The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and other traffic law enforcement agencies have, in the face of allegations of violent enforcement of traffic regulations, reassured motorists of comportment and civility by their personnel In the discharge of their duties.
In a survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) across the South-West states of Nigeria, namely, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Kwara, the agencies and other road stakeholders expressed different views on the issue.
Mr Joshua Adekanye, the Sector Commander of FRSC in Oyo State, said that personnel of the corps were not allowed to chase or harass motorists while trying to enforce the law.
Adekanye urged motorists to report any personnel harassing them, promising that the command would not hesitate to deal with such official.
Similarly, SP Adewale Osifeso, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Police Command in Oyo State, said that the command frowned at the infringement on any of the fundamental human rights of the citizens.
Osifeso, while blaming some offenders for obstructing officers from discharging their duties or preventing them from being arrested, however, sued for the cooperation of all.
He said that men of the command would always remain professional in the discharge of their constitutional duty.
Meanwhile, in Ibadan, Dr Wole Ogunseyinde, the Chairman, Board of Management, Ibadan Anglican Diocese Hospital, urged the VIO, FRSC and the police to focus more on road management, as their primary assignment.
Ogunseyinde said that their focus should be more on maintaining free flow of traffic, compliance of people to traffic laws, preventing and anticipating danger points that might impede smooth traffic flow.
“Sadly, they are preoccupied with finding faults with tyres, driver’s licence, waste bin and fire extinguisher; all to make money for the organisations or themselves.
“There is need for a rethink, re-orientation and re-organisation of these outfits,” he said.
However, Prof. Lameed Gbolagade, former Head of Department, Department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management; Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, University of Ibadan, called for the punishment of officers culpable of violence or misconduct in the discharge of their duties
Such officers, he said, should be punished under the law of the country.
“Whenever there is any introduction to the rules or laws of traffic, the citizens must be given sufficient time to make adjustments before it becomes an enforceable offence,” he said.
A commercial driver, Mr Adigun Saka, also condemned the acts of throwing stones, chasing or pointing of guns at motorists by officials of FRSC, VIO and police, all in a bid to force motorists to stop.
Saka said that these acts, and other related ones, had often resulted into accidents, with attendant loss of lives and property.
In his contribution, Mr Jeleel Abioye, Chairman, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in Osun, said that members of his association in recent times have not experienced or recorded violent conducts in their dealings with personnel of the FRSC, VIO or other law enforcement agencies.
“Since I became the chairman in Osun, we have always had cordial relationship with officials of the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), the FRSC and the police.
“Although, we have rogues within our fold, just like the road safety, VIO and the police, but we always follow civil channels in resolving any form of altercation we may have with law enforcement officers.
“Like the FRSC, whenever any of our members commit any offence on the road, they report such a member to our association and we always fish out the erring member to face punishment.
“Likewise, when any of the officials of the FRSC, VIO or the police harass our members on the road, we report them to their superiors and they are punished appropriately,” he said.
Also, Mr Fatai Salako, Secretary, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), said that commercial drivers know how to sort themselves out when they run into trouble with road traffic authorities before it degenerates into violence.
“Commercial drivers are working to make money, so they will not want anything that will disrupt their operations.
“Again, the leadership of the union have good working relationship with the police, the FRSC and the VIO.
“We hold meetings with them from time to time, where they always tell us to cooperate with their officers on the road and to always report any misconduct from their officers toward our men.
“We don’t really have any problem with them, except with some of them who may want to be mischievous; and we, usually, report them to their superiors,” he said.
However, Mr Ahmed Umar, the Ogun Sector Commander of the FRSC, told NAN that officials of the corps in discharging their duties, often faced different provocative instances from members of the public.
Umar, however, explained that the officials had been trained to be civil and to always maintain decorum while discharging their duties.
“The FRSC is the most polite, the most civil law enforcement agency to motorists and other road users in the country.
‘There are provocations, but we tell them not to allow their emotions to becloud their sense of reasoning.
“They have been trained to guard against such provocations and not to engage motorists or defaulters in physical combat.
“We have also been trained not to be weak or subject ourselves to ridicule or needless embarrassment in the course of discharging our duties,” he said.
In his contribution, Mr Tiwalade Akingbade, Chairman, Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in Ogun, called for the regular training of traffic enforcement officials in interpersonal relationships for optimal performance.
Akingbade alleged that some officials of the concerned agencies often maltreat erring members of the public while enforcing traffic rules.
“Officials of the police, FRSC and VIO need to undergo periodic trainings on how to relate with members of the public in the discharge of their duties.
“They need to realise that they will meet with different people with different character in the course of discharging their duties, they should, therefore, learn how to remain cool, but principled in the face of provocation,” he said.
He called on the leadership of the agencies to ensure that their officials continued to resist the temptation to abuse their privileges as law enforcement officers.
The RTEAN chairman said that there should be effective internal disciplinary measures to check such acts and change the perception of the public concerning the agencies
“On our own part, we organise periodic trainings on traffic rules and regulations for our drivers, but the traffic agencies often demand bribes from us, and if such is not given, they often resort to force or unnecessary arrests,” he said.
