Friday, 29 July 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARY: Road Accidents In Nigeria, Analysis And Discussion — Adeyemi Adedokun

Infographic of RTA Nigeria, 2013
By Adeyemi Adedokun

The above infographic visualizes the key areas in the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Annual Report for 2013. In this article, we shall be discussing these key areas, shedding more light on their significance. Please note that there are some more important items in the report that could not be included in this chart but would be referred in the article.

The total population used in this report is believed to be 160 million people (as stated in the OECD/ITF report), total road length of 194 thousand kilometres (as cited by Vitus N. Nkoji), and total vehicle population of 10 million vehicles (as cited by FRSC Vehicle Inspection and Certification Head). This translates to 825 persons per km of road. According to World Bank ranking of number of vehicles per 1000 inhabitant in 2007, Nigeria ranked 143 with 31cars per 1,000 inhabitant. This is 2015 and this figure is yet to be updated. Imagine what the ranking would be with adequate data.

More vehicles on the road usually lead to more road accident as the risk of accident is increased with exposure. The impact of exposure on traffic safety is well reflected in the number of deaths and injury recorded on Nigerian roads.

6,450 Nigerians lost their lives on our roads in 2013, which includes 4,552 men, 1398 women, 299 boys and 201 girls. The report shows that men are almost four times more involved in road accident death. More data from the report content shows that between 2009 and 2013, 30435 people were killed in road accident in Nigeria (This is about the size of a European city, e.g. Gyula, Hungary). Also, 28,480 men, 9,198 women, 1,520 boys and 859 girls, a total of 40,057 people were injured in road accidents in 2013. Looking through the years, the report shows that 183,531 people were injured in road accidents between 2009 and 2013, and the extent of their injury is unknown.

The numbers support the report that Nigeria is ranked second-highest in the rate of road accidents among 193 countries of the world. A report from WHO adjudged Nigeria the most dangerous country in Africa with 33.7 deaths per 100,000 population every year. According to the report, one in every four road accident deaths in Africa occurs in Nigeria. A conclusion drawn by Nigeria watch states that next to Boko Haram insurgency, road accident is the second highest source of violent death in Nigeria.

‘You cannot control/develop what you cannot measure’, Tom DeMarco. This we believe, is the major reason why road accidents among other things in Nigeria remains consistently high, despite several intervention from agencies such as the World Bank and other organizations.

Every standard report starts out with an official national population statistics, with which the number of fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants is calculated. There seem to be several figures from different sources, which is perhaps why the FRSC decided to be silent on this one. The effect of this is seen in the report from the WHO, which concluded that Nigeria records 33.7 deaths per 100,000 inhabitant. This is ridiculously high by global standard and totally untrue according to the report from the FRSC, but no one has until now, publicly challenge this report and this is unfortunately the information available to the world on Wikipedia. The Nigerian population according to data from World Bank was 159.7 million in 2010. 6052 fatalities were recorded in 2013 according to the FRSC report. Using the formula from Indiana State in the US, this gives approximately 3.8 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitant. Fatality is a term for people killed in road accident either immediately or within 30 days from the day of crash. This is still relatively high in an environment where most accidents and fatalities are underreported. The report has no information about the total road length in the country or total vehicle population for adequate measurement and calculations, all which had to be sourced from different papers and reports.

70.6% of the total number of people killed in road accident in 2013 are men. These are fathers, uncles, brothers, sons, and friends to people. A report from WHO concluded that 3 out of every 4 road deaths are among men. We are losing are men! Children are also not excluded from this violent death, as a report from the FRSC stated that 1903 children were killed and 8667 children were injured in road traffic accidents between 2010 and 2014.

Underreporting of road accident is a global problem, but this problem is more amplified in Nigeria where little or no data is readily or easily available. The information available in this report seems to have recorded only road accidents on the highway and inter-city routes. Some routes were identified in the report published by OECD as black, due to high number of recorded accidents. But what about accidents on routes within the state? Like Ikorodu road in Lagos, Lugbe road in Abuja, intersections in Kaduna, Wamba road in Nasarawa, bridge in Anambra, and so on within the states where accidents are known to be frequent? Declaring these routes as black is not a public knowledge as the information is not available to the road users. Warning the public with data yields better result while treatment is being applied for correction.

