Editorial – Use of citizen journalism to curb accidents on Nigerian roads

M. Ganiyu and Q. Akinreti explained that citizen journalism means that citizen, who can be described as people create the news which journalists write on while the journalism is a profession carried out by trained journalists, meanwhile, technological advancement at the turn of the 21st Century and the dynamic use of the internet has resulted into the dual roles played by citizens.[1]

In their application of the term, Ganiyu and Akinreti revealed that the citizens now capture newsworthy events on their digital devices (mobile phones) and then share the contents with some write ups across social media – for the fun of it and for the purpose of sharing information to their friends, colleagues and contacts.

This suggests that there is enormous opportunity for the Nigerian government to work hand-in-hand with the citizenry by leveraging on citizen journalism to reduce the spate of accidents on the roads across the states of the federations.

In one of the statistics on road crashes, about 1, 538 souls were said to have perished within the space of three months on Nigerian roads in the fourth quarter of 2018 of which according to a report released by the National Bureau of Statistics, speed violation was the major cause and it accounted for 52% of the total road crashes while of the 1,538 reportedly killed in road crashes within the period in question, 1,422 are adults, and 116 are children.[2]

It is tiring to see that accidents keep happening in large scales despite the efforts of the Federal Road Safety Corps of Nigeria (FRSC). On multiple occasions, the agency had sensitised the public, especially, commercial bus drivers against accidents advising them to: avoid driving against traffic, not to drive when feeling dizzy, avoid drink-driving, not to use phones while driving, use seatbelt, and conduct daily routine of checking irregularities on their vehicles, among others.

Howbeit, many drivers (both private and commercial) still engage in all these illegalities that they have been advised against. Explaining a recent experience he had on the 18th of November, 2019 on his way to Ajebo in Ogun State, our Editor-In-Chief, Emmanuel Oladipo, having boarded a commercial vehicle from Ojodu Berger area of Lagos State said that the driver appeared cool, calm and collected only for the vehicle to hit the road – then the driver began to receive and to make calls while driving.

Emmanuel revealed that there was a time, when he was almost reaching his destination, that the driver needed to pull in the seatbelt but instead of parking the vehicle to do that he just kept driving – forcing himself to open the door on motion and, then, holding the steering with just his elbow: in a twinkle of an eye, the driver forgot himself as he closed the door and the vehicle was going to summersault while on motion.

Undeniably, experiences like that of Emmamuel with commercial drivers, are common place in Nigeria. One might, even, see a commercial driver competing on the roads with two trailers: one trailer on one hand and the other on another, the driver and his passengers would only be in the middle regardless of the passengers’ disapproval. Thus, the proper mean to checkmate accidents on Nigerian roads would be to utilise the citizen journalism strategy by the FRSC.

Although, this strategy must needs be augmented with the establishment of tollgates on the highways which should be made to function like that of the Seme-Border in Lagos in order to ensure that passengers who have evidence against their drivers come forward. When this is done, commercial drivers would be conscious of the fact that not only should they observe all rules and regulations attached to the use of roads, but they would be afraid to fall preys to the law knowing that their passengers also serve as the eyes of the law.

The tollgates should be erected at reasonable intervals on all highways across the country so that there would be no escape routes for defaulters, notwithstanding, this should also be supported with technology to encourage transparency by the officials stationed at the tollgates.

Then, the penalty for defaulters should be an arrest and replacement with drivers trained by the agency who shall be stationed in each tollgate to continue every intercepted journey. Of course, defaulters should be made to pay steep for their offences because as far as the protection of lives is concerned, there is no penalty that should be too much to levy on defaulters.

After all, people are usually discouraged from crime when the penalty is higher than what they can pay. In this light, the driver’s license of defaulters should be placed on ban of duration that the agency deems fit and this would make defaulters illegal drivers as long as the ban remains.

People are dying daily owing to recklessness of few road users, but government must also rise to the challenge by using citizen journalism to curb the menace of incessant accidents on Nigerian roads.

[1] Mudathir Ganiyu and Qasim Akinreti, Secrets of Online and Multimedia Journalism: A Manuel for Online and Multimedia Journalism Practice in Africa (Nigeria: Emgee Publishing Limited, 2011), 124.

[2] Soonest Nathaniel, “Road Accidents Claim 1,538 Lives in Fourth Quarter of 2018 – NBS”, Channels Television (March 2019): https://www.channelstv.com/tag/national-bureau-of-statistics/.

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