A first-time visitor to Benin City, Edo State, which prides itself as ‘the Heart Beat of the Nation,’ might think commercial bus drivers plying major roads in the ancient city were prohibited from having their rear and hazard lights intact.
The absence of these very important lights on many of the intra-city commercial transport buses is a common sight and very visible in several parts of the state capital.
In the city centre, popularly called ‘Ring Road,’ most of the commercial buses ply the roads up till late in the night without, thereby endangering the lives of commuters in vehicles behind.
Many of the drivers could not give any cogent reason for not fixing their rear and hazard lights or had the slightest knowledge about the danger of driving without them. Indeed, some of them didn’t seem bothered, as they obviously didn’t know the importance of the lights.
A commercial bus driver, Osaro Ojo, told The Guardian that the fault is not theirs, as most of the commercial buses have lost their rear lights in accidents or destroyed in the process of struggling with touts collecting revenue for the state government while plying their various routes.
Ojo said there is no enforcement to ensure that rear lights are intact or replaced after they get damaged, saying government is not concerned about the state of their vehicles, but only interested in revenue collection (e-ticketing) from them.
Another, driver, Muyi Osamede, said a greater percentage of commercial buses on the road in the city have no rear lights because of the high cost of replacement.
He blamed automobile spare parts dealers, who he accused of selling rear lights of a popular brand of buses Nissan Vannete mostly used in Edo state for transportation at exorbitant prices.
Osamede pointed out that the high cost of hazard and rear lights is far beyond the reach of the common driver, following the outrageous cost it sells at the New Motor Spare Parts Market and Uwelu Spare Parts Market in the state.
He explained that 70 per cent of the buses on the road in Benin City don’t have rear lights because the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) officials pay less attention to commercial buses, but rather focused more on the private car owners.
He admitted that commercial drivers have no problems with FRSC officials because they are not rich enough to pay fines for either contravening or violating traffic rules; hence they are left most times to go on the road without rears lights and other driving requirements.
A revenue official with Oredo Local Council, who didn’t want his name in print, said there is nothing they can do, as they are not the relevant agency charged with checking the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles plying the road in the locality.
He insisted that their duty is only to collect revenue from the drivers without paying attention to the rickety state of vehicles on the road.