Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Roads and Road Safety in Nigeria; Reflections from the 2013 National Crime and Safety Survey


In an attempt to develop a holistic dataset which allows for an all-round measurement and analysis of security and public safety in Nigeria, the National Crime and Safety Survey (NCSS) in 2013 included a comprehensive section on road traffic safety in Nigeria. To understand the perception and actual experience of safety or exposure to accidents on the roads, our survey instrument probed a variety of themes including perception of safety, experience of accidents and perception of road safety officials in Nigeria. 

The findings discussed in this presentation reveal an array of perceptions and experiences with road travel in Nigeria and provide a rich dataset against which our prior understanding of road travel and its challenges could be interrogated and refined. The data also allows us to measure the effectiveness of current policies and investments for road travel efficiency and safety in Nigeria.

This discussion of road safety in Nigeria at this time is important for 2 key reasons: first of all it is suggested that 80% of human and good traffic in the country is moving by road. Secondly, the road network in Nigeria though grossly inadequate and poorly maintained, it is by far the most comprehensive and extensive means of travel in Nigeria. This means that surveys and recommendations on road travel and road safety in Nigeria are indeed at the heart of communication and travel in Nigeria and affect majority of Nigerians.

Permit me to emphasise at the start of this discussion what this presentation is not: it is neither an indictment nor a vindication of any particular agency of government. Secondly, it is not factual evidence as such. The National Crime and Safety Survey is an annual perception survey that is conducted in Nigeria by the CLEEN Foundation with support from the MacArthur Foundation.

Since we began conducting these surveys in 2005 in Lagos, we have over the years continuously refined our sampling technique and survey methodology even as we continuously increased our sample size to the current 11,518 respondents. These improvements were made in order to arrive at conclusions that were representative of the generality of Nigerians and therefore useful in directing public policy. For example, recognising the centrality of road safety to citizens’ perception of safety, the survey introduced road safety questions in 2010 and we have since then observed crucial trends – some of which are captured in this presentation.

Public perception surveys such as our National Crime and Safety Survey are recognized globally as credible methodology for gaining insight into public policy matters. Specifically, victimization surveys measure the likelihood of respondents to become victims of crime or be affected by an incident such as road accidents. Such surveys are very useful in understanding not only the nature of crime in a society, but also the conception of safety. Where available, crime victimization surveys can serve as control measures on official records and statistics. The cross analysis of victimization surveys and the official statistics could yield valuable insight on the direction of road accidents and the impact of road safety policies and investments in the society. Yet by their very nature, public perception surveys are severely limited in that they are based not on real experience of an incident, but rather on the perception of members of the public on safety and security.

Studies have shown that while the actual experience of an incident such as a road accident in a community is often the biggest driver of individual perception on road safety, it is also possible that other factors such as the mass media as well as the conduct of security, traffic and road safety officials can have decisive impact on the perceptions of corruption and road safety in the community. In the National Crime and Safety Survey 2013 for example, we found that whereas as many as 78% of residents of Adamawa state felt that the roads in their state were prone to accidents, only 15% of them were victims of actual accidents. The gap between the actual experience of 15% and the perception of 78% is fed and driven by a diverse multitude of factors which could not be answered by the data of our survey alone.

Population, Sampling and Method

This study employed survey research methodology and is designed to ensure that its findings adequately reflect the perceptions of Nigerians.  The population sample consisted of 11,518 Nigerians equally distributed among male and female adults aged 18 years and above from all the 36 States in the country and the Federal Capital Territory.  The data collection method employed was the household survey involving face-to-face personal interviews.  Respondents were selected through a stratified multi-stage random sampling procedure in order to achieve a representative sample.  Respondents must have lived in the selected household for a period of not less than six months.
The fieldwork for the survey was conducted by Practical Sampling International (PSI), a reputed research company with a wide experience in quantitative research in the country from June - July 2013[1]

CLEEN Foundation employed monitors to observe the conduct of the field work as an initial quality control measure.  The data processing was done in collaboration with DC Pro-Data Consult Limited with supervision by the CLEEN Foundation research team.  Data entry, cleaning and analysis was done using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). 

This presentation explores the total dataset and isolates questions which relate to road travel, road safety and the activities of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) being the chief road safety agency in Nigeria. The presentation then reflects on the general direction of respondents’ perceptions and the likely implications of the findings for improving safety in road travels in Nigeria.

Research Findings and Trends

In this section, I discuss key trends on road safety emergent from our analysis of our crime victimization data. These findings are group under 7 headings namely: i) Safety on the Roads; ii) Factors Responsible for Unsafety; iii) Patterns of Road Accidents; iv) Managing Road Accidents and Safety; v) Driving Patterns and Culture; and vi) Managing the Okada Challenge.

Section I: Safety on Nigerian Roads


Overall, Nigerians feel safe on the road. This varied from the overwhelming 91% perception of safety in Cross River State to the alarming 25% in Yobe State with a national average of 75% - that is 3 out of 4 Nigerians felt safe on the roads. The case of Yobe is peculiar since its 25% does not come near the next state, Kebbi which polled 59%. A trend analysis revealed that the 75% perception of safety in Nigeria is not news; Nigerians reported 71% in 2010, 76% in 2011 and then a momentary dip to 74% in 2012. When disaggregated by road type, we found that more Nigerian, 1 in 3 Nigerians (or 31%) felt unsafe on the expressways while as low as 8% felt unsafe on street lanes. This suggests that long journey on the express are more dangerous than shorter journeys on the streets.
Considering the report of carnage on Nigerian roads, there is good reason to worry that this high perception of safety on the road is in fact a concession of fatalism and acceptance of fate rather than the assurance of having accident-free road trips. Therefore regardless of this verdict of safety on the road, there is need for further studies into patterns of road usage and safety in Nigeria.