The accident severity index in Yobe is proof that commercial vehicles constitutes the highest number of accidents and records the highest number of deaths with 55.8% of the total recorded cases. The severity index means that in Yobe, every 10 road accident gets 19.30 killed. There is an urgent need for an intervention in the public transport system in Nigeria, as this system is largely dominated by associations and communities of people with very little or no safety education. No wonder why the first property every Nigerian longs to acquire is a car. Private vehicles constituted (42.5%), Government vehicles (1.6%) and Diplomat vehicles (0.1%).

Speed violation is reported as the major cause of fatal accidents, with 32% of total cases reported. But this offence that has claimed and is still claiming several lives is only a 3 points offence in the FRSC traffic offence and penalties, with a fine of ₦3,000 only. The Lagos State government however seem to understand the effect of this matter and has placed a fine of ₦50,000 only on the same offence. Alcohol, which is known as a top accident cause globally, and readily available at almost every motor park across the country (in different forms like ‘shepe or paraga’, local herbs soaked in dry gin), is reported by the FRSC to constitute only 1% of the total accidents in the OECD report. This is clearly a case of lack of measurement. Nigeria by law allows BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) level of up to 0.5g/l, but anything above that becomes Driving under Influence offence (DUI), which is a 5points offence with a fine of ₦5,000 only. According to International Centre for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), BAC level between 0.2–0.9 mg/ml for a typical person could cause mood changes, acting inappropriately, impaired coordination, slowed reaction time and diminished response to pain. Even distracted driving records only 0.4% of the total accidents reported, in a country that constituted 76% of mobile internet share of web traffic in January 2015? Loss of Control caused 17.1%, Dangerous driving caused 12.1% and Fatigue caused 2% of fatal road accidents reported.

Nigeria is Africa’s fastest growing economy. This also means that our traffic and transportation problems are growing at a steady rate, and requires all the help it can get. The FRSC is doing a decent job to the best of their ability, just that their best might not be sufficient for the growing road safety needs. FRSC members need more training and capacity to meet the demand of enforcing the law. Other law enforcement agencies at both state and federal level also need to trained and synergize with the FRSC.

We have to set a national goal for our road transportation and safety, and also develop a national policy to drive the goal. In 1997, Sweden set a goal called ‘Vision Zero’ that aims to achieve zero road accident death and fatal injury on Swedish roads. The result of this vision has inspired several countries around the world to adopt the goal and also to develop individual national policy.

Nigeria needs a national policy for road safety that will protect our children who are the future of the nation and other vulnerable road users like pedestrians and old people from being violently killed and injured in road accidents, a policy that will ensure that vehicles that are not road-worthy are kept off our roads, a policy that will ensure the development of transportation and road safety research, a policy that will ensure that road safety education is part of our educational curriculum, a policy that will ensure that road safety platform is not used to extort the people but to educate, serve and prevent road accidents occurrence, and a policy that will make road safety and transportation data available to the public.

Our prayer is, very soon Boko Haram and terrorism will be completely defeated. But if we fail to attend to safety needs on our roads, uncountable number of Nigerians will continue to die and severely injured daily for reasons that could be measured and controlled. This could be you or me.

Adeyemi Adedokun is an Intelligent Transport researcher at Linköping University, Sweden. He is the founder of Accidentdata Nigeria, a road safety campaign initiative that aims to use crowdsourced information to build a public accident database and provide road safety education to Nigerians. He can be reached on +46729037809, and tweets @accidentdatang

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of nor its associates

NEWS POST: Accident Rate Still High In Nigeria, Says FRSC Boss

FRSC V-SAT Locations Nation Wide

In November, 2014, Daily Trust reported that the corps marshal and chief executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Boboye Oyeyemi, has said that despite the efforts of the corps to minimize road accidents in the country, the rate still remains high. He revealed that about US$100billion is lost yearly to road crashes by low and middle income countries. Oyeyemi emphasized that such huge losses undoubtedly hinder economic and social development, and therefore, inhibit national development efforts.

Delivering a 16-page speech entitled, “Governance and the Public Policy Process: The Contributions of the Federal Road Safety Corps to the Transformation Agenda,” at the 2014 annual public lecture organized by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka inside the Princess Alexandra Auditorium, Oyeyemi said reports of crashes recorded in the country over the years remained high, adding that victims of road accidents consisted mostly of young, productive and energetic segment of the national population.

 “They are either killed or injured in the Nigerian roads. We know from studies that low and middle income countries unfortunately are the most vulnerable to road traffic crashes. Currently, the sum of US$100billion being lost to road traffic crashes every year is almost twice the total development assistance received worldwide by developing countries,” he said.

