The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has asked drivers in the area to report any authorities who solicit them for a bribe and has encouraged them to do so.

The Corps also cautioned that overloading a vehicle over its limit might damage its roadworthiness, shorten the vehicle’s lifetime, and increase the likelihood of an accident occurring while it is being driven.

Samuel Ogah Ochi, the Sector Commander of the FRSC in FCT, shared this information with THE WHISTLER as part of an exclusive interview.

Ochi issued a stern warning that the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) is getting ready to crack down hard on vehicle owners who overload their automobiles by sending the agency’s monitoring and enforcement team after them.

He said that for the month of November 2022 alone, the agency made 480 arrests of individuals for transporting an excessive number of people in their cars.

In the course of his discussion on the legal implications of overloading, he made the following statement: “When we talk about overloading, we are saying the weight you are transporting is beyond the capabilities of that vehicle.” When you register a vehicle, the authority will normally provide you with a load that the vehicle is expected to carry, and this load comprises information about the vehicle’s suitability for driving on public roads.

“So, where a load goes beyond the capacity of that vehicle, it’s automatically overloaded. You see people carrying two people in front when in the real sense the vehicle is meant for a driver and one person, when you carry two in front, the vehicle is already overloaded.

“If you are carrying overload, it has two implications, the law will catch up with you because it says you are not supposed to overload. So, the law enforcement officers will arrest you for carrying several people that are beyond the capacity of that vehicle and you will be issued a ticket as provided by the law.

“The other implication is on you, your inability to manage challenges that may arise when driving. Of course, driving contains a lot of challenges, and you must be able to manage them when they come. Unfortunately for those of them that overload their vehicles, the situation that arises on the highway will lead to a crash because of their inability to manage that situation.

“For instance, if you are carrying two people in the front, manoeuvring in the event of an emergency will become difficult and because of that, you are likely going to have a crash. When a crash occurs, several people are likely to be involved when that happens. So, these are the circumstances overloading normally brings.”

Ochi further stated that there are regulatory bodies from the agency that ensure that the offenders are brought to book.

“Yes, it’s part of the monitoring/enforcement scheme of the federal road safety corp. When you look at the official ticket that is issued to an offender, overloading is one of the offenses.

“If a patrol team is out on enforcement, it also monitors vehicles that are overloading beyond the capacity of their vehicles, and they have the mandate to arrest and bring them to book. The Agency has that mandate by the statutory position we enforce that people carry appropriate loads in their vehicles.”

He however highlighted some of the reasons why commercial drivers still carry overload, saying, “Overloading is like any other offence, you may ask the same question, why are people not using seatbelts? why is it that people are still beating the traffic light?

“Of course, a number of people are being arrested for these offences but they still disobey and that is the reason why enforcement is a continuous process. In FCT we’ve arrested several offenders that overload their vehicles but people still go ahead and do that.

“That’s why we are combining enforcement with what we call enlightenment, people should get to realise the consequences of what they are doing, and beyond enforcement, we believe that by the time people get to know that this is what I’m doing to myself they will stop the problem over and above the level of enforcement.

“Of course, enforcement is necessary because it will show a deterrent and make the people realise they will pay a fine, by the time people imbibe the culture of road safety, it makes it easier for all of us, so we don’t have a situation whereby we keep arresting people on the same issue. This is why we enlighten people, we go to moto parks, and we make them realise the consequences of overloading.

“If you overload a vehicle, the life span is shortened because the capacity of the vehicle has been overstressed. when you overload and an emergency occurs you are likely going to lose that vehicle because it will get involved in a crash.
“So, by the time, we weigh the good and the bad side of the whole thing, the driver will know that he’s doing himself and may not enjoy the vehicle how he should have. That is the buy-in we are looking at. We will get to a level of people appreciating this level of sensitization it will reduce the number of people that are carrying overload. Apart from that, we will continue to enforce it because it’s a continuous thing for those that are disobeying just like any other traffic offence will be arrested.”

Ochi also stated the other steps being taken to curb overloading, of which enlightenment is inclusive.

“We know that a number of these persons that are disobeying the traffic regulations belong to one union or another, and we are engaging the union members, so they can also disseminate the information to their members, and also serve as checks and balances among themselves

“We have an elaborate engagement with NURTW, the Brekete Taxi Family, and The painted taxi in FCT amongst others.

“We are having regular meetings with them and the essence of doing that is to let them know that when their members overload their vehicle and are arrested, they should not come back to us to beg because they always stand in for their members.

“We have come in with an agreement with them, that they should not come to solicit assistance and that’s one level of engagement that’s helping us to eradicate the overloading problem. Yes, it is still being done but for us, in FRSC we are giving assurance to the general public, that we will get over the problem.

“How do I know this, now if you look at seatbelts, for instance, the time the enforcement started that problem was there in the beginning, people resisted not using them but to a large extent we can say today in Nigeria that 80% now use seatbelts without being told. That level of sensitisation was needed and that was done to bring people to know that seatbelt is for protection, and that’s exactly what we are doing in this area of overloading, we will get over it. It’s going to be for some time but by combining our enforcement with public enlightenment and engagement of stakeholders we will get over the problem of overloading in FCT.”

When asked how many passengers a vehicle is allowed to carry, he said, ” It depends on the kind of car you are using, for instance, if you are using a gulf, it provides one passenger at the front and 3 at the back, and we don’t expect more than 4 passengers in a normal gulf arrangement.

“If you are using a Station Wagon that makes provision for two at the back, three in the middle and one in front, of course, we know that is the provision.”

On the alleged bribe of its personnel by commercial drivers, he said, “I strongly believe that allegation can not be true. Just like I said enforcement is ongoing, just in November we arrested over 480 offenders that have overloaded their vehicles in FCT. Why are we arresting them if they believe that they bribe the officials carrying out the enforcement?

“The enforcement is going on and we arrest offenders on daily basis, now where someone collects money, I’m not standing in for anybody that misbehaves of course the laws are there for anybody that extorts money from the general public, and it is found to be true, the provision of the law as it relates to a public servant that does that will be applied on the person.”

He also urged the general public to report any case of bribery to his office directly, “ I also want to tell the general public, if the staff of the FRSC collects money you have the right to complain directly to my office and that is why my lines are of the public. Call my office and that person will be appropriately dealt with.”

Sighting one of the many accidents that resulted from overloading he said, “Like the crash that claimed the lives of seventeen persons, the capacity of that vehicle shouldn’t have carried that number of passengers that is one instance of the overloaded vehicle that carried twenty-two persons in a bus that was supposed to carry 18 precisely, that is over and above the number, it’s supposed to carry, and out of the twenty-two, seventeen of them died instantly, of course, five survived.

“We have a statute issue of overloading related that applies to crashes within the FCT and we are working to ensure that this is eradicated.”

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