More arms against the people

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THERE is a lot to raise concern about in the constant resort to arms in dealing with issues involving unarmed civilians. The latest effort is the move by the House of Representatives to have personnel of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) bear arms.

INCREASE in cases of harassment and intimidation of personnel of FRSC, the House reasons, would be solved by arming the FRSC, an organisation taken out of the Police, whose responsibilities centre on ensuring safety on the nation’s roads.

HON. Solomon Maren moved a motion titled, “Need to Curb Incessant Attacks on Personnel of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)”. How the need was distilled to the need for arms for FRSC is one of the wonders of legislation. No other measures were considered, not even a thought about the consequences for the people.

WITH a recourse to the law setting up FRSC, Hon. Maren made his case, saying although “Section 19 of the FRSC (Establishment) Act, 2007, stipulates that personnel of the Commission who are exposed to high risk in the enforcement of the provisions of this Act, shall have same powers, authorities and privileges, including power to bear arms, as are granted by law to members of the Nigeria Police Force, the Federal Government has not provided Road Safety officers with arms to enable them protect themselves in the course of performing their duties.”

HE wondered why. He cited the increasing cases of violent attacks, harassment and intimidation of personnel and officers of FRSC by highly placed individuals, motorists and hoodlums across the country, particularly in Zamfara, Jigawa, Abia and Lagos States. From 2015 to date, there have been 149 cases of attacks on personnel and 201 cases of damage to properties and equipment of the Commission, he said.

According to Hon Maren, “Officers sometimes discover offensive weapons in vehicles during routine operations on highways but are incapable of challenging occupants of such vehicles as they lack the capacity to protect themselves from any attack that could arise.” These are further justifications for arming the FRSC.

Another concern of Hon. Maren is that Nigeria is on the verge of losing the milestones United Nation’s Declaration on Reduction of Road Accidents by 50 per cent by year 2020, just three years away. Unless there is a reduction in the attacks, he reasoned, FRSC personal would keep away from the roads, for their own safety, especially at night when motorists are more brazen in their breach of traffic regulations. The lawmaker sees more accidents in place of the decrease that the United Nations expects.

WE have to run to the United Nations to match our national needs. It just has to be with the FRSC that concerns about our flagging global standards have to be addressed with urgency. No further questions are required than the House urging the Federal Government to facilitate the procurement of arms and ammunition for officers of the FRSC.

IT all looked so transactional. Arms and ammunitions would be purchased – contracts are involved. Did anyone think of what it would cost to arm more than 40,000 personnel of the FRSC? In their haste to open another flank for exhausting national resources, the House did not even mention training for weapon handling. How would FRSC manage the training of its personnel for the purpose while making the roads safe?

HOW would bearing arms enhance the functions of the FRSC? How would bearing arms affect the relationships of the FRSC with the public? Are arms the only solution to the challenges that the FRSC faces with road users? Why the upsurge in the number of assault cases against the FRSC? Is there a new breed of Nigerians on the roads?

IT is important that attacks on FRSC personnel are investigated. Would such an investigation not have helped on a decision on their safety, rather than arming them being the first shot at a solution? How would being armed make the FRSC personnel safer? Is their safety the sole consideration in the decision? Did anyone consider the safety of travellers and other road users? Is anyone seeing the possibility of more violence on the roads?

ARMING the FRSC to enhance their safety, without interrogating the consequences for the unarmed is unnecessary. It amounts to curing a headache by decapitation. There are so many things that could be done; one of them is not making the road more violent.

THERE are too many arms already in too many hands. Many of them are being put into wrong uses. Too many armed security officials have either not undergone adequate training in weapon handling, or the training was poor. The incidents of poor weapon handling, the “gun mentality” of most security personnel that revolves on “killing and going free” is a long way from being cured.

WHAT type of arms should they bear? So, when they complain that their rifles and pistols are inadequate, we give them machine guns and bombs? FRSC personnel are already a terror on the roads without guns. What would happen when they are armed?

FRSC should train its personnel in courteous approaches in their dealing with the public. Their aggressiveness on the roads partly accounts for the incidents of assaults. FRSC personnel on many occasions exceed their briefs. They search vehicles. One wonders what they would be searching for, when their work would have been to view vehicle particulars and examine vehicles for particular items.

SOME force themselves into vehicles in the process of effecting arrests. Others have been harmed when they threw them before moving vehicles to effect arrests. Indeed, some of the actions of FRSC personnel on the roads place them in harm’s way. It is sheer providence that has kept the number of deaths low.

DOUBTLESSLY, FRSC personnel need security for the execution of their duties; arming them is not the solution, for it would be an endless chase after the wind. Instead of their own arms, co-operation with the police, who patrol roads too and have their own check points would help. Diligent prosecution of people who attack FRSC personnel should be carried out; it would make FRSC personnel safer than guns.

WE do not support putting more arms in the civil space. It would make our roads more dangerous, more violent, and more lives than we are trying to save could be lost

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