Painting a graphic picture of the figures of road mishaps in the country and the casualties, Oyeyemi said:  “For the avoidance of doubt, a total of 6,052 people died from road traffic crashes in Nigeria in 2010, and by 2012 it was 6,092, while 6,450 died from road crashes last year, 2013. However, as at the last week of November, 2014, a total of 4,643 people died from road traffic crashes throughout the country. This decline is positive for the previous trend, but it remains high.

“The economic and social costs that these human losses have brought to bear on the nation are better imagined. But what is clear is that though the aforementioned number of people unfortunately died from avoidable road traffic crashes, the situation could have been worse without the presence of the FRSC men on the highways to caution, enlighten and enforce traffic laws on recalcitrant drivers while deploying rescue teams to assist crash victims so that those who would have lived do not die due to lack of prompt and efficient attention.”

He regretted that Nigeria, with a total road network of 204,200 kilometres, comprising 34,120 kilometres of federal roads, 30,500 kilometres of state roads, and 129,580 kilometres of local government roads, was characterized by lack of coherent national road policy on application of road standards.

“It also has limited professional and business capacity, resulting in inefficient services. In addition, the country’s road network lacks appropriate road design standards to keep pace with increased vehicular traffic volumes and vehicle weights,” he said, adding that this  was  in addition to the “lack of road markings, safety barriers and signage, which contribute to the high crashes and casualty rate on all roads.”

He appealed to state governments to fully buy into road safety, demonstrating political will through the establishment of state traffic agencies, while taking advantage of the FRSC training institutions to train their personnel.

“I call on all critical stakeholders, transport associations, insurance companies, government agencies, haulage and other professional associations to fully cooperate with all tenets of the national road traffic regulations, RTSSS, DSSP and other laudable programmes put in place by the FRSC to checkmate carnage on our roads,” Oyeyemi said.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARY: Where Are The Youth To Lead Nigeria? — Niran Adedokun

Image credit: YRNO
By Niran Adedokun

There is a debate currently going at the National Assembly and in the minds of everyone who imagines that Nigerian youths have consistently been denied access to high political office.

You would have over the years, encountered allusions to how it was said by some politicians, shortly after independence, that the future belonged to the youth and how those same politicians are still holding the tiller piloting national affairs 55 years on.

Since return to democracy 16 years ago for instance, Nigeria has at various times been at the mercy of one sexagenarian and a septuagenarian. Both of them, having a second take at the slot.

The first, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was negotiated back to office by fellows of his gerontocratic communion from around the country. He attained civilian presidency at the age of 63 relinquishing power to his choice of successor when he turned 71.

Obasanjo mostly ruled Nigeria with the fistful authority of an African patriarch, whose word is law and command is decree. With him in power, the people’s desire for a younger leader grew like a deer panting for water. And by some happenstance, since Obasanjo is not exactly popular for deferring to public opinion, he was succeeded by a much younger man who was succeeded by another younger man.

Unfortunately, by the end of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, a majority of Nigerians were ready to try the leadership of anyone irrespective of the number of years they had lived.

In response to some suggestions that age was not on the side of then Candidate Muhammadu Buhari, his supporters drew parallels from the triad of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, America’s Ronald Regan and Britain’s Winston Churchill in the justification of the sense in electing someone in the autumn of his years as President. With unusual passion and near unanimity, Nigeria sought a Buhari Presidency, hinging this desire on his legendary integrity, an aptitude, which was long lost in our leadership.

But even then, a great number of Nigerians insisted that the country deserved a much younger leader. And one year into the Buhari administration, members of the National Assembly are considering legislating this into fruition.

A Peoples Democratic Party member representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency 2, Tony Nwulu, recently proposed a bill seeking to alter Sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution as amended. This is to reduce the age qualification for the offices of President, Governor and Senator from 40 to 30 years and 25 years respectively in order to open public offices to younger people and expand the age bracket for political participation.

Nwulu made copious references to jurisdictions like the United Kingdom, France, Norway and several countries in western societies where the age qualification for political participation is much younger. He spoke about the need for Nigeria to expand the frontiers of democracy and quality of political office holders by considering lowering the barrier of entry.

I imagine that advocates of the massive recruitment of young people into active politics will hail this gesture, which has already passed second reading and may soon become law depending on the successful amendment of the constitution, but I consider this to be one of those impulsive steps that Nigeria leaders take in total indifference to our realities. Such leaders will always run themselves and society into a socio-political quicksand.

