From time immemorial, the road has been pivotal to developmental goals. The use of the road has been instrumental to successes and failures in life, depending on the way we use the road consciously and cautiously or otherwise. Life without the road is better imagined than experienced. Irrespective of where you are going, there must be a specific way before you could get there.
The Edict No 18 of 1977 establishing Oyo State Road Safety was the first active step towards establishing road safety in Nigeria by a former military governor of the old Oyo State, Brigadier General David Jemibewon. Eleven years later, the then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, announced the government’s efforts to reduce the carnage on Nigerian road in his independence speech of October 1, 1987. On February 18, 1988, the inauguration of Federal Road Safety Commission was carried out at Dodan Barracks and thereafter the Corps road safety operation started.
Before Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) was established on 18th February, 1988, Nigeria was rated as one of the worst African countries in Road Traffic Crash (RTC), but now it has changed for the better in road safety practices. Records available show that the daily patrols carried out by the officers and men of the Corps, enforcement of traffic rules and regulations through the bookings of offenders and mobile courts periodically set up, organised rallies, jingles and adverts in print and electronic media, clearing of obstructions, the establishment of Enhanced National Driver’s Licence (ENDL), Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) plants and researches are some of the measures that FRSC has put in place to reduce road crashes. No doubt, all these have contributed in no small measure in creating road safety awareness, consciousness and regulations, thereby reducing road crashes in the country.
FRSC, as a lead agency in road safety administration and management, has employed the services of regular and special regular as well as the road safety clubs to address issues, either as enforcers or educators or both. Remarkably, the Corps came on board to inculcate good driving culture that is capable of promoting sanity and safety on our roads when the rate of carnage was a national disaster.
The founding father of road safety in Nigeria, Professor Wole Soyinka whose vision has impacted positively on country road safety records, has given us a legacy that generation yet unborn would forever appreciate, if his warning to the noble Corps is consistently adhered to. Also, let us pay tribute to Brigadier General Jemibewon who was not only pre occupied with tackling the problem of road carnage in Oyo State, but also invited studies aimed at reducing it.
According to Assistant Corps Marshal George Oluwole Olaniran, “Thirty years of experiences have been very interesting and challenging;; interesting in the sense that, when we came in as pioneer officers, we came in to explore a green field. At that time, FRSC had nothing we could fall back on as a reference point in terms of literature. What actually evolved into official FRSC policies were the ideas of officers and men in those early days. As we were walking, stumbling and standing up again, we were getting things together, setting standards and professional guidelines.” At a stage FRSC was merged with the Nigeria Police. Even before the merger, it was almost scrapped. But when it was discovered that scrapping of FRSC was not feasible, the Corps was submerged under the Nigeria Police. After some years, FRSC was de-merged and from that time, its management has been making frantic effort to re-orientate officers and men on the traditional etiquette of FRSC which should not be allowed to die (that was what Nigerian public like about FRSC). A pioneer officer who is now retired after 29 years of meritorious service, Assistant Corps Marshal Augustine Osikwemhe Aipoh, reminisced, “The journey so far has been of steady growth from operating at inception with five Zonal Commands. In term of physical presence, public awareness, public acceptability, staff development, structures on ground and crash reduction, there is also much improvement. “One very important thing I cherished in FRSC while in service was the implementation of the decision on promotion exams before staff move from one cadre to the other. This has brought resourcefulness, awareness, reading culture and determination of officers and men to know their jobs better. Indeed the Commission has performed creditable well over the years, with even brighter future.”
Corps Commander Abanus Chima Nwachukwu was at Enugu National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp in 1988 when FRSC was enlisting corps members into its workforce. Having successfully gone through FRSC basic officers training in Abuja with others, they were all posted to the five Zonal Commands (Kaduna, Aba, Benin, Lagos and Ibadan). Initially, 250 Corps members were taken, that is, 50 from each of the five zones. Along the line, only 10 Corps members were taken from each of the five zones through interview. According to AC Nwachuckwu, “We had no experience, there was total commitment to the job and we thank God that we are here today. With our NYSC uniform- trouser and white shirt, our mobile patrol used to cover the whole of the eastern states daily from Aba. The type of orientation we got then made us to give our all for the job”. Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, also said, “FRSC has gone a long way in salvaging the carnage on our highways since its establishment. It is indeed one of the most credible commissions in the country. To call it the pride of the nation is not understatement considering the calibre of people in FRSC. Indeed, Ilorin-Jebba Road is very dangerous and I always observe FRSC presence on this route whenever I travel.”
Corps Commander Yusuf Kolawole joined FRSC in 1988. He was among the pioneer officers enlisted while serving their fatherland through NYSC. While sharing his experience he said, “The pioneer chairman of FRSC Governing Council Board, Professor Wole Soyinka, was directly involved in training of the pioneer staff. There was an adage that Professor Soyinka used to tell us then that ‘whoever, take bribe, is taking blood money; the road is patient but does not forgive’. We had high level of service delivery to the people. In those days when we were 250 educated people, we had our reputation at stake.”
Samson Dairo is the Route Commander, Unit Head Agodi Secretariat, DLC, FRSC, Ibadan, Oyo State.