From Okwe Obi, Abuja
The inevitability of disaster, be it auto crashes, fire outbreaks, gas explosions and flooding, which are sometimes mostly caused by man’s negligence, prompted the launch of Operation Eagle Eye by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in 2020.
Operation Eagle Eye is a global disaster management initiative targeted at enlightening road users on the rules and regulations guiding road usage.
It is an annual event, conducted during the Yuletide, in collaboration with other stakeholders. It is aimed at reducing accidents and other emergencies on Nigerian roads because of the heavy traffic associated with the festive season.
The operation, it was gathered, also provides an avenue for NEMA to complement the FRSC in minimising road traffic accidents, loss of life as well as other challenges related to road usage.
A review of the operation recently in Abuja assembled stakeholders from the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), the Red Cross and FRSC.
In his opening address, NEMA’s director-general, Mohammadu Mohammed, explained that the 2020 campaign provided a platform for creating awareness, sensitisation of road users and effective response to road emergencies. He was represented at the event by the director, search and rescue, Edward Adedokun.
“NEMA deployed 48 specialised vehicles, including the mobile intensive care ambulances, 431 personnel and volunteers for the operation nationwide.
“The agency, in collaboration with stakeholders, responded to 53 road emergencies across the zonal, territorial and operations offices (ZTOs) covering 84 routes.
“Unfortunately, 12 fatalities and 88 injuries were recorded by the agency on these routes. These unfortunate incidents on our roads once again bring to the fore the need for road users to be careful at all times and adhere to all safety measures,” he said.
On his part, the Corps Marshal, FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, said a total of 632 crashes, with 180 fatalities, were recorded within one month of the operation; a problem he attributed to over-speeding as well as overloading of passengers and goods. He was represented by Deputy Corps Marshal Hyginus Omeje.
He said: “We started looking at the causes. It had to do with the loading pattern and some of articulated shock. All together, we had 632 crashes; 180 out of the number were fatal, that is, somebody died. While 362 were very serious, 100 were minor.
“In all this, we lost about 585 lives. It is much. It points to the fact of the loading pattern of some of these truck drivers in which people will hang on top of the truck, and in the event of the crash, they fall on the road.”
In his presentation, titled: ‘Challenges of Collaboration in Major Disaster Management’, Professor Andrew Obafemi of the University of Port Harcourt identified inter-agency rivalry, superiority battle and lack of communication as some of the hiccups slowing the synergy among relevant agencies.
Obafemi added that understanding, trust, equal access to funds, as well as reducing bureaucratic bottlenecks should be upheld, adding that, without the aforementioned, the mandate of NEMA and rescue enthusiasts would be defeated.
“The goal of disaster management is to reduce or avoid losses from hazard. So, collaboration is key in reducing or avoiding disaster. It is also to ensure prompt assistance to victims, and to achieve rapid recovery. When we talk about 72 hours response in disaster management, a whole lot must be accomplished within the 72 hours.
“And if we miss it as a result of quarrelling, lack of communication, disagreement or pretence of lack of funds, of course, we may lose people that were supposed to be victims that should be rescued.
“Just as we say that it is too late to prepare when disaster has already occurred, we know that the mitigation strategy must be in place to adequately ensure that we are able to respond better.
“If steps are not taken early to protect people and property, while also decreasing risk and consequences from disaster situation, we might fail to deliver the needful, that is why it is a challenge.
“Every effort of collaboration must begin with preparedness. You cannot talk about collaboration by neglecting others who play important roles in disaster management.
“The challenges here could be lack of effective communication because when respondents are in the field without basic tools or communication, they may not act accordingly. This implies that the moment disagreement or lack of trust comes in, the case of quick and effective response will not be achieved. Also, knowing the right skills and employing the right personnel will go a long way in facilitating rescue,” he said.
He, however, stated that successes recorded in the 2020 exercise through the strict adoption of Operation Eagle Eye, should be used as a template to plan for subsequent exercises.