The idea of establishing modern day garages in Abuja and all states of the federation where state-of-the-art equipment would be utilised to carry out inspection on vehicles to ascertain their road worthiness was conceptualised few years ago, and on October 10, 2013, the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) administration, on behalf of the Federal Government, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Temple Resources Nigeria Limited to execute the job.
The idea was that Temple Resources would build six garages across the FCT, provide modern day equipment and make available the technical knowhow through training of the men of the Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS), also known as (VIO), on the use of the equipment, as a departure from the usual practice of issuance of road worthiness certificates to rickety vehicles, just to generate revenue for the agency.
The deal was on the basis of Public Private Partnership (PPP), as it has been established over and over again that government is a bad â€˜businessmanâ€™. And so on September 1, 2014, the first computerised vehicle test centre in Nigeria was commissioned in Abuja and opened for public use. Temple Resources went into alliance with other vehicle inspection and road safety agencies, like the Nigerian Police, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and, of course, the VIO in a massive sensitisation campaign for motorists to, on their own, drive to the already built two garages, to get their vehicles checked and certified for issuance of road worthiness certificates by the VIO.
For months after commencement, the operators of the garage felt private owners including government-owned vehicles were mature enough to drive into any of the two garages for their vehicle checks but when such maturity was not forthcoming, an enforcement team comprising the Police, VIO, FRSC and operators of the garages was constituted to, more or less, compel people to comply with simple road safety rule.
A year into the operation of the garages, the facilities have not been optimally exploited, as only about 10 per cent utilization has been recorded so far. Motorists quickly change their route whenever they cite the enforcement team from afar.
A recent study by the FRSC indicated that Abuja with its well laid out road has the highest rate of auto accidents compared to other states of the federation. Kogi, Ondo and Plateau States closely follow the Seat of Power; while states, like Kebbi and Benue, have the lowest. Only last week, former Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, whose state has a low accident rate, was involved in a crash.
Giving the one-year score card of the garages in Abuja, the Managing Director of Temple Resources, Segun Obayendo, said the company might slow down a bit on the construction of the other four garages, as the financial institution rolling the project is skeptical, since the two garages on ground have not be optimally utilised.
He said the bank opined that there is no wisdom in tying down so much resource in projects that would be underutilised. According to him, the plan of the company was to develop the second phase of the project, which encompasses Gwagwalada/Kuje, Lugbe, Wuye and Durumi by February next year, as land had already been allocated for the project. He regretted that people always want to be forced to do basic things they ought to do without stress.
He said: â€œThe two centers of Kugbo and Onex Katampe have the capacity to inspect 145,000 vehicles per annum. But the first year only witnessed about 14,000 vehicles for inspection. The enforcement of statutory computerised inspection from inception has been epileptic. We live in an environment where people hardly comply with basic policies except they are compelled. This accounts for the low level of compliance. The enforcement team has not been able to guarantee compliance. This is one of our major challenges. More critical is the issue of non-compliance by road users.
Only 13,337 have come for inspection since inception whereas we have the capacity of inspecting over 145,000 vehicles for the period under review. More than half of the vehicles that were examined were compelled to undergo the inspection and this statistics is alarming.â€
Apart from more public enlightenment, Obayendo said government and its agencies should key into the policy to serve as example to private vehicle owners while it implements full integration on eVReg platform. He said there should be a more proactive approach to enforcement and the VIO should put a stop to hand writing of roadworthiness certificates.
Statistics from the almost 14,000 vehicles inspected showed that lighting and brake systems accounted for the highest defect of 29 per cent; brakes defect accounted for 21 per cent; tires defect 19 per cent; and suspension and steering 16 and 15 per cent, respectively. This statistics implies that it will be outrightly impossible for anybody to claim to have inspected a vehicle by merely looking at such and then issuing a certificate of roadworthiness.
If the report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2013 entitled: â€˜Road Safety in the WHO African Regionâ€™ is anything to go by, then Nigeria needs to view road traffic accident as an issue that needs urgent attenti
on. The report rated Nigeria and South Africa as the countries with the highest fatality with 33.7 and 31.9 deaths per 100,000 populations every year.
Road users in the FCT are expected to be saner than their counterparts in other parts of the country. Despite the good roads in the FCT, the Seat of Power paradoxically takes the medal for high rate of accidents. There is a saying that without law, there is no offence. The onus lies on agencies in charge of road safety to up their ante in making the city a safe place to live in.
Between January and June this year alone, the Corp Marshal of the Federation, Boboye Oyeyemi, said 648 crashes were recorded in the FCT, which resulted in the death of 182 people, apart from those that were maimed. He advised motorists to buy into the new speed limit mechanism, which he said has been effective from September 1, 2015.