- Calls for media support: Media can make or mar any establishment;
- Berates Social Media
- Says Jonathan’s administration did so much but they never realised the importance of information
By Theresa Moses
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) says it has saved more lives from crashes on Nigerian roads since its inception 33 years ago and aims to reduce the percentage of crashes by 15 per cent and fatality by 20 per cent with the support of the media.
The Lagos Sector Commander, Mr. Olusegun Ogungbemide, FCAI, stated this during a courtesy visit to its Ojodu office by the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP).
Corps commander Ogungbemide in an exclusive interview disclosed that it has recorded tremendous achievement in the area of road safety, traffic management, rescue operation and crash reduction in its 33 years of creation.
“At the point of establishment, FRSC was rated as an elite corps and that was how we started. In the last 33 years, we have tried to sustain that status of being an elite corps in a very difficult terrain. But, eventually, we paid the price last year during the #EndSARS protest. Your coming is quite appropriate and timely, because of the celebration that’s going on; 33 years of managing traffic in Nigeria, of being the lead agency in traffic management, of being rated as one of the best as far as world class best standard is involved in Africa today. So many African countries have come to Nigeria to replicate what we are doing. We have sent our men to The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana our neighbour, to learn the rudiments of what it is to have an establishment like ours.
I will say thank God for the founding fathers that had the vision of what they feel FRSC should look like. And thank God for sustenance, because it is still one of the products of the founding fathers that is the corps marshal today. That means he has been on the corridor for the past 33 years; that’s why we see that growth. In the last seven years, it’s been a success story, great one. Like they say, the river that takes off from its roots in your presence can not swallow you or sweep you off, because you almost know where to put your legs. That’s what I will attribute to the great success of the present corps marshal. He was with them at inception; he knew the mindset of the founding fathers. When it got to the position of leadership, he knew what to do and when to put his legs.
In 33 years, we have celebrated death enough. If we should be mentioning the lives we have saved, Nigerians would have known what FRSC has done. But, because, the data we always take are of those that died, and the injured. Let’s take the data of the number of people we have saved. The data would have blown the megaphone, because when you look at the number of people that ply Nigerian roads on daily basis, it’s enormous: from the area of advocacy, positioning of our men, removal of obstruction, the education we give to drivers, even the products, the concept we put in place like the safe to load, for example.
We are having series of crashes involving tankers killing people every day; and we realise that we are having traditional means of approach. Before, we were running after them on the road, in the course of that another crash will still happen. We left that tradition and moved to a safe system approach. When we now saw since it has come to stay, that because of the nature of man crash must happen, let’s fight the idea of fatality. Even when there are crashes, let somebody not die, that’s when we come into a safe system approach. We have more than 7,000 tankers that enter Lagos State every day. How many can FRSC pursue on the road?
That’s why we introduced the safe to load. Let’s go to where they are loading, any vehicle that did not meet up with the minimum safety standard cannot load. But, because, when a crash involving a tanker occurs and fire comes, it becomes news. That’s why you hear people say incessant crashes. I’d say what do you call incessant crashes? If we have incessant crashes in Lagos, no one will be able to move. But when one happens in a month, every night you see trucks getting involved in crashes because nobody dies, you won’t hear noise.
Ogungbemide who was once the unit Commander of Lagos Island Unit Command, Zonal Public Education Officer, Zone 2, Lagos, and later Sector Head of Operations for Ondo State sector command speaks on the intervention of FRSC. Before the intervention of FRSC, they say there must have been lashing, locking, people were dying, and when trucks fell it threw the container on another vehicle. But everyday containers fall because of lashing, it holds it down, nobody is killed. All these things when you want to weigh it at the intervention of FRSC that have saved lives that nobody can rate; is it the rescue?
Before, when one is involved in a crash, the person will bleed to death, nobody to attend to you. But today, we have 15 minutes response time; as a crash is happening, our men are getting there. In fact, it even reduced further to 5 minutes now because we have corps response all over the corridor. They don’t wear uniforms like us, but they are artisans, vulcanizers, etc. All these people you see by the road side are not just ordinary people; they are brought here and trained by this office. When a crash happens, they don’t go there as spectators, they move there immediately to assist in 5 minutes and as they are doing that they are calling us.
We also have 30 days follow-up that when we take you to the hospital, we monitor that you are given the best attention, pending the time we get your family to come and take care of you because nobody can take care of you better than your family. These are the things we have put in place. We have a regular way of sensitizing the government. People will see bad roads and say what’s the road safety doing? Road Safety doesn’t make roads, it’s not part of our responsibility to construct roads, but we have road surveys. When we spot the bad spot all over, we send the information to the appropriate quarters. Today, Lagos is a road project state. All over, construction is going on; that’s the outcome of intervention of FRSC. If there are no road signs here, we write them, etc.