While it is true that the situation of the Nigerian youth has progressively deteriorated over the years due to policy failures, entrenched self-interests and incompetence on the part of successive leaders who have undermined the competitive capacity of our society, to imagine that lowering the age qualification for nomination to high political offices will solve this problem is indicative of a lack of rigorous contemplation.

The first question to ask proponents of this amendment is what happens to the academic and intellectual capacities of the individuals who aspire to these offices? Do we still leave the basic qualification at school certificate?

Secondly, do these lawmakers realize that a chunk of our youths are still struggling to get out of higher institutions due to the injuries that gaining admission and incessant strike actions inflict on them during their tenure on campuses at about age 25 and 30? And those who are out are still searching for a steady means of livelihood, jumping from one bus unto a commercial motorcycle, perspiring all over, resume in hand in search of increasingly diminishing employment opportunities. Do we want to surrender political office to people who would see politics as meal tickets?

The only other possibility is that these offices will be passed on to offspring of politicians and upper class Nigerians who attain academic qualification at relative young ages.  In which case, we would be excluding the majority of Nigerian youths, handing over political offices to the children of the same people who have destroyed the country.

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Were our lawmakers not too removed from reality, they would realize that the fundamental needs of young people is a working society where functional education is available and affordable, where attaining gainful employment is not Herculean, where security is assured and prosperity flourishes. They would work for a society where no one is discriminated against on account of age, sex, religion or tongue. A nation where individuals with industry, intellect and ingenuity can actualize and build castles of prosperity without affiliations to Daura, Bourdillion, Otuoke or Ilorin.

When we erect such pillars of shared prosperity, young people will not need the generous solicitation of lawmakers before demanding their rightful place in the organogram of power in a society in which they are an integral part. And this does not have to be in politics.

Professor Wole Soyinka, who would later go on to win the Nobel Prize for literature wrote his first major play, The Swamp Dwellers at 24! This was followed by the hugely successful Lion and the Jewel one year later and the oracular Dance of The Forest in 1960 when he was 26! The same goes for Professor Chinua Achebe, whose magnum opus, Things Fall Apart, was accomplished at age 28.

Professor Iya Abubakar had worked as visiting professor at the University of Michigan before his 30th birthday. He was later appointed Professor of Mathematics at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

The same can be said of some First Republic politicians. Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s book, Path to Nigerian Freedom, was published in 1946 when he was freshly called to Bar. He set up the Egbe Omo Oduduwa one year later in his late 30s. At age 30, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe had become a household name in most of Africa while Sirs Ahmadu Bello and Abubakar  Tafawa Balewa formed the Northern People’s Congress in their 30s.

Although we still argue over the auspiciousness of the Biafran War, that secession attempt was led by 34-year-old Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who prosecuted the war with philosophical sophistication. His opposite on the Nigerian side, Col Yakubu Gowon, became head of state at 32. Now, just a few of these men had any privileged hereditary neither did they attain these posts for being young. They were qualified and flourished in a society that gave them the best.

Any law reducing the qualification for political participation is therefore, at best, self-serving. It gives its proponents away as agents of the materialistic school of politics where access to power is equal to flinging the door open for younger persons to plunder the commonwealth.

Were their views of politics in conformity with Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian school where power is an avenue for service and seeking the happiness of the greatest number of the people, they would focus on fundamental, progressive and futuristic appreciation of energies of the younger generation than the tradition of allotment that currently defines our politics.

Dynamic laws are required in education, culture, sports, science, law, innovation and entrepreneurship all with the potential to jumpstart Nigeria into a position of respect within the global community and inspire faith.

We should create an open society that encourages a culture of debate over political fraternity that has crippled our leadership selection process. But this age reduction initiative in the legislature is a knee-jerk initiative which is not able to lead Nigerian youths to any better future.

Follow me on twitter@niranadedokun

Originally published in The Punch 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARY: The Politics Of University Admission In Nigeria — Niyi Akinnaso

By Professor Niyi Akinnaso

Niyi Akinnaso
When I applied for admission to the university in the 1960s, I knew nobody. There was no godfather or godmother. Neither my parents nor my older siblings could assist me, because they were all stark illiterates. As the first person in the entire Akinnaso lineage to ever go to school, I was virtually on my own. Without any guidance whatsoever, I applied for direct entry admission to the University of Ibadan and the University of Ife, after passing the required General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) papers at the end of my first year of the Higher School Certificate class. I was admitted by both institutions, each one acting independently and without recourse to a superior authority. Ife, then, was a regional university, while Ibadan was federal. I chose to go to Ife to read English. The rest is history.

