By Suzan Edeh, Bauchi
Those who regularly ply the Bauchi/Jos road will never fail to notice the Vectra taxi cab that has become a common sight on that route. Popularly known as Opel, this transport vehicle appears to have become the in-thing among commercial vehicle operators in Bauchi State as evidenced by their increasing numbers at most motor parks in the State.
Although, patronised by many in the state in the light of it being perceived as fast and convenient, some commuters recently had reason to express concern about certain aspects of this mode of transport. A major source of worry is traced to the many road accidents involving these cabs not only along the Bauchi-Jos road, but in other parts of the country. The reason for this has largely been attributed to the claim that drivers of the Vectra vehicles are reckless and are less concerned about the consequences of rough driving.
Investigations by Vanguard Metro, VM, reveals that 90 per cent of the drivers of this vehicle are uneducated and ignorant of traffic regulations, just as many of them do not even possess the license to drive. Among their many sins are over-speeding and overtaking dangerously on the roads, as they engage in a racing competition on the road, thereby putting the lives of the passengers at a big risk. It is even alleged that some of these drivers usually over-speed in order to reach their destinations within an envisaged time frame.
Commuters in Bauchi are, however, divided over their preferences or otherwise of the Vectra cabs. Some who spoke with VM said that they prefer them when travelling because they are convenient, fast and comfortable, compared to commercial buses which are usually overloaded, slow and poorly maintained.
A business man, Nicolas Bernard, who usually travels from Bauchi to Jos to buy goods for his business, said he prefers travelling in Vectra cabs because they are convenient and very comfortable for him.
“We all die someday. It could be in an accident or a health challenge or something else and when it is time nothing can stop it. So, I don’t entertain the fear that I could get involved in an accident, although I am not over-ruling the possibility of its occurrence. But, I feel, if one could caution the drivers when they are flounting some traffic rules, I think they can adjust and drive carefully,” he said.
But some other commuters said the drivers of Vectra need to be educated and made to adhere to traffic regulations. For a mother of three children, Ladi Shaibu, who resides at the Federal Lowcost Estate in Bauchi, travelling with Vectra vehicles, has been her worst nightmare. She said: “I want to travel and know that my life is safe. You need to see how these drivers of Vectra(cabs) drive recklessly on the road.
They are not even mindful of the lives of the passengers they are carrying. I have three children and a husband that look up to me. I have to be alive to be there for them. So, if these drivers do not value their lives, I value my life and I am obliged to protect it. For now, I have resorted to travelling through the Yankari Transport Services, because they have drivers who are careful and committed towards the safety of the passengers”.
In his reaction, the Chairman of Road Transport Employees AlhajiAbdullahi Mohammed, said the State Government was concerned about the high rate of accidents on the Bauchi-Jos road and has taken measures to curtail the situation. He maintained that the union has initiated programmes, whereby commercial drivers who are registered in the state, will be properly educated on the importance of obeying traffic rules; this, according to him, will go a long way in reducing to the barest minimum the rates of accidents on the roads.
The Chairman added that apart from creating educative forum for commercial drivers, punitive measures should be carried out on offenders, because “if there is no punishment on those who break the law, these reckless drivers will continue to cause accidents and the problem cannot be resolved”.
Responding to the loss of lives by Vectra vehicles in the state, the Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda, declared that his government shall deal ruthlessly with reckless driving in the state even as he threatened to ban Vectra vehicles from being used for commercial transportation.
He also tasked security agencies and stakeholders on road transport to support the fight against reckless driving, particularly on the Jos-Bauchi road which leads to Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states. Yuguda who gave the warning in an interaction with stakeholders drawn from the Nigeria Police, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC; Vehicle Inspection Officers VIO; traffic waders and leaders of road users union in Bauchi, decried the high rate of road accidents caused by negligent and reckless driving by the Vectra drivers, especially along Jos to Bauchi road.
Gov Yuguda warned that the state government could not continue to fold its arms and watch these drivers kill innocent people as a result of reckless driving and over speeding, adding: “It is my responsibility to protect lives and the properties of the citizens of this state. If I cannot guarantee their safety, it means I have no business being their Governor. It is very painful and frustrating to learn that people are being killed along this road for no reason. This is a wake-up call for all stakeholders”.