With the frequency of road crashes on Ebonyi State roads reaching an alarming rate, stakeholders in the transport sector as well as commuters are worried that precious lives would be lost to avoidable accidents in the state prompting actions to bring down the ugly trend. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (ABUJA) And OBINNA OGBONNAYA (Abakaliki) report.
Ember months all over the country come with several tragic incidents and nefarious activities following the over zealousness and rush of many Nigerians to achieve in one month, all they could not achieve between January to August. The situation has put many people in jeopardy including risking their lives through dangerous driving.
One notable factor that comes with the ember months is the increasing rate of fatal road accidents which, in many cases, are avoidable. Despite the fact that it is still November ahead of the Christmas celebration, the number of road crashes in Ebonyi State has become so alarming with a good number of deaths so far recorded.
Worried by the trend, motorists and commuters in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, have called on the leadership of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to stand up on its responsibility of checking some of the excesses of some commercial drivers and other motorists towards checking the increasing rate of road accidents in the state.
It is disheartening that despite the campaign against drunk driving, over speeding, dangerous overtaking, driving with worn out tyres, the message seems to fall on deaf ears as the officials of the FRSC and the Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) in the state no longer inspect vehicles to check if the vehicle is road worthy rather, they simply collect tips from the commercial drivers and other road users while they continue to endanger the lives of innocent commuters.
Just recently, six persons suspected to be students of a private university in Nigeria were burnt beyond recognition while nine others sustained injuries in a ghastly motor accident along the Ezzamgbo axis of the Enugu-Abakaliki express road.
Of the six dead victims, four were males while two were females. LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that the two buses coming from opposite ends of the road had a head on collision on the road while on high speed. The accident, according to eyewitnesses revealed that, the accident would have been avoided had the drivers exercised little restraint and patience as the accident happened at about 6 pm.
An official of the FRSC who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday said, “Both the dead and wounded have been evacuated to the Federal Teaching Hospital for medical attention. Nine persons were injured. Out of the nine, eight were male and one female. Number of persons killed were six; four male, two females.
“Those killed were taken to FETHA 2 and those injured were also taken to the same hospital where they were deposited at the morgue. From our observation, the accident was as a result of head on collision. The two vehicles had head on collision. It occurred very close to Ezzamgbo Bridge. The number of the vehicles involved are AWK 702 XA and JAL 376ZX which belonged to People Choice Motors,” the spokesman said.
As the people of the state were still mourning the death of the innocent students that died on 3 November, 2018 crash, another fatal road accident occurred along the ever busy Abakaliki/Afikpo road barely 15 days after the Ezzamgbo tragedy, claiming the life of the All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman, Cross River State, Dr Mathew Achigbe and three others.
The accident involved two vehicles, a Toyota Sports Utility Vehicle and Toyota Camry (Spider) along the Akpohia axis of the Abakaliki/Afikpo Expressway.
It was gathered that the deceased were taken to the Mater Misercodearie Hospital, Afikpo by officials of the FRSC. It was gathered that the APC chairman had gone for a church programme and was on his way to Obubra when the incident occurred.
It would be recalled that the accident, which claimed the life of the APC chairman, happened barely 24 hours after two other persons died in another accident along the Onueke axis in Ezza South local government area of Ebonyi State, the same express road that led to the death of the party chairman.
The dean, School of Basic Medical Sciences at the Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ebonyi, Robert Nneli, also met his untimely death along the 131 junction of the Abakaliki-Enugu federal express road.
The 69-year-old dean, according to the sector commander of FRSC in Ebonyi State, Stella Uchegbu, who confirmed the accident, said that two accidents occurred that faithful night between the hours of 9pm and 11pm.
The FRSC sector commander stated that it was raining heavily when the accidents occurred and attributed them to possible reckless driving, over-speeding and poor visibility.
“In the first accident, the articulated vehicle driver blinded the driver of the white-coloured Toyota Camry vehicle with his headlight, which made the latter lose control as he was on top speed. The vehicle then veered off its lane and collided with the oncoming articulated vehicle. The truck crushed the car. The Professor died in the accident, his son and another occupant sustained serious injuries and are receiving treatment at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Ebonyi State would have been thrown into a mourning mood as the state secretary of the party, Hon Simon Anyigor, was involved in a road crash along the Nkwagu axis of the Abakaliki/Afikpo express road. The party chieftain is currently battling to save his life and these are just few out of many road crashes in the state that have led to the death of many personalities in recent times.
It has become so worrisome, the high profile individuals and other innocent persons that perish weekly along the Enugu/Abakaliki express road and that of Abakaliki/Afikpo express road.
Unfortunately, the two major roads from observation have the highest number of officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps. Some commuters who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday expressed worry over the number of road crashes along the two major highways and called on the relevant authorities to check the incessant death occasioned by the reckless driving of some motorists.
