I know that the immediate and spontaneous reaction to this topic is a question that will sound like this: Is decapitation the cure to headache? Some readers, not those already discussing its scrapping would say whatever the perceived shortcomings of the FRSC might be, scrapping the agency cannot be the only option left in addressing such shortcomings.
It has been a painful conclusion for me as I put my thoughts down on paper regarding the fortunes of an agency that has had many persons claiming to be its father. I know that Dr Akinkoye popularly called Sir Koye wrote a copious paper that eventually got accepted and became the working paper for the establishment of the organization. Major Salawu also has his own version regarding the birth of the agency while late Dr tai Solarin’s tireless campaigns in the old Western region must also be given some credit for the factors leading to the birth of the agency which General David Medayese Jemibewon created as Governor of the old Western state. It was the establishment by President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida at the federal level that gave the agency its national image and geographical spread.
I have been compelled to write three articles on the Federal Road Safety Corps, and each of the articles was directed at exposing the many ills of the organization, and pleading each time that the organization must purge itself of such ills and reform itself. It does appear all the pleading had fallen on deaf ears.
There is no doubt that the founding fathers of the Road Safety Corps had laudable intentions. They had sought to reduce accidents on our roads by checking over-speeding, over-loading, and ensuring that rickety and unserviceable vehicles are taken off our roads.
And I must say that in the very beginning, the activities of the leadership and rank and file of the agency were geared towards achieving these objectives. Drivers of articulated vehicles that used to terrorize other road users were taught to behave and were even given lessons on road etiquette. Other drivers like cab drivers and other commercial vehicle drivers were brought under control and for years there was sanity on our highways.
All of a sudden, operatives of the Road Safety Corps thought that it was their God-given calling to start rivaling the Police, Customs, and occasionally soldiers who turned every spot on our roads to Toll gates. They began to see themselves as competitors in the nauseating game of extortion, bribe taking, and outright brigandage on our roads. They started sending fears down the spine of road users and occasionally creating panic that consequently send drivers crashing their vehicles.
Nowadays operatives of the Federal Road Safety corps have completely abandoned the reasons why they were sent to man our roads. They have now constituted themselves to Customs operatives, checking vehicle particulars and demanding proof of purchase and ownership from drivers/owners.
While they are busy with issues that are outside their brief, overloaded vehicles and rickety vehicles are turned blind eye to. Vehicles that have no plate numbers, vehicles that have no indicator lights of any kind pass through without any one stopping them. Rather, it is innocent women going about their daily business that are rudely stopped, accosted and harassed to no end. It can be said without any fear of contradiction that more than 70% of all private vehicles stopped for harassment by the Road Safety Corps operatives are driven by women. And the reason is simple. They find it easier and faster to extort money from women than from men.
Meanwhile articulated vehicles continue to dominate our roads and reckless driving by their handlers is the order of the day. We have preventable accidents almost on daily basis across the country, and yet the FRSC continues to beat its chest that its operatives are doing a good job!
Other than the fact that those who are going to be laid off will swell the unemployed market, there is no other convincing reason why the FRSC should not be disbanded today. The public perception of them and their activities is awful. When vehicle owners or drivers drive past them they are looked upon with pity and disdain.
Agencies charged with maintaining sanity on our state roads and within towns and cities are doing a lot better than the FRSC, and I believe that they should be enough to provide safety on our roads. After all, all Federal Roads pass through states, cities and towns. All vehicles that are meant to be checked on the Highways pass through towns and cities and the state roads safety corps can do a better job than what the so-called FRSC is currently [doing?]
Whether the Federal Road Safety Corps will be scrapped or not will depend largely on the country extent it can survive the raging debate calling for its scrapping. And how far it can quickly purge itself of the huge corruption charge heaped on its shoulders and redeem its image.
For now the huge investment the Nigerian public places on it through the federal Government is not justified or justifiable given its record of poor performance and wrong headedness. Luckily, I have never been stopped by any operative of the FRSC, and therefore never been subjected to their shameless extortion and beggarly bribe soliciting.
The Buhari government must take pains to look into the activities of all Federal Agencies that have any direct dealing with the public. And in doing so care must be taken to isolate any such agencies that give bad name to the government and constitute themselves into nuisances in public perception.
When we talk of corruption, we should not limit our discourse to theft and treasury looting. There are so many little acts and activities that add up to give a tag of corruption to an organization or agency. And all Agencies that wear the federal badge and conduct themselves shamelessly and irresponsibly must be brought to book in our collective effort to rid this country of the monumental corruption for which this richly endowed but sadly unfortunate space is internationally reputed.
Perhaps it will not be out of place to single out Dr Abolurin for the good image he created and nurtured for the Civil Defence corps. That is one Federal Agency which under Dr Abolurin conducted its affairs with thorough professionalism, dedication, and irreproachable probity and won the hearts of Nigerians throughout the country.