulate 15 to 20 points, your licence will be suspended for three months – your licence is already with me, mind you, and you cannot go for another one. You will be required to do about 20 hours driver’s education within three months and you will get a certificate that you have done it.
Then if you accumulate 21 points your licence will be suspended for one year. Then you go back to driving school, and we are operating a data base now, we have a robust data base. Look, with the new system, Nigeria is changing, you can’t go on double identity, you can’t have two biometrics. Attempts by some Nigerians to have another licence are being detected, that is why we have that 60 days, so if I seize your licence for 60 days or one year, you cannot get another one. By the time you resume driving, don’t you think the man will behave well?
It is putting in the infrastructure for ensuring an enhanced safe road culture. We already have the ICT infrastructure, what I’m doing is just activating all what is expected to be done. This is the practice all over the world – developed countries. You know your point if you are caught for drunk driving; you know they prosecute you, they will detain you till the following day; next thing is the court. In the process, before they even take you to court they would have gone through your CRV criminal record to see whether they are looking for you for other offences. If they have been looking for you, then you know you are finished.
And if you are a foreigner and they deport you, you don’t have papers and you are gone. It can work, we have the infrastructure already. Very soon I will not need to be asking for your fingerprints again. Just show me your ID card, I enter your ID card on the portal, it will import your data for me and I will just process. That is it, it will work, the country has grown and now if I can run the office on the phone with the technology available anywhere in the world, you can run your office and where all the patrol team officers are able to book electronically, it is just for me to download the application. So, that is what I want to do. I want to arrest 250,000 drivers in a month.
The question you should have first asked me is this: Why is it that the number of offenders has not gone down over the years. Road safety will be 27 years – by 17 February it will be 27 years. Let’s go for the heads of those lawless drivers.
There is this report that you get a citation in Lagos and you are made to go and pay your fine in Abeokuta or Ogbomosho. Why is it so?
It’s not true. Look, whatever we are doing we are doing with the fear of God. If there is an infraction, you committed an offence – maybe a seat belt violation, a traffic light violation, use of phone while driving or any other offence – even if you are based in Lagos, you come to an area, the law says you can only be prosecuted within the jurisdiction where the offence was committed. It is stated in the Act, so I have no right to take you to Kano.
To go and pay in Kano? What for? For goodness sake, it won’t work. If you take me to court, the judge or the magistrate will blast FRSC, that that is what is called executive recklessness. It is not true.
How do you intend to curb corruption in the Commission?
Well, our staff are well motivated, but an average Nigerian has what I call a “monocronistic” mentality to do otherwise. So I cannot say in FRSC everybody is upright. I admit we have some bad eggs, that’s why I am here and everybody wears a name tag and as an investigative journalist, if you are in a commercial vehicle and if they stop your vehicle on the highway and ask for money, please take the name and the number, use your phone, snap and give me. You will see what will happen.
Within the last few weeks I know how many people I have sent packing. I don’t tolerate indiscipline, so they know me and we’ve spoken to ourselves, so I believe our boys will continue to do well. But in case or in areas where they fail, we will punish them if they are caught. But enlighten us. If someone is caught, I will have him investigated and I will punish him. That could lead to termination of employment. I have been telling them unemployment is very high. You are well paid and you are married, you have children; remember them first before you take that money because if you are caught you may lose your job. That money, you know, they do not use it well; go and check, they do not use the money well. That is cursed money and if you take cursed money and add it to the good money, the cursed money will override the good one. Go and check what they use it for – to take pepper soup and for women.
You cannot use that money for any good thing; why don’t you just sustain your level with what you are earning? A driver giving you that money is cursing you inside him and you collect the money and you add it to the good one, you are under a curse already. I tell them this. This is another thing I tell them: don’t let that curse come into this place.
What are some of the challenges that you’re facing and why does it take months or a year to collect a driver’s licence?
I acknowledged that there were some logistic challenges last year but as I’m talking to you now, progress has been made. Let’s take Lagos for example. Lagos accounts for about almost 40 per cent, 35 per cent of driver’s licence processing applicants in the country. Presently in Lagos we have about 23 work stations. Not long ago, we just had about 88 work stations in the country. Today we have about 130 and my target is, before December we have about 200 work stations. When you go to the portal for your application processing, pick the one nearest to you and the maximum period is 60 days. So what we are even doing is sending bulk SMS to all the applicants who are processing to come and pick their licences and before December, I would have cleared up; I mean, not the processing but to ensure all Nigerians get their licence. It’s just sample, that is technology we are taking about. Bulk SMS is costing me very little: come and collect your licence at Ikeja, Isheri, Oshodi, Badagry and with that SMS you go and pick your licence.
That is what technology has done now. That is why I said I can easily get a recalcitrant offender. I don’t need to pursue you when I get your information from the data base. Your phone number is on the licence, I would send SMS to you for an infraction and if you do not report, I have your address I will come and knock at 12 midnight with the police. I would have the arrest warrant and I will arrest you. The following morning I will take you before the magistrate and I’m sure the magistrate will not give you option of fine, he will send you straight to prison. At least one week is okay by me.