The recent disclosure that operatives of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) may soon bear arms in the discharge of their functions is not what the corps should concern itself with now. Although the lobby to change the FRSC to arms-bearing agency has been on for some time now, Nigerians are not likely to be persuaded that they should carry arms in view of the fact that so many paramilitary organisations are already bearing arms.The consequences of having so many arms-bearing uniformed men are glaring.
To allow the FRSC officials to carry arms will amount to unnecessary proliferation of arms-bearing agencies in the land. Besides, we seriously doubt that bearing of arms would significantly enhance the effective discharge of the FRSC core duties. On the other hand, we believe that it could undermine them.
At inception in 1988, the FRSC was strictly a road safety regulating agency. It was a response to the increasing road accidents in the country, which ranked Nigeria among the worst hit nations in the world. In fact, Nigeria led Africa in that regard. The FRSC that was championed by the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and others was the pride of Nigeria. The FRSC was known then for its discipline, selflessness and patriotism. Its officers and men exhibited good training, orientation and professionalism to the hilt. They were ever present on the highways and their presence gave a sense of safety and protection to road users. No doubt, the fear of the FRSC officials was then the beginning of wisdom to any erring driver or motorist.
But today, the same cannot be said of the corps as indiscipline, corruption and general laxity have reportedly crept into its operations. Although the laws that set up the FRSC may have provided for the possibility of the officials of the agency to bear arms, such a proviso should not be implemented until it is approved by the government. It is probably in anticipation of this approval that the FRSC is reportedly preparing to bear arms. According to the report, “The FRSC has built its armoury in Gwagwalada, Abuja, while there are weapon rooms in all commands of the corps. We are waiting for government to gazette the approval and equip the armoury in line with the Act that established the corps.”
Whether the report is true or not, we advise that the corps should not be allowed to bear arms. The FRSC officials don’t have to carry guns before they can perform their traffic control duties. We do not think that bearing arms will enhance their operations. What they should do is to seek how to restore their lost glory and win back the confidence of the people. To achieve this, the FRSC should stick to its statutory functions which include making highways safe for motorists and other road users as well as checking road worthiness of vehicles, recommending works and infrastructure to eliminate and minimise accidents on the highways. They should also educate motorists and members of the public on the importance of road discipline on the highways.
Bearing arms would only expose personnel of the road safety to malicious attacks by criminal elements and gangs that abound in the country. This would definitely make a bad situation even worse. In the beginning, the FRSC officials were seen as patriots who render selfless service to road users. Attacking them or causing them any harm was the least expected of anybody. We advise the Federal Government not to allow the officials of the agency to bear arms. Paramilitary agencies bearing arms are already too many for the polity. Adding the FRSC to the already long list will make the situation more chaotic and hard to control.