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Stakeholders decry abuse of siren on highways

 

SirenConcerned Nigerians have decried the abuse of sirens on the nation’s highways and called for measures to check the trend.

They described the habit as an act of impunity largely committed by security personnel, government officials and other important personalities.

The stakeholders told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that abuse of the facility often created unnecessary panic among road users which usually resulted to auto crashes.

“The blaring of siren usually scares other road users which causes accidents as they struggle to give way,’’ Mr Innocent Ochonu, a retired police officer, told NAN in Makurdi.

Ochonu urged government to be more careful in the issuance of permit for the use of siren on the highways.

“The situation is worrisome; government should not keep quiet because the poor are being harassed on the roads,’’ Alhaji Salihu Mohammed, a civil servant in Lafia, Nasarawa State, said.

Mohammed regretted that in spite of existing laws that regulated the use of siren, the VIPs, especially government officials, had continued to behave “with crass impunity on the roads’’.

“Most of the time when road users are stopped by traffic light, convoys of government officers use the siren to scare other road users in a bid to beat the traffic.

“Such attitude usually causes accidents,” he said.

He called on government to punish the culprits in order deter others.

Similarly, Mr Ayo Jegede, a resident of Lafia, said that the abuse of siren was worrisome as it had resulted to several accidents.

“If you are not careful on the road they can even push you off the highway, not minding the nature of the road’s shoulders,” Jegede said.

He urged the government to regulate the speed of VIP convoys by setting limits, which if flouted, could be reported by members of the public using dedicated telephone lines.

He also called for the arrest and prosecution of convoy drivers who, through indiscriminate use of siren, caused accidents on the highway.

According to him, almost all traditional rulers, politicians and senior government officers in the state use siren.

Similarly, a Port Harcourt-based Social Affairs Analyst, Dr Francis Aligidi,
described the use of siren by some Nigerians as an act of impunity and called on the relevant authorities to take urgent steps to check it.

Aligidi noted that most users of siren switched on the gadget to scare away road users in times of heavy traffic so as to gain easy passage.

Also, Dr Titus Ogbologo, a security Analyst, regretted the high level of abuse of siren, saying that security operatives were the major culprits.

“In some of the vehicles where siren is blared, you will be surprised to see only the driver who may appear to be a security personnel,’’ Ogbologbo said.

He said the consequences of such callous and careless use of siren had often led to fatal auto crashes on the roads.

On his part, Alhaji Garba Abdu, the Director of Vehicle Inspection Office in the Kano State Ministry of Works, said the unlawful use of siren by some government officials was constituting nuisance to the public.

Abdu accused government officials, security personnel, wealthy individuals and criminals of the act.

“People get very upset when these categories of people use the siren to scare them, especially during heavy traffic jams,” he said.

In Uyo, Akwa Ibom, motorists called on the Federal Government to regulate the use of siren in the country.

They said the relevant security agencies should be mandated to embark on measures to check abuse of the device nationwide.

One of them, Mr Uche Agwu, told NAN in Eket that the level of abuse of siren in the area had reached an alarming rate.

“I believe that the use of siren should be regulated in the country. The authorities concerned should act fast. We want government to mention the category of people allowed to use siren.

“The level of abuse of siren in Eket is alarming; common construction company now uses siren, even criminals use siren; we do not know who is who,” Agwu said.
Another motorist, Mr Charles Ekong, also condemned the abuse of siren in the area, and called on government to check it.

“You will see a driver in a security vehicle using siren even when there is nothing at stake. Siren should be used only by those permitted by law, and not all manner of people,” Ekong said.

Also contributing, Mr Alex Uzokwe, the Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Onitsha Park, Asaba, accused security operatives and politicians of abusing siren on the roads.

Uzokwe said the practice had made the roads unsafe for other motorists and called on government to regulate the use of the device to check the menace.

“They use siren to intimidate other road users and cause accidents, even during their unofficial movements.

“For instance, last year, one of our members ran his cab into a ditch along Okpanam road and got injured when a government vehicle blared its sirens and drove past him in high speed.

“Many cars and tricycle operators scamper for safety to give way for these Toyota Hilux van drivers who intimidate us with their sirens,” Uzokwe said.

Similary, Mr Aderibigbe Michael, the Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers(NURTW), Kogi Branch, said indiscriminate blaring of siren in Kogi was a common practice among politicians and security operatives in the state.

Michael said the act was most common on the Okene – Lokoja highway and called on government to stop it.

However, the Kebbi Deputy Director of the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), Alhaji
Lawal Hamis, said incidences of siren abuse were very low in the state.

“You only hear siren when there is fire outbreak; when the Hospital

Ambulance passes or the Governor, his Deputy or some top functionaries are on
transit,’’ Hamis said.

In her reaction, Mrs Faustina Alegbe, Commander, Nasarawa State Sector of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), said that section 154(1) of the National Road Traffic Regulation 2012 stipulated the category of officials authorised to use siren.

“Only the President, Vice President, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as Governors and their deputies have that privilege.

“Any other official is doing it illegally and the law stipulates sanctions of a fine of N3,000 or Seven-month prison term for violators,’’ she said.

Alegbe, said, however, that although government officials were not supposed to use the siren to harass road users, there were exceptional situations for security personnel and ambulances who may need to use siren during emergencies.

She said that the FRSC had taken steps to educate and train convoy drivers on appropriate use of siren on highways.

The Taraba Police Command, on its part, warned members of the general public against unauthorised use of the siren.

Its spokesman, Mr Joseph Kwaji, who gave the warning in Jalingo during an interview with NAN, said the indiscriminate use of siren in the state had become “a matter of great concern’’.

He lamented that some personalities in the state used siren to scare away other motorists, especially on major highways.

“This illegal act has continued to cause unnecessary panic among motorists and other road users.

“Only recently, we addressed a press conference where we warned that unauthorised use of siren is an offence that will no longer be tolerated.

“If you know that you are not authorised to use siren, stop using it because anyone caught will face the full wrath of the law,” Kwaji said.

Also speaking on the trend, Capt. Ikedechi Iweha, Spokesperson, Special Task Force (STF) in charge of security in Plateau, told NAN that the military task force used sirens “only when it becomes exigent or in case of emergency’’.

“STF uses sirens when responding to an emergency situation so that other road users will create way for them to reach their destination in time.

“There are situations where motorists will hear the siren but would not want to give way, but we do our best to ensure that the rights of the roads users are protected.

“In many cases, we try to meander and continue where possible,’’ Iweha said.

The STF spokesperson added, however, that the task force drivers were well trained for such purposes.

“They work under specific instructions that prohibit them from using sirens when it is not an emergency,’’ he said.

Similarly, the Zamfara Police Command has warned people in the state against unauthorised use of siren, saying that any one caught would be dealt with.

The Public Relations Officer of the command, DSP Sanusi Amiru, gave the warning in Gusau while speaking to NAN.

Amiru said only important personalities or top government officials certified by the police were permitted to use siren.

”Even if you are an important personality, you must be screened and authorised by the police before you can use siren,” Amiru said.



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