According to Mr Chijoke Ndukuba, a medical doctor, who recently lost his elder brother in a fatal road accident along the Enugu/Abakaliki express road, he noted that the rate at which citizens of the state meet their untimely death along the express road has become alarming and blamed the management of transport companies, FRSC officials of negligence.
According to him, “How would you expect that road crashes along Enugu/Abakaliki express road and that of Abakaliki/Afikpo would stop when there has not been any concerted effort on the part of the relevant authorities to checkmate the activities of drivers. It is important for the management of other transport companies in Ebonyi State to replicate what the chairman of Peace Mass Transit (PMT), Chief Maduka Onyishi, did in Enugu recently by organising a one-day refresher training for drivers of the company, which is targeted towards ensuring zero accident throughout the `Ember Months’ period.
According to the chairman of the company during the one-day refresher training course for 50 professional drivers in PMT fleet, he revealed that the company vehicles convey a minimum of 30,000 passengers per day across the length and breadth of the country.
He noted that with 3,000 vehicles loading every day in the company’s 65 terminals spread across the country, there was need to ensure safety of passengers, particularly during the ‘ember months’ when the volume of vehicular movements usually increases.
Onyishi, explained that the training and retraining programmes for its numerous drivers would enable them maintain professional discipline and right conduct bearing in mind passengers’ safety whenever they are driving.
“Apart from the training and retraining; we have other forms of control on the drivers, which includes mechanical, administrative, speed limiters, quick intervention team who checkmate the drivers on each route.
“We do not just train and leave them like that; we must ensure that as they drive, they apply what they were taught during training courses or workshops,” he said.
There is no gainsaying that Peace Mass Transit is one of the biggest transport companies in Nigeria that has battled to maintain its image following series of road crashes that involve its vehicles.
Despite the bad image as perceived in some quarters, commuters still troop in their numbers to join the vehicle to their different destinations. The retraining, no doubt, is a welcome development but must be made all encompassing to accommodate all the drivers of the company and other transport companies must also be compelled to do same.
A driver with one of the transport companies in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, Mr Hyginus Uguru, who blamed drivers for the road crashes in the country noted that, if not addressed, the issue of road crashes would continue unabated.
According to him, the three key factors include, human, mechanical and environmental factors. It is not advisable for a driver who is not mentally sound to convey passengers. A driver may have had serious family problem or altercation with the wife before leaving the house and with such state of mind; it is risky to convey passengers.
“Many a times, what we call negligence may not necessarily be intentional but the state of mind of the driver. It is pertinent to understand the mindset of a commercial vehicle driver before letting him get to the wheels.
“The human factor has to do with the driver’s negligence and there are other factors which include mechanical. While human factors can be avoidable, mechanical factors, that have to do with faulty vehicle, which, if not detected on time, has led to several deaths recorded along the Enugu/Abakaliki and Abakaliki/Afikpo express road.
“There is also another factor, the environmental factor, which has to do with deplorable state of roads in the country while there is also the weather effect on the road.
Uguru, emphasised the need for drivers to avoid so much intake of drugs, alcohol and other intoxicating substances while driving as the consumption of such substances could lead to avoidable accidents on the roads.
Worried by the incessant road crashes, motorists in the state have also commended the Federal Road Safety Corps for inducting new Special Marshals ahead of the yuletide period believing that with the induction, the newly inducted Special Marshals would assist in the control of vehicular movement in the state.
Dr Sini Kwabe, FRSC national coordinator of Special Marshals had, during the induction, urged the new inductees to discharge their functions with utmost commitment and professionalism and urged them to collaborate with the regular marshals to reduce road crashes on roads.
“You should not use your positions to intimidate road users or flout road-use laws as anyone found wanting in this regard would be `de-marshaled’ immediately. You have not been inducted to use your identification cards to cause trouble on the roads but are encouraged to work in harmony with other marshals. You should not compete with regular marshals but complement their efforts in unison, to attain the onerous goal of securing lives on the roads,” he said.
He commended the inductees for volunteering to render selfless services to road users, who were usually not appropriately oriented on road-use guidelines.
The FRSC sector commander in Ebonyi, Mrs Stella Uchegbu, congratulated the new inductees and assured them of FRSC’s support in effectively discharging their functions.
“It is the passion to contribute to saving lives on the roads that propels Special Marshals because it is a voluntary service. “You should, therefore, realise that as far as you are on the road, you are on duty and should adequately guide and orientate road users,” she said.
The state coordinator of Special Marshals, Dr Anya Kama, also congratulated the new inductees and urged them to discharge their duties with humility and fear of God.
“I urge you to sustain the tempo of activities of Special Marshals in the state, as you would be given all necessary assistance to succeed. The recent deaths have become so worrisome, requiring urgent intervention and calls for national concern.”
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