In Ado-Ekiti, Mr Taiwo Ojo, Public Education Officer (PEO), FRSC, Ekiti Sector Command, said the command would not tolerate any misconduct in the line of duty alien to the culture and tradition of the FRSC.
Ojo said officers of the command have been warned to maintain high level of discipline, and not to assault or manhandle any member of the public in the course of maintaining safety on Ekiti roads.
“The sector command, in recent times, has not received any report of its officers, assaulting, rough handling or addressing members of the public in manners that can bring disrepute or not acceptable to the ethics and conduct of the operatives.
“Everyone in FRSC, particularly in the state command, knows the implications of being involved in conducts that can tarnish the image of the corps in the public.
“None of our members of staff will want to put his or her job on the line, because they all know that it is a grievous offence; it is not pardonable to assault members of the public for whatever reason,” Ojo said.
Meanwhile, a police officer , who pleaded anonymity, lamented that some drivers were in the habit of flouting traffic rules and regulations.
According to him, majority of road users, usually, disregard laws guiding the road, hence, “we tend to use iron hand in ensuring that they obey and comply with all stipulated laws.
“It is not in our constitution to enforce by violence. In fact, we are not trained to do so, but when our people are daring and adamant, we don’t have an option than to apply hard measures on them; just to make sure they comply with stipulated laws and orders to ensure a sane society.”
NAN, however, reports that some commercial drivers in Ikole-Ekiti accused traffic agencies of neglecting their statutory duties for making illegitimate money; thus making illegal extortion and bribery their major activities.
One of such is Mr Sola Fasakin, who alleged that FRSC officers in Oye-Ekiti were fond of extorting money in the range of N100 to N1,000 from both commercial and private motorists and motorcyclists.
Fasakin noted that any attempt by a motorist to argue with them would resort to the seizure of the car key, the vehicle, driver’s license and other particulars.
“It is quite unfortunate that FRSC officers in Oye-Ekiti, who ought to uphold traffic regulations and ensure safety on our highways, are now taking money as a daily toll, and anybody who fails to cooperate will be delayed unnecessarily.
“Also, the police officers along Ayegbaju-Ekiti road are always bent on collecting money from both commercial motorists and motorcyclists, without carrying out proper checks on the vehicles,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, another motorist, Mr Kunle Ajibola, alleged that some traffic officials abused their privileged position and extort money from motorists, especially from commercial drivers.
According to him, the patrol team leaders stay inside the vehicles, carefully parked by the roadside, while their officers negotiate amounts to be collected from helpless motorists.
In view of this, he appealed to the federal and state government to curb such excesses and violent conducts on the highways.
A legal practitioner, Mr Temitope Omotayo, did not also spare the alleged corrupt officials.
Omotayo said men of these agencies had neglected their primary assignment of enforcing traffic rules and regulations and had become ”savagely cruelin their operations.”
According to him, since technology takes the lead in enforcing traffic rules, the government should, therefore, provide adequate modern facilities to assist traffic officers perform their duties without endangering lives of the citizens.
He described the alleged violent conduct of police personnel as the highest order of misconduct.
“It is sad to see a police officer stopping private and commercial vehicles and demanding for money, instead of verifying the vehicle ownership documents and other necessary information required,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Police Command in Kwara says its Code of Conduct does not give allowance for violence in the enforcement of any law, traffic laws inclusive.
The spokesperson of the command, SP Okasanmi Ajayi, said that any negative conduct by policemen on duty have consequences and many erring police officers had been punished accordingly.
He stated that police enforcement activities help to deter negative behaviour, such as speeding and driving while intoxicated, he advised Nigerians to report any officer engaged in violent enforcement of traffic laws.
Also reiterating the non-violent attitude expected of officers, the Sector Commander, Kwara FRSC, CC Fredrick Ogidan, described any such violent conduct as unacceptable.
Ogidan said that contrary to public opinion that officers of the FRSC were violent, it was often traffic offenders who attack officers.
“It is the recalcitrant traffic offenders that are daily knocking down our men, maiming and killing them,” he said.
He, however, advised both the personnel of the corps and the motoring public to be civil and positive in their attitude toward road safety.
Similarly, Mr Toyosi Adeoti, a resident of Ilorin, said that it would be unusual to see officials of the FRSC conducting themselves in a violent manner
Adeoti said that some personnel of the corps may, however, be forced to act violently in response to an offender’s action.
“I have never seen a violent FRSC officer. They are usually calm if you cooperate with them, but sometimes, they may be forced to react to a situation accordingly.
“So, I think we should just learn to obey traffic rules and cooperate with them when we meet them in the line of their duty,” he said.
Meanwhile, an Akure-based journalist, Mr Oluwaseun Akingboye, however, described most road traffic officials as men not adequately trained and equipped to perform their duties.
Akingboye called on the government to, as a matter of urgency, overhaul, train and retrain officers of all of the agencies.