How Safe are Federal Road Safety’s Vehicles?
I do not have anything against Nigeria’s Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). Road traffic offences would have been worse in our country, without them. Yet, I had a personal experience this morning that told me that the Commission is not above board, in terms of adherence to road safety rules.
A team of the Commission’s officials who were stationed at IBB Way, opposite Airport Police Station, Calabar, Cross River State, ordered me to park by the roadside as I drove from Atimbo, to the heart of the city. After going through my car’s particulars, they inspected the car and declared that the front tyre on the driver’s side is worn out. I thanked them for their observation and promised to replace it later today, when I confirmed that it had indeed lost its sharpness.
Since I had never noticed it before then, I added that there was no cause for alarm because my spare tyre, which they saw, was still okay. I planned to replace it with the spare tyre when I get home. However, my submission did not make any sense to them. Instead, they insisted that I must be booked and fined for driving with a worn out tyre.
They refused to listen to my pleas and insisted that I must drive to their office located at Marian road, accompanied by two of their officials inside my car and the rest of them in their patrol car, behind us.
As we drove along, I chatted with the officials inside my car and commended them for what the Commission has been doing since its inception when Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, pioneered it. I also told them that I am a law abiding citizen and would not set out to breach any rule, particularly on the road.
This seemed like an unnecessary sermon for their mood. They diligently ushered me to their premises and ensured that the gate was locked, as soon as I drove in. I later realized that this meant that my car had been impounded and there was no way that I could leave with it, without paying the required fine for using a worn out tyre.
Anyway, I was given a form to pay the fine to a Treasury Single Account (TSA) at the bank and I obediently did so before my car’s key was released to me. The entire process at the Commission’s premises and the bank took close to three hours of my precious time. But I now realize that it wasn’t a waste. I left with a lesson.
Before I drove out of the Commission’s premises, it occurred to me that I should take a look at the tyres of the patrol vehicle that was used by the team that booked me. I felt that the vehicle’s tyres must be exemplary. Coincidentally, I noticed even from a distance that its front tyre on the driver’s side has lost its friction.
I noticed that if my car’s front tyre in that same position could be described as “worn out”, then it is a compliment, compared to theirs. What I saw in their car looked like a caricature of what a tyre should be. It looked atrophied and expired. I wished I knew earlier!
My instincts told me to take a picture of it. But I dared not, considering the regimented and stern atmosphere that I observed there. I noticed that when the Cross River State Sector Commander of the Commission drove in, one Erebi (leader of the patrol team that took me there) screamed words that immediately halted all activities close to where we stood, in that premises.
Although I was trying to converse with him before that moment, he stood stiff and completely ignored me. Every official of that Commission within my sight, stood at attention. They maintained frozen and motionless positions for about four minutes because the Commander was still in his tinted car, parked at the entrance of the office that booked me. Apparently, he was making a phone call.
As I stood there staring at those motionless officials, I wondered how they would have responded if anyone had called them to attend to an emergency situation such as a road accident, at that moment. Every moment counts, at such times. But it didn’t seem to matter to them. I wondered why adults could halt everything else, just to wait to salute a fellow man who didn’t even seem to be in a hurry to receive a salute.
Well, that is their tradition and I did not go there to question such moribund conventions. I only went there to get my car and leave in peace. But before I left there, I still needed to let them know how I felt about their patrol car’s tyre.
After Erebi (leader of the team that took me there) had asked his colleagues to be at ease when their Commander had stepped out of his vehicle, I told him about their car’s tyre. He seemed shocked and asked me to show him what I meant. When I showed him the tyre, he left me in anger and threatened that he was going to fetch the driver and deal with him. This sounded odd.
Was he pretending? Didn’t he check the tyre before he led a team in it? Didn’t they all know about the condition of that vehicle? Isn’t it equally possible that other patrol vehicles belonging to the Commission are as defective as that patrol vehicle?
If a vehicle belonging to the Commission’s State headquarters in Calabar is as bad as that, how are vehicles in its offices across other Local Government Areas of Cross River State? I had no answers to those questions. I just needed to see how Erebi was going to deal with his colleague, according to his threat.
Unfortunately, I received a phone call that distracted my attention from him. When I finished speaking to my caller, I noticed that the patrol vehicle had driven from where it was parked. I could not see it anymore. Erebi was no longer within sight too. Perhaps he had led his team out on another patrol in that car with a worn tyre, to deal with other cars with similar or even better tyres. There was no point waiting to see more, in that place. I had already lost precious time but gained precious experience and this story.
Matthew 7:5: “You hypocrite, first take the log from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
- Cornelius Ellah
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