BY SOLA OGUNDIPE & OKEY NDIRIBE
A multi-agency partnership to ensure adequate deployment of resources and manpower has been identified as crucial towards reduction of Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) in Nigeria in line with realisation of the goals of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.
Such partnership has been deemed necessary in view of the spate of road traffic accidents in which about 1.3 million persons are killed every year while up to 50 million persons are injured over the same period.
Speaking last week in Abuja during the Nigerian Launch of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety with the theme: Committed to the Decade of Action on Road Safety 2011-2020, Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, lamented that one of the greatest health challenges in the country was the high rate of road accidents.
Chukwu observed that Nigeria was firmly on track to realise the UN goal of reduction of road traffic accidents, thanks to existence of a dedicated agency in guise of the FRSC.
He advocated that every prospective driver must have a compulsory medical examination pass specified tests before getting the drivers’ license, but cautioned drivers to always put on their seat belts and observe all road traffic signs so as to be on the safe side.
Noting that the Decade of Action was a collective effort, the Minister urged the FRSC to enforce its laws to ensure strict compliance.
His words: “Road traffic injuries in Nigeria constitute major cause of morbidity and mortality, much more than many of the diseases we have been concentrating our efforts on.”
Chukwu also opined that Nigeria, as part of the UN family is committed to ensuring reduction of carnage on the roads.
The Ministry of Health, he observed, would provide the much needed collaboration with related agencies to ensure free hospital care as well as insurance for victims of road traffic accidents.
In a statement, Corps Marshall/Chief Executive of the FRSC, Mr. Osita Chidoka recalled that Nigeria has been in the vanguard of the quest to reduce road traffic crashes. He said in 1988 Federal government set up the FRSC as an agency under the Presidency designed to be the lead agency in road crash reduction in the country.
Ever since, the FRSC has been a lead participant in all activities and efforts that have led to the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety. “We have developed a road map which has identified the resources and personnel required and developed a programme of action, a national strategy in achieving the reduction in road traffic crashes”, he added.
Chidoka said efforts have begun yielding gains. “At the end of week 16 in 2011 there were 1,471 road crashes – a reduction by 23 percent from the 1,913 road crashes that occurred during the same period in the previous year”, he stated.
WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. David Okello said objective of the decade is to change fundamental perceptions about the problem of road traffic accidents.