It is about 27 days before the drums start beating and the red carpets rolled for another round of festivities with glasses clinking as families celebrate another Christmas. Yet the signals from the Federal Capital Territory, Niger State both under my watch as well as other parts of the country scares me stiff. The signals from other climes are equally scary. The reported road traffic crashes, deaths and injuries must be checkmated collectively as we countdown to another season of celebrations.
Let me start with recent cases from my Zone. On Nov, 16, 2021, a lone crash killed eleven people along Mokwa-Jebba. On the November 18 2021, a multiple crash killed nine people along the same Mokwa-Jebba road, totaling twenty deaths from just two crashes. The previous week, about 23 deaths were recorded in the same state which raises a lot of question on the continued operations of DAF trucks which are in the habit of carrying humans and cattle in vehicles meant for cattle which explains the high casualty figure. This worrying crash spate is in spite the sustained advocacies through town hall meetings meant to raise and reinforce road safety consciousness.
The story from Bulgaria is not different. Report has it that a crash involving a bus killed 48 people including 12 children. The crash occurred near the village of Bosnek, about 31 kilometers southwest of Sofia. Most of victims were tourists from North Macedonia. The head of the General Directorate of the National Police, Stanimir Stanevl said seven survivors were rushed to hospital in the capital, Sofia, and were being treated for burns. The cause of the crash, which occurred shortly after 2 a.m was not known. There are speculation that the bus hit a highway guard rail, crashed, and caught fire. Others suspect it was probably a technical malfunction or a flat tire,” Nikolai Nikolov, head of the General Directorate for Fire Safety and Protection of the Population at the Interior Ministry. The government of Bulgaria declared a day of mourning on November 24, while there was three days of mourning in North Macedonia during which flags were lowered to half-staff and all public events will be canceled. The bus was one of four traveling together from Istanbul to Skopje in North Macedonia.
The crash scene images showed the bus engulfed in flames with thick plumes of smoke blanketing the highway in both directions. Interior Minister Boyko Rashko said that he had “never in my life seen something more horrifying. In his words,” “The picture is horrifying. The caretaker Prime Minister, Stefan Yanef called the crash a huge tragedy. He said he hoped lessons learnt from this incident will be used to prevent further tragedies. The people who were on the bus are turned to charcoal. The number of casualties were not ascertained as it was possible that passengers changed buses during the stops.” Stevo Pendarovski, North Macedonia’s president, called it a “horrific accident” and said that he expects the authorities to conduct a full investigation to determine the “causes and responsibility for the tragedy while the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, expressed her condolences and said that “in these terrible times, Europe stands in solidarity with you.”
The European Union Commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi expressed similar sentiments when he said. “Terrible news… “My thoughts & condolences are with the families and friends of those who died as well as with the people and the authorities of North Macedonia.” Bulgaria like most other countries has recorded deadly bus accidents over the years. In 2018, 17 Bulgarian tourists died when their bus skidded on a wet road and overturned. The accidents are often caused by poor road conditions, old vehicles, and speeding. Just like the crash I reported along Mokwa – Jebba which were caused by speed and wrongful overtaking. Meanwhile road traffic crashes killed 628 people in 2019 and 463 in 2020 in Bulgaria.
The story from the US is also of wailings and weeping. In Wisconsin, United States, six people were killed and dozens injured when an SUV driver rammed into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on the afternoon of Sunday 21, 2021. The suspect, 39-year-old Darrell Brooks has been charged for homicide. The victims included children, the aged, male and female while the ages ranged from teens to adults about 80 years.
Despite the despair caused by the tragedy, the swift arraignment of the suspect partly comforts me as report has it that the Judge set bail at $5 million. Although Brooks sobbed when a Waukesha County prosecutor announced that a sixth victim – a child had died from injuries sustained, the prosecutor vowed to add a sixth charge, and likely more if additional victims die as a result of injuries sustained. Like I said in my piece last week titled, A ROAD CRASH IS NO ACCIDENT, experts including the presiding Judge described the nature of this offense as shocking. Two detectives who tried to avert the crash by trying to stop the driver described it as an intentional act and a direct intent to hit as many parade participants.
Just like what happened in Bulgaria, Waukesha, Wisconsin, community residents honored the victims with a vigil. In Niger, there were no such honor to express concern over the lives of those lost. So is the case in most countries within the continent. However, it is because of these kind of available road traffic crashes that the UN set the 3rd week of November yearly to remember victims of road traffic crash and do a post mortem on strategies in place to avert further remembrance services.
On November 21, 2021. I was among the few who witnessed the church service at Dominion Chapel in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. My boss was also there although represented, leading Stakeholders including Minister of Health Dr Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire represented stood still in Abuja in commemoration of Road Traffic victims in line with the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 60/5 on improving Global Road Safety.
Yearly, 1.35 million people die as a result of Road traffic collisions, meaning that an average of 32 – 42 people are killed daily on the world’s roads while 20 million to 50 million people are injured or disabled in road collisions. 90% of road traffic deaths occur in low and middle income countries where 5098 people 0r 81% of the world’s population live and own about 20% of the world’s vehicles. Nigeria has its fair share of this madness called road crash. This explains why the new leadership of the FRSC is working on new strategies such as review of the driver’s license scheme, standardization of driving schools and the Road Transport Safety Standardization Scheme, RTSSS.