News Column

1.2 Million Dead in Road Accidents - World Bank Official

June 16, 2014

Favour Nnabugwu

Mrs. Tawia Addo-Ashong, Programme Coordinator, Global Road Safety Facility, World Bank, in this interview, speaks on the bank's efforts to promote road safety in Nigeria and what the country can do to prevent road accident deaths. Excerpts:

What has the World Bank done to support Nigeria 's road infrastructure?

The world safety is a facility in the World Bank used to promote road safety; so what we do is to give out grants to countries to catalyse them to look at road safety issues. So we hope to see the challenges in road safety that will begin to improve in our countries.

1.2million people dying every year from road traffic accidents and about 50 million people being injured. Of these figures, 90 percent comes from low middle income countries, like Nigeria and Ghana where I come from, yet we have a smaller percentage of the vehicles. The people that are injured are poor people.

What we want to see as a development bank is to promote prosperity; hence we provide money especially for road development in our countries, we see that the institutions around road safety are built up, strengthened improved so that while we are building roads, we are building safe roads and we are ensuring that the countries are doing what has to be done to make their roads safer and reduce fatality rates.

Should government be entirely blamed for the violation of road safety rules?

I think it is a mixture of things. There are series of challenges that affect road safety: the challenges of how people get licences, how people learn to drive, the quality of the vehicles that are used.

But we realised that if there is an institution in each country taking responsibility for the policies and plans around these things, there will be improvement. In my presentation at the International Road Federation Conference, I used the example of Argentina where they set up an institution which started looking at all these things.

How do we get driver's licence, how do we improve the quality of vehicles, how do we work with the agencies to make sure the roads are safer, how do we make sure that the right laws are in place for seat belts, for helmets for those making use of the motorcycles?

So, little by little this organisation takes care of everybody, improved the hospitals so that when accidents happen, people get there quickly and worked with the police to make sure that the laws are in place and enforced. If you go on the road without your license you are fined, you are jailed, if you bring in a car and the quality of the vehicle is below standard, it won't be allowed in.

We should have that domestic approach; if you look at all the areas which need to be dealt with and we start to work with the institutions responsible for it, we would start seeing improvement. I think the Federal Road Safety Commission is a very good example of what can be done if there is government commitment, if there is good leadership and we have started to see that things have improved drastically in Nigeria.

We have people along the road corridor ensuring that people drive with the right licenses, we have very good licensing system where people can't duplicate. While there is still work to be done, I believe that Nigeria and the FRSC are on the right path to improving road safety in the country.

How much has the World Bank so far invested in Nigeria road reforms?

Because I deal mainly with road safety, I can't focus on road reforms. But I know that in the road safety development project there is about 10 million dollars being spent on road safety and managed with the collaboration of the World Bank by the Federal Road Safety Commission. T%his includes the buying of equipment, vehicles and ambulances, training of the personnel and improving the infrastructures.

Do you think the Nigerian government has done well on roads?

I think there has been a lot of improvement in the road system in Nigeria. And I believe that as with all other African countries there is still a lot of work to be done and Nigeria has the challenges of having the largest population but you also have the advantage of being the biggest economy and so you can actually set the pace, lead the way in putting things in place.

So as the network is being developed and government has a good program to develop the network, what we will like to see from the safety prospective is that the network is developed safely. As we are putting the infrastructures, it is not just the roads you are building, you are looking at the pedestrian; so you put the pavements, the walk ways.

I came in and the road from the airport I believe is not completed but as you can see there are no road markings, zebra crossing where people can cross, there are not enough cross walks. We should build safe roads and I think that once that is done we will see a lot of changes in what is happening in Nigeria.

What is World Bank's take on pedestrian bridges being used as markets?

I think these are some of the institutional challenges that I am talking about, you need to have the right laws in place and you need to have the right enforcement. It is not just the law, it is the enforcement; and it is not just the enforcement it is the advocacy. Even before you can enforce and make sure people do the right thing, you have to explain to them the essence behind what you are doing.

What is the total number of projects the World Bank has undertaken in Nigeria?

We have about 27 active projects spread across the sectors which are within the region of about 5 billion dollars for Nigeria.

What is your take on World Bank's support in Africa?

The bank sees Africa as one of the continents it should continue to support. There are potentials, a lot of development agendas. Anything we can do to support the prosperity and economic growth, we will continue to do.

Insurance is not wholly accepted in this country because people are skeptical hence data is difficult?

It is the same thing in Ghana. So I think it is an education issue; that is why road safety is a partnership, it is not just the responsibility of the government

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Source: AllAfrica

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