Samuel Akinnuga: Road accidents and the failure of FRSC’s emergency response unit

by Samuel Akinnuga

 

It has been submitted that more than 80% of road accidents are directly linked to human errors while 20% happen due to others causes such as bad roads, mechanical faults and so on. The National Bureau of Statistics reports that of the road accidents that occurred in 2016, 33.86% were as a result of over-speeding. Road accidents do not necessarily come as a surprise when one puts into consideration the deplorable of many of our major roads as well as the non-adherence of road users to safety rules. Errors can happen at any time. It is the reality of our society that man and mistakes are two inseparable constants.  Road accidents can occur at any time but as with any possibility, it is not what happens that matters but rather how the incident is managed.

I witnessed an incident that occurred last Sunday at about 11:43 am along the Ibadan-Lagos expressway. The scene happened so fast that for a moment, it was lost on me that I wasn’t on the set of a blockbuster action movie. The car in front of a power bike had stopped so abruptly that the bike rider didn’t have the luxury of time to swerve to safety as a way of adjusting to the situation. Despite a forced move to also slow down, the vehicle behind the power bike was not lucky to avoid hitting the bike rider. That was it. An accident, and a ‘serious’ one at that, had occurred in less than 10 seconds. Other vehicles coming behind had to slow down to avoid joining the bashing foray. At this point, the problem was not about the damaged windshields, bumpers or side mirrors of the vehicles involved, the problem was the rider who had gone ‘missing’. As the vehicle I was in slowly drove past the scene, the power bike could be seen without the rider on it. Traffic was already building up but that was, in this case, not as serious an issue as searching for the ‘missing’ rider. With the driver suggesting, I agreed that we stopped to help with whatever we could in that situation. I walked to join several others, who were majorly passengers of one of the commercial buses involved in the accident to look for the rider. He was found ‘stuck’ beneath another commercial bus close to the pavement and it was clear that he needed urgent medical attention. The case could have been worse off but for the safety gear he was wearing.

The next instinctive thing to do was to call one of the Emergency Lines. The one I could remember at that point was the 7-6-7 of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA). However not much could be done since the scene was outside their ‘jurisdiction’ but the representative helped with the emergency line of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

I called the emergency unit of the FRSC via the 1-2-2 emergency line to report the situation and request that an Ambulance be sent to get the rider to the hospital seeing that the bike rider needed urgent medical attention. Unfortunately, I didn’t get through to speak with any representative to report the incident. On connecting, there was a disclaimer of some sort to inform that the number was not a customer service of any of the Mobile Service Provider after which I was directed to ‘Press 1’ to report the emergency. In the eight times of trying this line and following the commands that followed, I was still not able to speak with an FRSC representative to report the incident. Why this happened, I don’t know but the sad thing is that the line could not be reached at the moment when it was needed the most.  In my view, the ‘disclaimer’ preceded was too long. This is one of such situation where a life could be saved or lost in one second and then the caller (the person trying to report the emergency) is greeted by the voice of a machine trying to confirm that the person was calling the right number or trying to report the right incident. That, in my opinion, was totally unhelpful in that situation.

This is just a personal experience and is another case of the several stories of times when accident situations were not properly managed either due to the inefficiency or the delay of the emergency service. It is sad that many have lost their lives on Nigerian roads because help didn’t come in time.

Although the injured rider was taken to the hospital by a ‘Good Samaritan’, it doesn’t dismiss the truth that anything could have happened; worse still, death because the response line wasn’t connecting or because the response unit didn’t arrive at the ‘right’ time when matters could still be salvaged. This essay is not in any way an attempt to disparage the FRSC or its efforts in ensuring the safety of road users, but rather a charge that things could be better, particularly when it comes to responding to road emergency situations. The life of every Nigerian means a lot and must be taken as such by our emergency operations unit.

I have struggled to get over the incident. I cannot but think of how bad things may have turned out if the injured in the accident wasn’t taken to the hospital on time.

With an efficient emergency response unit, we would be reducing the number of people who lose their lives due to accidents they didn’t ‘plan’ for. I also want to appeal to Nigerians who might be in the position of helping accident victims not to hesitate to do so; even though this might be a very difficult thing to do in today’s Nigeria. In moments when the emergency management units do not respond on time for reasons beyond their control, the people around such incidents can do a lot to salvage the situation. We never can tell how much our efforts make the difference in saving a life.

I hope this makes sense!


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Samuel writes in from Lagos, Nigeria

 

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