UNDER the Federal Road Safety Commission Act, Part 11, Section 4 (t), “carrying passengers or loads in excess of the number a particular vehicle is licensed to carry” is a serious traffic offence.
Up to the 1980s, every vehicle on our roads complied with the specific number of persons or tonnage of load allotted to it by law or faced arrest by traffic police officers.
Every commercial vehicle had written on its body the number of passengers or weight of loads it could not exceed, and it was common sight to see traffic officers stop vehicles on the road to count the number of passengers aboard.
Like most things in Nigeria, the number of passengers a commercial vehicle carries no longer bothers law enforcers. A commercial cab driver is now free to squeeze into his car as many passengers as he may wish.
Along the Badagry-Owode Road in Lagos, it is usual to see cabs with the capacity to accommodate only four passengers carrying six to eight on the seats and another two in the boots. They are allowed to cross all the numerous Customs, Federal Road Safety and Police checkpoints on the road.
Also, many inter-state buses and cars carrying consumer goods are overloaded and most of these are old vehicles travelling long distances.
Apart from overloading, the law enforcement agents who litter our highways allow ill-maintained vehicles to go scot-free.
Vehicles (including heavy trucks and tankers) that are clearly no longer roadworthy litter virtually all our roads.
Some of them spew heavy black smoke which imperils the visibility of motorists and yet nothing is done to enforce the relevant laws.
The reasons behind the inability of the law enforcement agencies to do their jobs are not far-fetched. Top on the list is the ubiquitous problem of corruption.
Most of the law enforcers are on the roads to collect illegal tolls from these lawbreakers and allow them go free.
The second major cause is that many of the owners of these vehicles are influential individuals in society who use their privileged positions to frustrate law enforcement.
The inability of statutory agencies to enforce the laws on roadworthiness and loading of vehicles is responsible for most of the accidents that claim thousands of lives on our highways every year.
These vehicles invariably break down in the middle of the roads, block them and cause nightmarish traffic snarls.
Some lose control and result in loss of lives and property.
It is said that corruption kills. These are some of the ways it does. The war on corruption should shift to the road sector and sanitise it for the safety of the citizenry on our highways.