AWAY WITH DEFECTIVE VEHICLES
At a recent conference on vehicle roadworthiness in Abuja, the participants agreed that Nigerian roads are plagued by motor vehicles that are anything but roadworthy. These defective vehicles cause accidents on equally defective roads.
But the greater danger, according to Federal Road Safety Corps Commission's corps marshal Osita Chidoka, is that there is no sign of improvement even with new technologies and manufacturing systems.
Pessimism should, however, give way to optimism in a matter of life and death. A defective vehicle is easily identifiable even without modern technologies.
The sound of its engine, its movement on the road, the state of its mechanical and electrical systems - all these and more can easily give away a non-roadworthy vehicle. Vehicle inspectors should have been busier with pasting 'OFF THE ROAD' stickers on the several 'coffins' plying our roads.
It is almost impossible to do away with all non-roadworthy vehicles because we have since become a 'tokunbo' nation where all kinds of used vehicles are dumped. Even after several attempts to curtail the importation of over-aged and overused vehicles into the country, the borders have remained open for smugglers.
And, since many car owners can only afford 'tokunbo' cars, the demand for old cars has remained high. Besides, many of the vehicles are poorly maintained. It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria is ranked second in world road accident fatalities. The country also records one death in almost every three accidents. This is deplorable.
As observed at the Abuja conference, law enforcement agents cannot get rid of defective vehicles on the roads until the existing laws are amended. Provisions on vehicles' roadworthiness are even more dated than the vehicles themselves: they were last revised in the 1960s!
How can a law made when there were no 'tokunbo' vehicles in the country be enforced? Regulators like the FRSC, VIO, the National Automotive Centre (NAC) and the police are moreover hampered by inadequate manpower and facilities. The situation has been allowed to degenerate so much that, if rigid monitoring procedures meant to check compromises were to be applied today, the Nigerian culprits would overwhelm the inspectors.
But should we continue like this? So many lives have been lost already. One more life lost on the road will be too many. Vehicle owners themselves should know when to take their vehicles off the road. If legislation is the problem, it should be enacted immediately.
Whereas it will be impracticable to eliminate all defective vehicles from the roads in one day, the authorities concerned should, at least, prevent them from embarking on long-distance journeys. Vehicle inspectors and road marshals seem to have focused more attention on revenue generation. It is the wrong attitude: they have been hired to save lives.