By Assistant Corps Marshal Bisi Kazeem, fsi.
When the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) was established by the military administration in Nigeria on 18 February 1988 in response to the menace of road traffic crashes, one of the cardinal strategies adopted by the founding fathers and enshrined in the enabling law was the use of public enlightenment tools as instruments for creating the desired changes and achieving the goal of a safer road environment. The idea was to complement the civil approach which the Corps sees as its value and upon which it has been relying to patrol the wide network of road since its establishment.
The pioneer Chairman of the FRSC Board, Professor Wole Soyinka saw road safety campaign as an inevitable activity that must be undertaken to keep the roads safer. He described FRSC as, “a preventive medicine.” He also saw road safety campaign as a shared responsibility which no single person or organisation can handle while maintaining the superiority of civility over coercion.
According to him, “motorists obey the Marshals not out of fear of the rifles they carry, but the believe in the rightness of their actions.” To him, when motorists obey traffic rules and regulations out of the enlightenment and realisation that their actions and inactions could determine how safe or unsafe the road could be, they would be persuaded to drive with care to achieve the goals of safety even without the presence of law enforcement officers.
To achieve these novel ideas of changing people’s attitude without necessarily relying on coercive instruments but on the powers of education and enlightenment, FRSC’s operational activities have continued to revolve around how to harmonise public enlightenment programmes with enforcement strategies. And the successes recorded from embracing these ideals as evidenced by the trending down of the rates of crashes and deaths have been inspiring.
In its incremental approach to issues of civility, FRSC continues to engage motorists and members of the public in initiating and enforcing road safety rules and regulations towards ensuring a safer road environment. Thus, how to make the Corps to achieve its goals of creating safer roads through the use of public enlightenment and enforcement strategies has always been the challenges facing the successive Management of the Corps.
The current Corps Marshal, Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, inherited the challenge which he has been managing since the last seven years of his administration. The outcome of his unrelenting search for a veritable medium to communicate road safety ideals and obtain feedbacks that could meet the shared nature of road safety campaign is the initiative of the National Traffic Radio, 107.1fm which was inaugurated by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo on 15 June, 2021.
The conception of the National Traffic Radio by the FRSC Management under Corps Marshal Oyeyemi was a fallout of his growing desire to broaden the scope of public enlightenment, enhance the existing sensitisation programmes, ensure continuous education of the motoring public on safe road use and, promotion of better road culture. These measures, according to him, are expected to change the behavioural pattern of all categories of road users, and give real-time traffic updates to the travellers.
It was also out of the realisation that all over the world, Radio being a critical medium for reaching out to a mass audience, has been used extensively as a tool for national integration, community development, promotion of policies and programmes of the government, and creating general awareness on wide range of life saving issues. To this end, the Oyeyemi-led Management first conceived the idea of the station on 14 January 2016, when the Corps Marshal, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi made a formal request to the Honourable Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to seek his support for the establishment of a Traffic Radio with the primary purpose of advancing road safety education, enlightenment and sensitisation programmes.
According to Corps Marshal Oyeyemi, “radio advocacy programmes do not only help to educate, inform and entertain the audience and all categories of road users, but also has an effective power of combining ‘edutainment and infotainment’ functions which expressly capture the attention of the listeners, sustain it, and prompt them into taking a desired action.” That was why the motto of the station was rightly chosen as, ‘Promoting Better Road Culture.’ And in line with the shared nature of road safety campaign and the need for stakeholders collaboration in building effective coalition and synergy that could address the growing apathy of road users towards road safety matters, strategic stakeholders were brought on board to ensure the success of the project.
Among such stakeholders are corporate organisations like Diamond Bank (Now Access bank), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which provided the transmission and broadcast equipment that aided the speedy and smooth take-off of the Station. The federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, in demonstrating the required political will and playing its strategic role as the custodian of national safety provided the funds that made the the eventual take-off of the station possible.
Towards ensuring the realisation of the project, the FRSC completed the installation of broadcast equipment on 10 October, 2019 and commenced official test transmission on Tuesday, 12 November, 2019. And following the swift success recorded in the test transmission, the Station immediately switched to 18 hours daily broadcast on 12 February, 2020. It has since been transmitting on 18/7 basis in English, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and Pidgin English as a public service radio station (non-commercial).
Suffice to state that the highly educative and entertaining programmes running on the radio has broadened the scope of listenership with many who do not understand English language leveraging either on the availability of indigenous languages or pidgin English to hook up to the station to satisfy their education, enlightenment, information and entertainment needs.
Impressed by the continuing improvement recorded by the personnel of the Corps anchoring the programmes, and the professionalism displayed on air, the Corps Marshal promptly issued a directive for the immediate commencement of 24/7 broadcasting which kicked off on 1st January, 2020. The station, with a total of 44 staff members comprising the Head of Station, Head of Administration, 23 Presenters, 10 Reporters, 2 technical Staff and others, has brought credibility to radio broadcast as a potent instrument of road safety advocacy within the short period of its existence.
Since commencing the programmes, the station has been broadcasting and hosting between 181-184 programmes weekly. Among them are: Rush Hour, Super Highway Cruise, Connecting With The Grassroots, Popori, Sports Update, Rhythm. Others are: Blues, Whispers, Serenade, Ona Arinye, Extra Time (Sports), Igbo Ndi Oma, Tambari, A Disc For You, Ema Ya Se, Corper Shun, Main Bowl, and Morning Drive, among others.
With the commencement of 24/7 broadcast and in line with the vision of the Station, several programmes were introduced to ensure that listeners are thrilled with varieties of information and top notch entertainment.
Among the flagship programmes of the station are: “The Road Managers’, a programme that brings in Zonal Commanding Officers and Sector Commanders to give relevant information about road safety in their areas of jurisdiction; ‘Vision for the Road’, a programme that’s carried out in collaboration with Optometrist Association of Nigeria, which focuses on sensitising the motoring public on how to maintain excellent vision. Others include: ‘Motor Vehicle Administration Half Hour’, a programme that gives detailed information about National Drivers License and Vehicle Registration, while the ‘FCCPC Half Hour’ creates awareness on the rights of consumers. There’s also “The Special Marshal’ which discuses the activities of the Special Marshals and ‘The FRSC and You’ which gives a comprehensive explanation on what the FRSC does.
The rest of the programmes being hosted by the station include: ‘NCC Digital Signature’, ‘Ruby Talk Show’, and ‘Give Someone a Chance to live’ which promotes blood donation. In addition to being on the Frequency Modulation band, the station can also be accessed through live streams on FRSC website: www.frsc.gov.ng; National Traffic Radio App on Android and I-Phone devices; social media handles: www.facebook.com/trafficradio1, www.Twitter.com/trafficradio1, www.Instagram.com/trafficradio1and WhatsApp 08052997848. And to ensure sustained improvement through effective feedback mechanism, listeners are expected to call in or report traffic situations, crashes or obstructions for prompt rescue through the studio live lines Glo 08052998090 MTN 09067000015.
There’s no doubt that within the short period of its operation, the FRSC National Traffic Radio has lived up to its mandate of serving as a potent instrument for promoting road safety ideals through highly educational and enlightenment programmes, while serving as a legacy of road safety advocacy which the FRSC has been known for locally and internationally as the nation’s lead agency. It is ,therefore, expected that Nigerians would embrace the ideals of civility being pursued by the station through attitudinal and behavioural change.
Through this, our vision of zero death which aligns with the second UN Decade of Action For Road Safety:2021-2030, could be vigorously pursued and realised.
Assistant Corps Marshal Bisi Kazeem, fsi, is the Head of Public Education Office at the FRSC National Headquarters, Abuja.