Sooner than later, personnel of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) could turn up at their duty posts armed.
A member of the FRSC board, who sought anonymity, told The Guardian: “The FRSC has built its armoury in Gwagwalada Abuja, while there are weapon rooms in all the commands of the corps.
We are waiting for government to gazette the approval and equip the armoury in line with the act that established the corps.
The essence of the ongoing training and workshop for the personnel is to prepare them on how to comport themselves while bearing arms on duty.”
The commission’s spokesman, Bisi Kazeem, however, disclosed that though the act permits FRSC personnel to bear arms, the corps is waiting for government to gazette the approval.
“I am not aware that the government has perfected a plan to gazette the approval. I am not aware of that,” he said. In December 2016, the FRSC was forced to release a statement urging members of the public to ignore reports that the corps had begun distributing and mandating its personnel to carry arms.
It followed a complaint by Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi that 70 officers lost their lives that year to reckless motorists.
Kazeem had told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the rumour was being circulated by mischievous elements seeking to provoke disorder in the society.
Some “irresponsible” people took a statement by the Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi, out of context to suit their agenda, he said.
“The Corps Marshal only stipulated that such a high number of loss could have been avoided, if FRSC personnel were carrying arms, as allowed by the law.
But, he quickly added that there is no immediate plan to implement the law that permits the officials to carry arms. It is unfortunate that some wicked people now took that to mean he said officials are now being armed; it is a figment of their imagination,” he said.
Statistics show that rather than reduce, about 149 cases of attacks and 201 instances of damage to property of the commission have been reported in recent times.
But a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Nnaemeka Nnadi, thinks arming marshals is a step too far.
He expressed concern that the move would put commuters and drivers at risk. “Some of the personnel do all sorts of thing while on duty.
Some go the extra mile in using their official vehicle to block other vehicles on the highway. Is that not a dangerous and stupid act? Some extort money from road users.
Arming them will give them more courage and guts to dare people recklessly while on duty,” he said. A security expert, Ademola Ojeh, also dismissed the idea as unnecessary.
“I don’t know why government should arm FRSC personnel, when their job is not to arrest or kill criminals. Their work is more of civil than criminal.”
But reminded that the law permits them to bear arms, Oje replied: “That section of the act should be repealed.” On his part, Patrick Adenusi, coordinator of a non-governmental organisation, Safety Beyond Borders, said attacks on marshals are no justification to issue them arms.
It will be recalled that in October, last year, the House of Representatives called on the Federal Government to facilitate the procurement of arms and ammunition for the FRSC.
It followed a motion by Bulus Maren (Plateau-PDP) where he expressed concern over violent attacks, harassment and intimidation of personnel by highly placed individuals, motorists and hoodlums.
He said cases in Zamfara, Jigawa, Abia and Lagos State were particularly disturbing. “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 may arise,” Maren said.
The motion was unanimously adopted. The House, thereafter, mandated its committee on FRSC to investigate attacks.