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THE impressive performance of Soyinka’s men in Oyo State apparently recommended him as the most appropriate person to oversee the setting up and operation of a Federal Road Safety Commission under the Ibrahim Babangida administration. With Dr Olu Agunloye as the Corps Marshal, the FRSC was a disciplined, effective and highly regarded outfit. Even long after the exit of Babangida, the Nigerian public vigorously campaigned against the plan to merge the organisation with the Nigeria Police Force when the government came up with the unpopular idea. The major argument against the plan was that the merger of the FRSC with a corruption-tainted police force would result in the pollution of an organisation that was generally perceived to be above board. It was forcefully argued that the establishment of the FRSC was necessitated by the apparent and total failure of the police in the area of accident control. Without regard for the soundness of the arguments against it, the merger was eventually effected only to be reversed not long after.
THERE had of course been complaints among motorists, commercial drivers in particular, that the road marshals had jumped on the bandwagon of bribe taking even before the short-lived merger. The general impression, however, is that the art was perfected during the period of their operation as an integral part of the Nigeria Police Force. The Nigerian public has not been viewing corruption in the FRSC as a serious issue largely because of the barefaced extortion being habitually perpetrated by police personnel on the highways and the discreetness that characterises the road marshals’ modus operandi.
THE discovery of corruption in any Nigerian organsation cannot certainly be a source of consternation. It is the existence of an agency that stands aloof from the madding crowd that can be a surprise. There is thus nothing new in the fact that there are bad eggs in the FRSC. What is rather worrying is that the situation is bad enough to have warranted the sack of 100 officers from such a compact organisation. It is unfortunate that an organisation that started so well is now a poor shadow of what it used to be. The FRSC management has taken the right step by showing the officers caught in the act way out. It should, however, not be lost on the organisation that the affected officers could not have been the only culprits in the system. They were only unlucky to have been caught. If the management of the FRSC is serious and sincere in its quest to give the organisation a moral rebirth, it should see the dismissal of the 100 officers as the beginning of efforts to restore its organisational integrity.
THE FRSC management should not lose sight of the yet-to-be-concluded debate on the desirability or otherwise of retaining it as a distinct entity. Although the preponderance of opinions is against the recommendation of the Stephen Oronsaye committee that wants it to lose its identity, failure to live up to public expectation and checkmate the monster of corruption may be the final deciding factors. Accident rate in Nigeria today is among the highest in the world. Uniformed marshals who should be on the highways are at times found in obscure street corners in built-up areas lying in wait for motorists driving without using their seat belts. At times, FRSC marshals convey the impression that their focus is more on evacuation of accidents victims than on prevention of accidents. Most of the accidents result from excessive speed and virtually nothing is being done to check it. The organisation should give its personnel the necessary reorientation so that they can discharge their duties creditably.
THE Commission was established to save lives. Its self-assigned project of generating billions of naira is not only a complete distraction but a disservice to the public. It has greatly diminished its esteem in the eyes of the people. We hope that the organisation will from now concentrate its efforts on the purpose for which it primarily exists and pursue its programme of self-cleansing with utmost vigour. It is by so doing that it can win the confidence and sympathy of the public that has been at the vanguard of the campaign for the preservation of its identity.Share