As of 1999, zebra crossings on Nigerians roads were always a common sight. Most times, after walking a short distance, a zebra crossing would be the safest option to cross over to the other side of the road. It was almost magical: when one stood on the zebra crossing, it gave a seeming feeling of invincibility as motor vehicles stopped just short of you when standing on the white markings on the road.
Today, there are few or no zebra crossings on our roads. While plying the roads, school children, old women and disabled persons alike face continuous risks while trying to navigate their ways across roads and through a sea of cars speeding past. For the stronger ones, crossing the roads is relatively easier but certainly not for those in the former group. Even among the so-called “stronger ones”, the risks are still high. After all, the victims of road crashes in Nigeria are not only women and children, but able-bodied men also.
Admittedly, the Federal and state governments are doing a lot regarding safety. On many major roads or expressways, there is a pedestrian bridge specifically designed to check the rate of persons being knocked down by vehicles while trying to cross the road. In Lagos for example, officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) can be spotted in the Ikeja area (Along bus-stop) and other areas, apprehending offenders who ignore these pedestrian bridges and cross the roads. These officials have in no small way brought sanity to Nigerian roads by keeping pedestrians as far away from road hazards as possible. It is, however, important to point out that not every road can accommodate fly-overs, moreover, not every road in the country has one. What then happens to the safety of pedestrians then? It eventually takes us 360 degrees back to the issue of zebra crossings for pedestrians.
When spoken to, the Lagos Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Hyginus Omeje, agreed that some Nigerian roads “lack” some of this road furniture (as he described zebra crossings and the likes). Omeje however pointed out that these obvious absences are due to roads not being rehabilitated.
The FRSC chief blamed it all on “economic meltdown”.
“I think your observation is correct to a large extent,” Omeje began.
“Some of our roads, not all of them, are lacking road furniture as we call it. Places where we ought to have zebra crossings, as you rightly pointed out, are not there. The whole thing bothers on the fact that, if you look at the roads generally, over time, they have not been rehabilitated as they ought to due to economic meltdown.”
As though envisaging the obvious question, Omeje was quick to state that the government was well aware of the situation amid safety concerns.
“The good thing is that the government is aware of your observations and that is why you see some of the federal corridors being rehabilitated, a good example being the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway and other corridors in Nigeria that are under rehabilitation.
“Recently, I was also on the Enugu/Onitsha road that is under rehabilitation. These roads need to be rehabilitated and this furniture brought back, which we are seeing gradually,” Omeje further said.
Since the government has obviously spotted the absence of zebra crossings and road signs, many will certainly wonder why the government has not done anything tangible to address this.
In this regard, Omeje reminded all of how seriously the Babajide Sanwo Olu-led Lagos state government takes road safety by saying: “you could also recall that since the present Lagos state government assumed office, the first executive order he signed had to do with roads and traffic management and that shows you that the roads are of major concern to them”.
Omeje ultimately blamed the rains for the slow pace of work on the roads, while reemphasising the need for zebra crossing and road signs. He, however, noted that if such markings were done during the rainy season, a little shower could render all the efforts useless.
“You will also recall that since the present Lagos state government assumed office, the first executive order he (Sanwo-Olu) signed had to do with roads and traffic management and that shows you that the roads are of major concern to them.
“These roads need to be rehabilitated and this furniture brought back which we are seeing gradually.
“It is just that the rains have not allowed the public works to work at the pace at which they are supposed to work.
“When it is rainy season, meaningful construction does not take place because it (rain) will always hinder the laying of artifacts and other things.
“I am of the hope that by the time we enter the dry season, some of these roads that are yearning for rehabilitation will be rehabilitated and some of these signs brought back”.
Interestingly, the sector commander asserted that zebra crossings used to be on the roads but that many of them had “worn off”.
He promised though, that the government was working tirelessly to put them back for the safety of pedestrians.
“Actually, some of these markings on the road were there initially, but after a period of time, they have worn off and have not been replaced.
“We are looking at putting back some of these markings during the dry season. You cannot make these markings during the rainy season and if you do it and it just drizzles, it might wash off the markings,” he stated.