By Wole Mosadomi, Minna
They are found in almost the major streets of Minna, the state capital and even in some major cities of the state, including Suleja, Kontagora and Bida pushing their trucks or wheel barrows but without regard to other road users, including pedestrians.
In fact, they have even tagged themselves as “King of the Roads” and they often exhibit the arrogance and stubbornness to go with this whenever they are pushing their trucks.
Though the trade could be seem as legitimate, their flagrant disobedience of traffic rules and regulations and obstruction of free-flow of vehicular movement continues to cause a lot of problems between the pushers, vehicle owners and even the pedestrians.
On several occasions, pedestrians and shop owners along these roads are thrilled to a “free of charge boxing bout” occasioned by hot argument between some of these barrow pushers and whoever engaged or challenge them on the road.
On such occasions, because of the overloading of their wheel barrows and their inability to speed up their movement, they cause unnecessary traffic jam on the major streets which eventually lead to tension and consequently end in disagreement between the pushers and the motorists, thereby causing disorder and insecurity on the roads.
When they are on the road, they take total control of the two lanes, thereby making it extremely difficult for free flow of traffic on both sides.
No amount of horn blaring can scare them. In fact, the more you blare the horn of your vehicle, the more reluctant they are as they push on at their own pace.
Given this situation, many are left wondering if these people are above the law or even if they are authorised to operate on the highways.
In their desperate bid to make money, the wheelbarrow pushers besides becoming nuisance on the roads are not even mindful of the health implication of their action.
In an interview with our correspondent, the Niger state Sector Commander of the Federal Safety Commission, FRSC, Mr. Tumes Slvanus Dalop, classified the wheel barrow pushers to the group of “unprotected road users” which he said include pedestrians, animals, horse riders, the cripple, the aged, among others.
He said the law backing the pedestrians and the unprotected road users also apply to them, adding that since a truck cannot push itself as it is being pushed by someone, the law that applies to unprotected road users apply to them.
According to him: “There is no rule that mandated us (FRSC) to arrest them but the natural rule is there. The person that knocks another road user down knowingly or unknowingly can seek redress in the law court and such person can be charged for manslaughter”.
The Sector Commander said: “Really, overloading is against the law and is also classified as a serious offence, but unfortunately, it is not within our powers to apprehend them. If they, however, continue to pose a threat to other road users, they will be called to order through their Association of Wheel Barrows Pushers”.
Also speaking on the issue, the state Director of Vehicle Inspector Officers, VIO, Alhaji Umaru Mohammed Kuki said as grievous as the offence is, the law of the land is silent over it.
“If you look at the traffic regulations, it does not touch this set of people. It deals with motorcyclists and vehicle owners. These wheel barrow pushers are not even supposed to be on the major roads. They are supposed to operate within the market vicinity to move goods from the main roads after being offloaded by vehicles to the various shops.
Now that the situation is getting out of hand, we will need to meet leaders of their association and the Sarkin Kasuwa (Market Head) on the need to call these people to order by regulating their activities,” the VIO boss remarked.
He noted that they have been causing a lot of obstructions on the roads and have also been contributing to the high rate of accidents within Minna township in the past months and promised that this will be checked in collaboration with the Police.
“As much as we would have loved to wade in and put the erring pushers under control, we are so much incapacitated because these people don’t obtain any sort of license or vehicle particulars and they are not drivers who could be booked for any offence, so there’s no law to pin them down,” the VIO lamented.
Alhaji Kuki, however, promised that the three traffic regulatory bodies- FRSC, the Police and the VIO will work hand in hand to check the lawlessness perpetrated by cart pushers, adding that this would be more of sensitization of the pushers through officials of their association and the marked head.
He, however, said in case they fail to comply with the laid down rules, the police may be forced to apply sanctions on them to bring sanity to our roads, especially to other road users.
Former Niger state commissioner of Health, Dr. Idris Mohammed, is particularly worried about the strain and fatigue barrow pushers are exposed to, saying it is dangerous for their health, especially as they grow old.
“What such people tend to suffer from in future is called Osteoarthritis which is as a result of bone ends rubbing continuously against each other because of the destruction of the lining between the two ends of the bones as they usually carry heavy loads,” the Medical Doctor narned
Dr. Mohammed who is now the Medical Director of WASIHA Medical Centre in Minna also said that because this category of people usually bend in lifting heavy loads, “the big nervous substance called spinal cord and its small branches get cut in the process which can result to overstretching as a result; the muscle which the nerves serve either go into spasm and resort into pains”.
The specialist said the only way out of these chronic pains is to guide against being involved in carrying overload which for now can fetch them their livelihood but in future cause them an everlasting pains which may be difficult to cure.
While the other law enforcement agencies say it might be difficult to damp down on the offenders, the police described the development as the highest order of indiscipline which will not be condoled.
The state police command spokesman, ASP Richard Oguche said, “though no law is restricting the wheel barrow pushers on the road but common sense should tell them that it is bad to obstruct other road users from making use of the road equally.
It is a high level of undisciplined and recklessness and we (police) will not give room for such as it can lead to a break down of law and order especially when those affected end up in a scuffle and this will definitely affect public peace.
ASP Ogunche described it as obstruction of the Highway adding that anybody that obstructs the highway will be arrested and charged to court under traffic regulations.
He however assured that while looking at the law, the police in partnership with the Road Safety and the VIO will embark on enghtenment programme with the pushers through their leaders on the need to be more considerate while embarking on their duties by obeying simple rules of the Highway.