I told my admission story to a senior female civil servant, who approached me last year for assistance in getting her daughter admitted to study law at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko. She listened attentively to my story and replied: “That was then, sir. The country has changed. You have to know somebody who knows somebody in order to get things done.” I’m sure she did not like my next statement: “It’s people like you, who beg around, that caused the country to change”. She was not done: “No sir, it’s the system”.

There really is plenty of blame to go round, just as there are many sharers of the blame, including the students and their parents; the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board; the universities; the Federal Government; and the society at large. But my focus today is the government, which is now like that wild elephant, reported in the media recently, which killed an admirer who wanted to take a selfie with it.

The Federal Government has been known to be the enemy of quality tertiary education in this country.  It has earned that status by (1) over-centralizing the institutions, procedures and regulations governing the activities of the universities and then starving them of the resources needed to carry out those activities. Even where some resources are available, such as the tertiary education funds, the procedures for accessing them are again over-centralized.

In a distinguished lecture, titled ‘Education sector in crisis’, given by Professor Ladipo Adamolekun at the Joseph Ayo Babaloa University in 2012, over-centralization was one of the three major causes of the crisis in the education sector, the other two being implementation failure – due largely to inadequate funding – and the de-emphasis of the value of education, including quality decline in the teaching profession.

Adamolekun gave five examples of over-centralization, namely, the Universal Basic Education programme; the establishment and operations of the unity secondary schools; the centralization of the labour unions; the establishment of the National Universities Commission with its centralizing functions; and the allocation of the lion’s share of the nation’s resources to the Federal Government.

Adamolekun rightly traced these developments to over 30 years of military dictatorship, which began its stranglehold on the nation’s universities by federalizing erstwhile regional universities. Today, however, perhaps the most controversial centralizing agency is the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, empowered to conduct the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations and oversee university admission.  Enough controversy was generated recently between the Director of JAMB, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, and the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to send significant ripples through the university system.

There are three knotty issues. First, who or which institution should admit students to the university? It normally should be the Senate of the university, which often delegates the authority of processing the necessary papers to the admissions office located within the Academic Affairs Unit in the Vice-Chancellor’s office. That was the case when I was admitted to the university.

Today, however, JAMB has taken over this function, while the admission offices of the various public universities are being used as clearing houses. After weeks of controversy as to how this function should be performed, Ojerinde issued this clarification recently: “The public and all tertiary institutions should note that admission will only be approved by the board after appropriate screening of the candidates by the institutions”.

Yet, the Education minister still believes that this does not “in any way affect the statutory role of the Senate of any university or the academic boards of any tertiary institution conducting its admissions.” It would appear that what the minister understands as the role of the Senate is reduced to shortlisting. According to him, the universities will shortlist the candidates, using the agreed guidelines and return the shortlisted candidates to JAMB for verification of compliance to the guidelines.  JAMB will subsequently issue admission letters to the shortlisted candidates.

The said guidelines appear to be the minister’s main target and it is the second knotty issue. According to him, the admission exercise rests on the tripod of merit, catchment area and educationally disadvantaged states. The last two criteria are intended to trump merit so that low-scoring students from particular localities or states could be admitted.

This is not only an affront to the Senate’s ability to control standards in its admission; it also questions the business of the Federal Government in the admission of students to state universities. What should my state government care about admitting low-scoring students from another state because that state is educationally disadvantaged? How is educational disadvantage measured and who measures it? Wasn’t this kind of admission policy the killer of the unity secondary schools, where standards plummeted because many under-performing students were admitted?

The third and final knotty issue is university autonomy. The Federal Government and two of its agencies, namely, JAMB and the National Universities Commission (NUC), have killed whatever is left of university autonomy. The truth is that it is JAMB which admits students, while the NUC regulates everything else from the accreditation of courses to curriculum guidelines and the classification of degrees. The Federal Government completes the process by appointing Council members and ratifying the appointment of Vice-Chancellors. Little wonder many a Vice-Chancellor spends substantial time in Abuja these days.

To the extent that Nigerian universities are run like extensions of the ministry of education, to that extent will they continue to rot away like that ministry where there is neither institutional memory nor policy consistency. True, this problem is not peculiar to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Nevertheless, there are genuine concerns that his administration has yet to have a grasp on education.

This university admission is the administration’s second major foray into education. The first, the school feeding programme, has yet to take off. With the lacklustre handling of this year’s admission procedure so far, it is unclear what the future of education holds in the administration. Certainly, the present Minister of Education has yet to begin the bend in his learning curve.

Originally published in The PUNCH