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Nigerians Now Belting Up (Posted 9th February, 2003) Tell your friends about this page! Email it to them.

A motorist with her seat belt onOn 1st January, 2003 the Nigerian Government through the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), introduced the compulsory usage of seat belts by all motorists in a bid to reduce the occurrence of fatal road accidents and injuries on our roads. According to the Lagos State Sector commander of the FRSC, Mr. Kayode Olagunju, he claims that the estimated rate of accidents on our roads between 1990 and 2001 was around 204,525 with almost 87,000 lives lost. With this estimate it is perceived that the introduction of seat belts will greatly cut down the loss of lives through road accidents by about 50%. He further said that an offender is fined between N600 to N1, 000 depending on the combination of offence committed. 

The Lagos TrafficSince the policy started in earnest in January, a number of drivers have been caught. In Port Harcourt for example, the State Sector Commander, Mr. John Kunle Akolo, according to The Guardian report (Tuesday 14th January, 2003), claims to have arrested over 362 motorists in the State, though he claims that the rate of compliance is about 75 80%. Also, The Guardian Editorial (Wednesday, 8th January, 2003) dedicated to the seat belt issue, claimed that over 500 motorists have been arrested and about 300 vehicles have been impounded for seat belt offences in Lagos State alone. 

LASTMA official & traffic warden in actionReacting to these claims, Mr. Dapo Alugbin, a civil servant in Lagos said most road accidents in the country can be attributed to bad roads and drunken state of most commercial drivers, who constitute a nuisance on the road. What he probably forgot to add to these are the reckless and ignorant attitudes of majority of drivers on Nigerian roads. He implored the Government to focus more on educating the populace and mending the gullies that dot our major roads and expressways (motorways). Another source, Miss Funke was of the opinion that an extensive public enlightenment is needed to educate the public on the benefit of the seat belt, she reiterates that this will be of more impact than the policy. It is now common to see commercial bus drivers strapping a caricature semblance of a seat belt using traveling bag straps and a number of other contraptions in a bid to comply with the policy.  

Mr. Yemi Odubela, CEO of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMAMany commercial drivers on the other hand complained bitterly about the lack of adequate information on the right agency to prosecute offenders. At such other Government agencies like the Nigerian Police and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) are alleged to be capitalising on the new policy by extorting motorists. But, when we visited the LASTMA Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Yemi Odubela, an erstwhile Lagos state Commissioner of Police, he claims his agency is not empowered to arrest seat belt offenders as it is not included in their traffic offences, fines and penalties schedule. He added that at some stage in the very near future, non-compliance with the seatbelt policy will become a traffic offence on Lagos roads. 

So far, it appears that the compulsory use of seat belts in Nigeria has been largely accepted by most Nigerian motorists. If this trend is maintained, it should come as no surprise if the yearly figure for deaths on Nigerian roads is significantly reduced in the near future, as a result of this policy.

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