In all the years since Independence, the illegal use of siren in the country has been one issue that refused to go away; the misuse of siren by both the authorised and unauthorised body has continued unabated and has remained a nuisance and society risk to the electorate.
The device, which produce loud and prolonged signal designed to alert or warn motorists and pedestrians of the approach of an emergency, or forcefully demanding a privileged right of way to dignitaries like Mr. President, Vice President, Senate President, Speakers of both houses of assemblies, etc.
On approaching emergency requiring the right of way, such privileges are accorded to ambulances carrying accident or related victims, fire fighting vehicles, bullion vans or any vehicle carrying a pregnant woman in labour, etc.
But following the emergence of money bags, average politicians, even pastors who love to flaunt their wealth and overblown personalities, the siren became a gadget of intimidation and outright harassment of the general members of the Nigerian public.
An assistant traffic officer in Lagos, Mr. Tunde Owolabi who spoke to The Daily Times on this persistent nuisance said in all his six years of service, he had encountered many challenges concerning sirens.
“The misuse of siren started as a habit by government officials; even so-called “high ranking” officers in the civil service. They make use of the siren even when going to their offices, homes and also from different official meetings.
“Most times, they use it to draw attention to themselves; at other times, they use it as a means to avoid staying lawfully behind vehicles on the road, thus, causing congestion and inconvenience to other road users,” he said.
Cause of accidents
Identifying unlawful use of siren as one of the many causes of road accidents, the traffic officer said the blare of siren on a normal day, causes some motorists to lose concentration and thereby lose control of the steering.
“You will understand that not every motorist on the road is perfect; some are even learners just trying their hands on the busy road.
One unlawful aspect is that of other motorists, especially commercial vehicle drivers and some hardened private drivers who take opportunity of a siren blaring vehicle; they race right behind the siren vehicle and cause more chaos in the traffic.”
Another traffic officer who spoke in confidence frowned at the practice. “I see the misuse of siren as a way of intimidating and causing panic to a common man in the society.
Nigeria is a nation of ethnic diversity, consisting of personalities with heterogeneous characters. These set of people employ illegal use of the siren to show off their wild nature and characters,” he said.
Beside the stated hazards above, the misuse of siren has also been known to cause health problems to members of the public.
A medical practitioner, Dr. Femi Olusoga of Tip Top Healthcare services in Lagos, pointed out that a hyperacusis patient that is allergic to loud sounds can easily breakdown at the blaring of a siren.
“Noise pollution is another hazard caused by use of sirens in the public,” he said. Another medic who spoke to our correspondent, Dr. Charity Samuel, said the misuse of siren can cause Anaphylactic Shock (AA) which can cause such patient to patient to fall and
slump on the roadside; it can also result to death on the spot.
A stakeholder, Mrs. Folorunsho Adeoti, who decried this practice, said the use of siren anywhere in the world is to announce a cogent emergency.
“Incessant misuse of siren is mostly common among government officials, especially the Nigerian police force when on patrol. They become impatient when on the road so they blare the siren to avoid being stuck in the traffic.
They are the first traffic law breakers, when it comes to traffic rules,” she told The Daily Times.
A source from the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), said the misuse of siren is more common among influential members of the public.
gave example of ordinary general manager (GM) of a company with an official car attached with security personnel who uses the siren incessantly on roads as a way to race through the traffic always.”
He concluded that governments should revisit the use of siren law again and impose stiff penalties on serial offenders, regardless of their status.”