THE data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, currently has the highest incidents of car crashes in Nigeria. From 2013 till date, there has been an uneven spike in the rate of road crashes within Abuja than busier roads in major cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt.
In the first three months of 2017, Abuja recorded 307 cases of road crashes, representing 12 per cent of the total crashes that occurred across the country within this period. From April to June this year, Abuja also had 346 cases of accident, representing 14 per cent of the total accidents in the country during the period.
This grim reality is lost on Abuja motorists as they indiscriminately flout traffic rules, putting their lives and other road users at risk.
I spent about an hour at Wuse Zone one junction, a connecting route in Abuja Central Area, to observe the snarling traffic that showed no signs of abetting.
The first thing that catches the sight of an onlooker at this spot, is an array of exotic trees on both sides of the pedestrian’s walkway but the beautiful scenery is made rowdy as motorists parked their cars on the pedestrian walkway or use it as an alternative route to beat traffic gridlock.
This obstruction is a violation of the Nigerian Highway Code as stated in Section 510 of the FRSC Act, 2007 which stipulates that “Obstructing any section of the road with vehicles or in any other way that may affect free flow of traffic or movement” is deemed a traffic offence and liable to prosecution of the offender by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
I observed several cars switching between lanes as they sped past an unmanned traffic booth at the road intersection. Meanwhile, the indicator lights on the road were not working at the time as drivers tried to outpace one another with bustling speed creating a chaotic scene when the traffic was less.
However, normalcy was restored when a traffic warden came about thirty minutes into the time the reporter was at the spot, to direct traffic.A patrol vehicle of the FRSC was stationed across the road earlier, but they did little to address the situation on ground.
Abuja’s reputation as a city with high rates in car crashes has not changed the driving patterns of most motorists, who would drive on the highways with brazen disregard for traffic regulations.
Most motorists plying the Wuse Zone one axis are oblivious to traffic signs on that route, especially the Zebra crossing. Pedestrians standing on the Zebra crossing are likely to be hit because motorists do not slow down when approaching it.
But even pedestrians do not seem to know the usefulness of Zebra crossing. Dorothy Joel, a student of the University of Abuja me that “I think the markings on the road are meant for vehicles to stop when the traffic lights come on. They are for the vehicles.”
Another problem is that the pedestrian walkways have been overtaken by vehicles. Moribund buses bearing the insignia of the Federal Capital Territory Authority lined the pedestrian sidewalks around the the Berger Junction, as pedestrians have a hard time inching their way through. Some young men have made the buses a dwelling place.
Several major streets in the Wuse district are not exempted from this trend as cars could be seen littering pedestrians walkways. However, on the FRSC website, there is a fine stipulated for road obstruction which is pegged at N3,00. Given the scale of this violation, it seems that the punitive measure taken by the FRSC is timid and ineffective.
Osarentin Osagie, a sculptor who is a regular visitor to Abuja stressed the need for public enlightenment on road safety.
“There is a need to enlighten road users on traffic rules and regulations to avoid casualties on our roads,” Osagie said. “You see, most drivers don’t have regard for traffic rules and when apprehended by road safety officials a bribe makes them turn a blind eye. So drivers are just an accident waiting to happen.”
Amos Abba is an intern with The ICIR.