No to FRSC, Nigeria Police merger
As fallout to the pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari and echoed by the Minister for Finance, Budget and Planning that some ministries, departments and agencies be scrapped or merged, so many news have appeared in the print, electronic and social media.
Among the news going round is that the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) is to be merged with the Nigeria Police. Going through the Oronsaye Committee Report and the government’s decision as contained in the report, I found out that the conclusion was that the status quo should be maintained except the Trauma or Emergency Centres which are to be handed over the the Federal Ministry of Health.
I decided to write this article to throw more light and further justify the decision of the Federal Government on FRSC as contained in the White Paper. The Oronsaye report and the subsequent report by the Centre for Social Justice((CSJ) revealed a gap in their understanding of the status and activities of FRSC as the Lead Agency on Road Safety Administration in Nigeria.
Virtually every country has a Lead Agency in Road Safety Administration responsible for the coordination of policies and activities on road safety. The FRSC has fitted perfectly into this position and has been improving progressively since it was established in 1998.
We knew how chaotic the traffic situation was in Nigeria before the Majamaja experiment of Oyo State, which later metamorphosed to the Federal level as FRSC. The fear of FRSC on the highways then became the beginning of wisdom for sanity and safety on Nigerian roads.
To cut down costs, a merger of FRSC with the Nigeria Police was conceived and implemented. The obvious result most Nigerians saw was the infusion of the blood of bribery and corruption into many officers of FRSC.
The officers of FRSC that were renowned for transparency and integrity in the conduct of their activities on the highways suddenly became experts and confident in the collection of bribes in the course of apprehending traffic offenders.
The unproductive fusion of FRSC and the Nigeria Police was terminated for good. Since FRSC returned to it’s original status, it has been growing significantly to become a pride of Africa in road safety administration.
The accusation that FRSC deviated into revenue generation is not correct. It is a global practice that traffic law violators be arrested, prosecuted and fined when found guilty in a mobile court or other courts.
This function is also contained in the FRSC Establishment Act and the National Road Traffic Regulations 2012. Concerning the driver licence and number plates, FRSC only designs and produces for standards and uniformity while the state governments issue same through their relevant agencies.
Payments for the driver licence and number plates are made by applicants into the bank accounts of the state governments through the state Boards of Internal Revenue or Motor Vehicle Administration Agency in Lagos State.
The Joint Tax Board monitors or regulates the payments and holds regular meetings with the state governments, FRSC and other relevant stakeholders.
Though revenue is generated through some activities of FRSC but the main focus of the agency is still on the promotion of safety on Nigerian roads as daily manifested in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), including local governments.
I was proud to be a Nigerian when I travelled to Ghana with some members of the driving school association about two years ago on a visit to the Ghana Road Safety Commission. During our meeting, the Director-General of the commission told us that they havd been coming to the FRSC to learn how to further enhance road safety administration in Ghana. Many other African countries have been visiting the headquarters of FRSC to learn from the success stories of the corps.
Today, FRSC hosts the Secretariat of the West Africa Road Safety Organisation (WARSO). This is a further confirmation of the commendable role of FRSC in the promotion of Road Safety Administration in Nigeria and the West African sub-region.
FRSC has performed excellently well in launching the Driving School Standardisation Programme, which is already being taken to a higher level of professionalism this year.
The objective is to ensure quality driver education for safer road use. In the same vein, the transformation brought to the driver licence system in Nigeria from what it used to be to what it is now by FRSC in collaboration with the relevant state government agencies is commendable.
Today, the Nigeria driver licence is recognised in some countries, including the United States, because of the integrity brought into the process by FRSC. Though there are still some lapses in the system which FRSC has been addressing more effectively since 2019 (last year).
With the conclusion of the actions, FRSC is taking with the other relevant stakeholders, the Driving School system, Driver Licence system and Road Safety Administration will become a pride of Nigeria in line with best global practice.
FRSC is well organised with advanced technology and up to date database greatly desired for planning and development in Nigeria. A visit to the ICT Department of FRSC is an additional affirmation of the relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of the Corps.
Attempting to merge FRSC with the Nigeria Police or any other MDA will amount to drawing back the hand of the clock of road safety administration in Nigeria.
This will not only be a disappointment to Nigerians but also a drawback to the African countries that are seeing and following FRSC as a role model.
Instead of suggesting the scrapping or merging FRSC, the Corps should be well funded by the Federal Government to perform more effectively. The state governments and their relevant agencies particularly the Directorate of Road Traffic Services(VIOs) and the Board of Internal Revenue should collaborate more effectively with FRSC to maximise the benefits of synergy for the promotion of safety on Nigeria roads.
The ultimate goal should be to drastically reduce the rate of road traffic crashes and fatalities in Nigeria. This is a goal that must be of great concern to the governments and Nigerians above all other factors.
In the past, I was a strong critic of FRSC, but with my investigations, interactions and proactive actions taken by the indefatigable management of FRSC in the past three years, I’m convinced, just like many other Nigerians have said, FRSC is capable with its leadership structure to accomplish the set goals in the interest of the nation.
FRSC should, therefore, be left to operate independently as provided for in its Establishment Act.