See what happened in December 2020: we’ve never had it so good in so many years, if not for the incident that happened on the 31st of December when a tanker that we couldn’t get crane early enough to pull out. From 21st to 31st, Lagosians didn’t believe it’s the same road. Why, if it happens in Western world, why will it not happen here? I sat here and was looking at this TV, CNN and I saw the footage: London suspends all constructions to tackle gridlock. And Julius Berger will tell me it’s impossible for him to fold business because he must continue his business in the midst of suffering, where gridlocks are all over. We picked on that and insisted that he must close shop and open barriers for people to move; January resume your (construction) job. And that was what happened. That was when you see from Ibadan to Lagos, it was a free ride.People were commending journeys of 7 to 8 hours reduced to 1½ hours to 2 hours.
The Sector Commander sued for media support in enlightening the public about the good deeds of the agency; to promote compliance, boost confidence, morals and encourage men of the corps who want to give their best at all times.
In respect of what we are doing as an establishment, as an organisation, if it’s not being projected by the media, nobody will know about it.
Partially, what led to the demise of the Jonathan administration? The administration did so much, but they never realised the importance of information until the election that brought the current government. That’s when they started running around, projecting themselves, and it was already too late. But you will see someone that will do so little and the media will blow it up. Media can make and mar any establishment. That’s why you see everybody hold the media in a very high esteem. But I won’t deny the fact that we still have some mischievous ones among them that derive pleasure from running the establishment down or using the platform to fight their own battle, which is unprofessional.
FRSC today is a product of the media. You will agree with me that our corps marshal is a media-friendly person. If there’s any establishment today that their leadership has appeared more (it) is ours. Boboye Olayemi Oyeyemi is a household name. It’s not because we love TV and radio. If you look at all the establishments, the army doesn’t need the media to fight Boko Haram, Police does not need the media to go and fight/arrest criminals or armed robbers. I don’t need the media to tell me to come and take an international passport, but because of the nature of our job: safety on the road. If I go on the road to do enforcement, I can only tackle 15 per cent of the problem. But, one piece of information on the media will reach millions of people that don’t do this. So we need the media to reach out to people and save lives. That’s why we have that partnership with the media that has sustained us till today.
With the intervention of FRSC, if you want to weigh it, it is so enormous in terms of advantages. But you now ask, what do you gain from all this? Attacks! They use social media to destroy the good brands because of the interest of one person, because of the misconduct of one person. Our staffs are not angels, and this is the point when your services are well required. I’m not saying you should project us; FRSC in the last 33 years has grown to be a brand. Every establishment wants to make use of FRSC. Nobody romances with useless brands. Is it our carriage, the neatness of our cars, etc, that’s what we have built for ourselves. We say we are the leading agency in road safety, I didn’t say crime-fighting. If we say road safety, then our vehicle must be up to. The minimum standard that we are talking of, the carriage of our men must be neat. If I am dirty and smelling, there are some filthy looks you’d have even if the person you’re rescuing will die completely. But when the man that is dying sees a man that’s decent, comported coming to assist him, giving him words of encouragement that all is well, no problem; not the one that opens his mouth and the odour will finish him. So, when we now put all these in place and somebody now feels because he’s arrested… Business of enforcement is a very expensive one. No single human being wants to be arrested or sanctioned and some will take it to the extreme, put it on social media and destroy a system.
We all saw the aftermath of the #EndSARS; for almost one month, nobody could move on the road, criminals all over. We destroy the system because of interest. See the incident that happened at Lekki recently, when somebody said they bit his hand. You were arrested for the use of a phone while driving, while not making your payment and go, you’ve committed an offence. You turned around, went back to pay back because you felt pained and started fighting them in the office. The next thing you say your hands were injured and put it on social media to express brutality. In Nigeria where we are today, justice is raised on social media. We have an administrative process. Since I took over the mantle of this office, we tackled more than 10 to the benefit of the compliant, because we have zero tolerance of misconduct from our men. If you erred and it’s reported, we will take it straight/ you didn’t go through that process, we have legal means, our tickets say 15 days. You have the right to say I am not paying. I want to go to court. But the moment you make your payment, you have sold your right and you did. You now turn around after payment to foment trouble. You said they injured your finger then something must be wrong. What do you see in less than 24 hours, more than 6,000 people viewed and they were calls all over. FRSC is brutal. FRSC is this, etc. You destroy a system because of your interest.
By the time you destroy the confidence and morals of those men, tomorrow who knows whether you’d be involved in a more drastic crash and these people will now feel even if we do all these nobody cares. We spent 12 -15 hours doing rescue and I didn’t see it go viral, that is what FRSC is doing. That’s where your services are required. So when the pick from the negative angle weighs it, balance it. I’m not saying you should support us, do your investigative journalism, and come out with your own position. That report that has been going viral is not true, this is the truth. If it’s coming from me, it will look as if we are defending ourselves. But if it’s coming from you, they will say it’s balance, one from the journalist.
The Lagos FRSC Sector Commander said the social media has really damaged a lot. The president is battling his own; the state governors are battling their own. All over, and people think they are having fun. But they have messed up the system. What’s the judiciary system doing, what’s the role of leadership in every establishment? Those ones have been thrown to the background because we all celebrate it.
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