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IGP Egbetokun, what does it cost to regulate use of siren?

Driving on Nigerian highways requires a lot of patience and courage because the roads are full of dangerous and intimidating scenarios. While many of the…

Driving on Nigerian highways requires a lot of patience and courage because the roads are full of dangerous and intimidating scenarios. While many of the roads are bad, which is a good reason for motorists to drive with care; the general attitude of most road users is indeed worse. It is hard to cover a distance of 10 kilometers without catching a glimpse of reckless driving, over-speeding, dangerous over-taking, or other nauseating behaviours among drivers of small and articulated vehicles. All the known misconducts exhibited by road users is common to all categories of drivers including those that drive private, commercial, and government-owned vehicles.

The situation is further worsened by the indiscriminate use of siren and the illegitimate covering of vehicle number plates; sometimes by people who at best can only be described as nonentities. Those who engage in these road misconducts do so to eade their violation of traffic rules. None of these misdemeanors is agonizingly upsetting and humiliating as the misuse of siren just as none could be as dubious and criminal as the covering of vehicle number plate.

It was heartwarming when, recently, the police told Nigerians that it is criminal to cover the number plates of their vehicles. Making the clarification via his X handle (formerly called Twitter), the Force spokesperson, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the criminal act of covering number plate will no longer be tolerated. It’s compulsory to make registered numbers visible at all times,” Adejobi stated; adding that “It encourages recklessness and crimes with impunity.” He urged police operatives and personnel of traffic management agencies in the country to tackle the impunity and “go after” vehicle owners and drivers who violate the order.

Clarifying those permitted by law to cover their vehicle’s number plate, Adejobi said “pennant officers” and heads of three arms of government (executive, legislature and judiciary) are exempted from the rule that forbids others from covering vehicle number plates;  meaning they are allowed to use emblems or flags on their official cars. He explained that the flag on the official vehicle shall remain covered along with their registered number plate or seal of office when the officer entitled to use them is not in the vehicle. The police spokesperson, however, said the flag must go down and the official vehicle number plate is uncovered once it is 6p.m.

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We expected Oga Adejobi’s clarifications to go beyond unauthorized covering of vehicle number palates by extending the ‘riot act’ to the scandalous use of siren because it is those who use siren that also cover the number plates of their vehicles. Nigerians are as excruciatingly worried with the flagrant abuse of the privileges of siren ad they are with the unlawful concealment of vehicle number plate; two gross misconducts that since paved way for unauthorized users of siren to behave as if they were ‘wild animals’ on the highways.

But if one would be allowed to ask the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Egbetokun, what (not how much) does it cost to enforce the law on the use of siren in Nigeria? Neither the decades of public outcry against the menace nor attempts by past IGPs to stop indiscriminate use of siren yielded any results. It would be recalled that sometime in 2020, former IGP Mohammed Adamu, ordered state police commands across the country to impound all vehicles illegally using not just the siren but also the supernumerary (spy) number plates, revolving lights or covered number plates. Former IGP Adamu gave the directive when the then Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Boboye Oyeyemi, paid him a working visit. The ceaseless but crazy use of siren and revolving lights on Nigerian roads is enough evidence that former IGP Adamu’s directive did not go beyond the premises of the Force Headquarters. Adamu’s order was issued by nearly all his predecessors. Even the bill passed by the House of Representatives in July 2009 banning the use of siren by unauthorised persons including the First Lady as well as governors’ wives, and ministers failed to see the light of the day.

In civilised climes where laws are enforced, sirens which were meant for the good of humanity are designed for use only under emergency situations even by those authorised to use them. Although I’m not widely travelled, the few countries I’ve visited reminds of several instances where I did not hear any siren noise for the period of my sojourn there. If any, it came from the police, the fire service and ambulances. But in Nigeria, the device has since been converted into an instrument for harassing, intimidating, and sometimes causing injuries to other road users and innocent members of the public. Siren-blaring convoys of VIPs and bullion vans often force oncoming vehicles to either stop or clear off the road in a manner that exposes law-abiding road users to hazards. Such official reckless driving by the convoy of a former Kogi State governor, Captain Idris Wada, once claimed the life of a former National President of ASUU, Dr Festus Iyayi, while on a journey by road to attend an ASUU National Executive meeting in Kano.

School children and other groups of pedestrians are frequently under harassment from the wailing sirens of illegal users that include lawmakers, highly-placed government officials, politicians and political office holders. Now, even some local government chairmen have installed the device in their vehicles simply because it has become a status symbol. Except for the nobodies, people who matter do not even want their presence noticed because being a genuine VIP goes along with many public burdens. The way we going in Nigeria, local government councillors would soon begin to use siren. The only institution that is not known for misusing siren in Nigeria is the military. Because of the widespread abuse of the siren, many private individuals have mounted the device on their vehicles which they use anytime, anywhere, anyhow, and in complete disregard to traffic regulations. The regrettable abuse of privilege by VIPs and its arrogation by individuals has rather turned sirens into nuisance on our roads. The presence of law enforcement agents from the police force in VIP convoys makes the nuisance more baffling. It’s ridiculous that in Nigeria, pilot cars still do not carry registered number plates.

The question is, would collaborating with the Corps Marshal of the FRSC to regulate siren cost the IGP his job? I don’t think so. May Allah inspire Egbetokun to be the first IGP to  enforce the law on use of siren, amin.

 

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