The need for the government at all levels to take the issue of road safety serous in Nigeria cannot be underestimate as it affects large numbers of people. For this reason, governments’ intervention is very critical if maximum results must be achieved.
Road safety expert has called on government to improve the lives of Nigerians by creating synergies with stake holders and Non-Governmental Organizations in the transport sector to form policies that will sensitize citizens on road usage.
To achieve this, government need to support road safety, by adequately funding its road or traffic institutions thereby enabling them to effectively and efficiently perform their duties, and encouraging coordination among road safety personnel.
Reports from World Health Organization have shown that the traffic situation in Nigeria is in a state of emergency because a lot of people have lost their lives, estimating that over 39,000 deaths are caused through road crashes every year and others were badly injured or permanently disabled from road traffic.
It was also alleged that men take the lead of those who are lost due to road crashes and this has affected many families as they lose their life support members who are mostly male folks and thereby increase the poverty levels in the country.
Speaking to Nigerian Pilot, in an interview, road safety advocate and founder of the GreenLight initiative Mr. Simon Patrick Obi, revealed that the safety of Nigerians is very crucial hence the intervention of the United States of America through its embassy in Nigeria, by supporting, funding and training of stakeholders on road safety to help sensitize, enlighten and educate Nigerians on road safety.
Being one of the recipients of the traineeship programs, he however disclosed his experiences and efforts of the US government on road safety advocacy.
Narrating the importance of the US Government International Visitors Leadership program organized by the US embassy in Nigeria, he noted that it has been making efforts since 2017 to fund the activities of Non-Governmental Organization, NGOs in the country and in 2018 it also initiated a global program called “Traffic Safety”.
He said that the project is first of its kind in Nigeria, and the country is very lucky to have such intervention from the US government, adding that it is training from the US government that last for three weeks in which interested stakeholders in the road transport sector were selected and trained on road safety.
Obi said it was a privilege to be selected from civil society as one of the two representatives, saying that the other was from the road safety.
“We studied the traffic situation of the United States, their traffic safety rules and exchanged ideas with the department of transportation. They had a detour of five states in the US learning their road safety and returning back to Nigeria which such fruitful knowledge, it was faced with so many challenges”
He re-counted that haven tried to apply the knowledge gotten from the training; it encountered great difficulties with implementing and enforcing it.
Obi said that in US, the government has respect and value for the life its citizens and it also accounts for the death of every of its citizen especially from road crashes, maintaining that such issues generates discussion on how to avert road crashes, back in Nigeria the reverse is the case.
“The US government funds road safety because it is a global issue they pay close attention and support, but in Nigeria, it is not an interested subject. So we as NGOs are doing our best to change that orientation and see how we can reduce road crashes”
He disclosed that in the country, road crashes are caused by mostly mechanical and human factors and the latter is being the cause of 80 percent of mortality of accident victims stressing that this has devastating result on the nation’s road transport system.
Obi revealed that road crashes has killed more people than insurgency as this had spurred his intentions into initiating his Non-Governmental Organization called “the GreenLight Initiative” after receiving a grant from the US embassy, after carrying out many road safety programs to ensure the safety of Nigerian roads.
“These were done through phone programme titled “Drive to Live” which was aired on the Armed Forces Radio. The program was aimed at educating, enlightening and sensitizing Nigerians on road traffic rule and prevention of road crashes. This initiative is a nonprofit NGO, pilots and advocates for road safety in Nigeria.
“It is one of the most vibrant projects in Nigeria and has collaborations with the government through the Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC, Ministry of Transportation and stakeholders to ensure that the roads are safer.
“After my one year compulsory service year, I was inspired by a report from vanguard that changed my orientation. “It said that road crashes has killed Nigerians more than insurgency”
Obi said asserted that road crashes have continued to be the highest cause of mortality in Nigeria, and there is a link between road crashes and poverty especially when bread winner mostly male folks are being killed in road crashes.
“The Green Light initiative program “Drive To Live” according to Obi has made so much impact on Nigerian road users, reaching out and sensitizing an estimated number of over 72,000 listeners in 8 Nigerian states which is a huge success.
“When you look at our advocacy very well, government can also do same and this will go a long way to reaching, touching and sensitizing more Nigerians on road safety and traffic usage.
“We also organize road walk to remember road crashes victims in commemoration of the world day for road crash victims, it is a global program. In 2018, we had over 500 people on the road walk and it was used to enlighten people.
The GreenLight Initiative also trains young people to become road traffic advocates and from its inception till date the NGO has trained 212 persons who are youths and are making impacts across the country.
“And for the much younger generation, the initiative organizes debates for secondary schools and quiz competitions for primary school, to continue its road safety advocacy and improving the lives of young road users. Greenlight is a reference point, he added.”
He commended the government, saying that through his initiative’s collaborations with government institutions, such as the Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC, Vehicle Inspection Office, VIO, and the Nigerian Police; they were able to achieve much as they implored the government to also give room for dialogue.
Obi recommended that government should improve the laws and policies that would save lives and protect road user by showing commitment and as well ensure that adherence and obedience to traffic rules should be enforced.
He added that road safety is a collective issue hence the media must be involved to save lives of Nigerian road users.
He further stated that the government should replicate obtainable traffic systems like that of Sweden, saying that the Swedish government had introduced the “Vision Zero” traffic policy to avert road crashes as this turn out to be the best though where sustainable results can be achieved.