By Ugoji Egbujo
Wole Soyinka birthed an agency that took pride in being different. That agency has grown , absorbed all the evils in its father’s house, and gone wayward.
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They were once devoted to reducing road traffic accidents. They monitored moving cars and their speeds. They had loudspeakers mounted on their cars for warning motorists. They did more education than arrests. They were revered by a public that knew they would not condone evil, and would not take bribes from offenders.
The public has lost all respect for the FRSC. It’s a glorified traffic police, ‘yellow fever’ with a federal appetite for bribes.
The original road safety corps justified its autonomous existence by being impactful and aspiring to be moral standard bearers. They were mindful of the ugly reputations of the regular police, NPF. When attempts were made to subsume the road safety corps under the police, the public cried. They didnt want what they had seen as a shinning light to be contaminated by the systemic indolence and bribe taking of the NPF
That Federal Road Safety Corps , FRSC, no longer exists.
The FRSC of today will be unrecognizable by its ancestors. It still has some shiny cars and brilliant uniforms but its soul is now rotten. The reason FRSC hasn’t reached the depths of SARS is because its agents cant carry guns. There have been instances where they engaged suspected traffic offenders in car chases and endangered hundreds of other road users
The FRSC is now a caricature of the agency Wole Soyinka set out to establish.
Last week, I was at the Mile 2 bridge in Lagos . Some FRSC officials lurked under the bridge. They hid their car in front of buses loading passengers freely on the highway. From the shield provided by that naked evil, they craned their necks for juicy preys. It didnt bother them that the danfo buses obstructing the highway under their noses had caused a traffic jam that had extended over four kilometers towards Orile. They were hungry wolves lying in the grass of a traffic melee waiting for rabbits in dovish looking private car owners.
On the bridge above them sat a diabolic traffic snarl. But these modern day pharisaical road safety officials can function in absolute chaos. Trucks were littered everywhere, causing maximum mayhem but the FRSC officials chose to hunt under the bridge where there was some shade. Their agency has lost the fight against the trucks. So they will concentrate on chasing rats while fire burned their institutional values and vision above .
A few rabbits fell into their hands. Some hands were assigned to process them while others squinted their eyes for juicer preys. But opposite them, on the lane for cars heading to Orile, were minibuses driving confidently against traffic in the Badagry direction. It didnt bother them. The road safety corps that was created to promote safe driving culture has adapted. It used to be allergic to conspicuous dangerous driving habits. It can now watch commercial buses run suicidally in all directions without flinching. The commercial buses have a union that come to their office to arrange some of these immunities.
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While they stood like cunning hyenas under the mile two bridge, they let commercial buses without headlamps stroll pass. Many of the buses had no side mirrors. It didn’t matter . They passed too. A truck dangled itself towards them. They let it pass. They were not interested in its roadworthiness. A smoking commercial bus came and they waved it on. Then a Mercedes SUV approached. They jumped onto the middle of the road and waved it, frantically, to a halt. It was made to ‘park properly’.
The FRSC knows that if it has to choose then it must concentrate on commercial vehicles. They carry more people. The passengers of a danfo bus cannot know the state its roadworthiness. They have put their faith in government to regulate and check the health of buses used for public transportation. But the FRSC officials under the mile 2 bridge conveniently ignored visible evils written allover the danfo buses. Their priority was the road worthiness of apparently healthier private vehicles. Their priority was there pockets. They were later seen doing ‘ranka dede’ and emptying fistfuls into their pockets.
I could understand the impotence of the FRSC against the trucks that have taken over many highways in Lagos. The presidency has tried, issued ultimatums , and failed woefully. So the FRSC can be excused . But four poles away from where the FRSC stood under that bridge was Rainbow Bus Stop. At the Rainbow Bus Stop, a colony of commercial motorcyclists had taken over the entire expressway. By the capacity of the motorcycles they used, they were not supposed to be found on any highway. But at Rainbow, they occupied Apapa- Oshodi Expressway on both sides. The FRSC officials that hopped onto the middle of the road to stop the Mercedes SUV must know that someday a truck may run into the colony of Okada riders at Rainbow and kill hundreds of people. But the entire FRSC establishment in Lagos has allowed the danger to remain. They are impotent against the Okada union too.
Why is the FRSC leaving dangerous elephants in the room and chasing rats?
The FRSC that Woke Soyinka birthed would have respected themselves and gone home if they were impotent against okada riders blocking an expressway. They wouldn’t go hunting beside Rainbow bus stop. They wouldn’t fool themselves checking road worthiness certificates they are bought in motor licensing offices for a thousand naira without any inspections, while a thousand motorcycles sit and obstruct a federal highway under their noses.
The FRSC is now a caricature of what it once was.
FRSC officials watch commercial buses run against traffic and wave them on. They will see Okada riders run highways without helmets and look the other way. They will see Okada riders block expressways and they will stand beside the obstruction and hunt drivers of private cars that have forgotten to use seat belts. The FRSC of today isn’t just known for taking bribes, it is hated for being greedy in bribe taking.
The FRSC issues licenses and number plates. It has tried to modernize them. But its efforts at innovation are being defeated by a culture of corruption that has permeated the agency . Let’s take the new biometric drivers’ licenses. A very good idea. But you only need to pay the right fee and an FRSC official can fill the form for you, help you avoid a driving test and make you escape the written test. And he wont just be one bad apple. Every innovation the FRSC has been brought into drivers’ licensing has been undermined by the ravenous appetite of its officials for bribes.
The stated values of the FRSC include transparency and fairness. But FRSC officials will let commercial vehicles running against traffic go and swoop of private cars coming behind them. The FRSC says it values timeliness. But the FRSC tardiness in drives licensing is the reason its officials have become licensing ‘touts’. Road users complain that FRSC officials waste to much time before settling on the right figure for bribes. That is comical for an agency that advertises timeliness as a cherished value. Motorists complain that FRSC officials demand 3 times in bribe money what the police would take with thanks for a similar offense.
The FRSC is now as indolent and as corrupt as the police force, NPF . What the public dreaded has befallen it. Of what use then is the continuing autonomy of the road safety agency? The road safety agency performs regular police motor transport division duties. If the road safety agency differs from the police only in being more voracious in bribe taking then its raison d’etre no longer exists.
The autonomy of the FRSC costs the nation billions. If the FRSC has lost its salt, then let it be lumped in, thrown into the bag of the NPF.