I want to use this forum to, once again, commend the House of Representatives for their on-going deliberations on the Nigeria Road Safety Commission, which has passed through the second reading. It is long overdue, but it is better late than never.
In one of my articles in this column, I had raised a very serious concern about the conflicting statutory functions of the Federal Road Safety Commission(FRSC), the state Vehicle Inspection Officers(VIOs), Nigeria Police and the state traffic management Agencies.
For years, the battle was centred on the supremacy of the Constitution over the Acts of the National Assembly on the regulation of driving schools and issuance of driver licence. The tri-partite arrangement between these agencies is still shaky as oftentimes demonstrated in their arguments at every National Council on Transportation meeting that I have attended.
The Road Traffic Management functions of the Nigeria Police before the creation of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the various state government traffic management agencies are still intact(I do hope the proposed amendment of the Nigeria Police Act will adequately address this).
All the above-mentioned clashes of functions and interest have been slowing down a lot of policy formulation and implementation, thereby hindering the speedy accomplishment of the goal of reducing the rate of road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.
I humbly implore the House of Representatives to objectively address the conflicting areas among the FRSC, VIOs, Nigeria Police, and the state traffic management agencies. The objective of the Act should not just be to eliminate the federal and state road structure from the operation of FRSC. Their functions should be streamlined insuch a way that there will be no more conflict. Hence the need for the input of these agencies in the proposed Act.
Similarly, when the Federal Road Safety Commission Establishment Decree came into being in 1988, there were less than 50 driving schools in Nigeria, thereby making it necessary to encourage the FRSC and state governments to establish model driving schools to complement the private driving schools. This forced the FRSC and some state governments to violate the moral law of not being a referee and player in the same game. For some years, the FRSC and some state governments have been playing the role of a regulator(regulating the establishment and operation of driving schools in Nigeria) and at the same time an operator(operating driving school and competing with driving school to run commercial driver training which is different from their statutory free public education function).
There are about 2,000 driving schools spread across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FRSC) offering employment to youths. I plead that the proposed bill should confine the FRSC and the state governments to their regulatory role while only the accredited driving schools should play the role of operators, using the curriculum they designed for the driving schools. There is no state driving school that is standard enough to be a model, proving further that the government should have no business in doing business. Driving school business should be left in the hand of the private sector to create more job opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths who will also be paying taxes to the governments. The principle of the Separation of Powers should come to bear in the functions of these agencies and even the driving schools to prevent further friction, unhealthy rivalry and stalemate in the road safety.
Just like the Ghana National Road Safety Commission, the Governing Board of the Nigeria Road Safety Commission should comprise FRSC, representatives of VIOs, Association of Driving Schools and other stakeholders. Since this did not generate friction in Ghana, it should not be so here. Rather, it be positioned to boost efficiency and effectiveness in road safety.
Finally, I would implore the House of Representatives not to stop at enacting the Nigeria Road Safety Bill, the provisions should be incorporated into the Amended Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to eliminate the previous argument of the superiority of Constitution over the Act of Parliament.
While commending the efforts of the lawmakers and other stakeholders, we must all go the extra mile to stop to the careless loss of irreplaceable lives and valuable properties on the roads. No price is too much to pay to achieve this goal.