Section II: Drivers of Unsafety on Nigerian Roads

For those who confessed feeling unsafe on the roads, the survey probed for the key drivers of their unease. Unsurprisingly, the top 5 factors reported in 2013 were: bad roads, speed, traffic congestion, lack of pedestrian walkways and finally lack of zebra crossings and pedestrian bridges.

To better understand the drivers of unsafety, we disaggregated the top 2 factors, namely bad roads and speed of traffic by states and found that an overwhelming majority of Yobe State residents (81%) were most concerned about the state of bad roads in the state. Recall that only 25% of residents of Yobe had reported feeling safe on the road. Furthermore, only 11% were worried about bad road in Cross River state where 91% had reported feeling safe on the roads. This then averages to a 37% concern over bad roads as a factor of unsafety in Nigeria.

In terms of traffic speed, the national average was 38 – this implies that on a scale, Nigerians are more concerned about speed of traffic than about state of bad road. This concern is worst in Abia State where there is a near unanimous concern over speed of traffic shared by 92% to Zamfara State where only 9% were concerned about speed of traffic.

When asked then to proffer suggestions to make roads safer, respondents pointed out the need to repair the roads and to install streetlights as the most crucial. Other suggestions included installation of speed breakers and reduction of speed as well as removal of hawkers from the streets. For other suggestions which would improve road safety but which are not tied on the quality of roads, respondents suggested better training for both learners and for qualified drivers; deployment of measures to reduce traffic speed as well as more public campaigns and improved enforcement of traffic regulations.
Over all, while Nigerians would need to see far reaching and comprehensive reforms to ensure safety on the road, the fast speed of traffic and the bad quality of roads constitute a bulk of their concerns.

Section III: Patterns of Road Accidents

From our dataset, we are in position to shed more light on the trends and patterns of road accidents as observed by Nigerians in 2013. Ab initio, we asked respondents to share their views on whether they felt that the roads in their communities were prone to accidents. Across board, an average of 42% of Nigerians saw the roads as prone to accident; this figure ranged from the highest figures of 78% in Adamawa State, 73% in Nassarawa and Delta States to the lowest figures of 20% in Osun and 17% in Jigawa State.

In terms of actual experience of accidents, the national average was 10%; this means that 1 in every 10 Nigerians is a survivor or victim of road accidents in Nigeria. While majority of states where within 5 percentage points above or below the national average, we saw exceedingly worrying results from a number of states. On the extreme, more than 1 in 4 (26%) residents of Kogi State are victims of road accidents. Kogi is closely followed by 25% in Bauchi State and 24% in neighbouring Gombe State and 23% in the FCT and 21% in neighbouring Nassarawa State. The lowest figures were 6% in Oyo, Osun, Sokoto and Katsina and finally a 5% in Lagos State. The “twinning effect” in which neighbouring states share similar road accident patterns comes out between Bauchi and Gombe, FCT and Nassarawa and also between Kano and Kaduna States. This suggests that remedial measures in such pairs of states need to be coordinated and synchronised.

A trend analysis of road accidents in Nigeria is very illuminating; we saw a 1% drop from 11% in 2012 to 10% in 2013. But across a 4-year grid, we are seeing nearly a 50% consistent drop from the 18% recorded in 2010 to the present 10%. In terms of degree of damage, 60% of the accident cases were serious – this included the 46% where serious injuries or vehicular damages were reported and the 14% of the accidents which were fatal. Our data suggests that while the frequency of accidents is down by 1% from 2012, the gravity of the accidents is up by 2% as the 60% cases of serious accidents recorded in 2013 were more than the 58% in 2012.

Calibrating the accidents by time, we found that no part of the day was significantly accident free. 32% of accidents occur in the morning, 35% in the afternoon and the remaining 33% occurred at night. It is possible to theorise that while accident response must be made available at all times, victims of accidents at night are particularly more vulnerable as they are less likely to receive the aid of fellow road users and passers-by who might be available during the day.

Section IV: Managing Road Accidents and Safety

Although the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) is the main agency mandated to ensure safety and swift response to accidents on the roads; our survey showed that Nigerians were more inclined to reporting accidents to the police rather than the FRSC. Whereas 38% of the victims of road accidents reported their experience to the police, only 23% reported to the FRSC.

In spite of the higher figures reported to the police, findings of the survey revealed that many road accidents are still unreported. Only less than 4 in every 10 respondents (38%) who actually suffered road accident reported to the police; this means that 60% of road accidents are not reported to the police. When compared with the 2012 survey, there was a slight improvement on the reported 37% reported to the police. It was further revealed also, that the highest reported cases of road accidents to police officials were recorded in Sokoto (80%), Adamawa (77%), and Yobe (76%) while Kwara and Akwa-Ibom both recorded least with 11% each followed by FCT with 13%.

Comparatively, only a little above 2 in every 10 (23%) incidences of road accident in Nigeria are reported to the FRSC; this then means nearly 80% of accidents are not reported to the FRSC. This figure ranged from Sokoto (47%), Adamawa (46%) and Kebbi (43%) being the states which led in the reporting to the FRSC, while states like Katsina and Ebonyi recorded 0% each and were followed by Bayelsa and Kwara with 7% each, being the lowest. When measured against the 2012 survey, the reporting rate of road accident to the FRSC still remained unchanged at 23%. It is interesting to note that Sokoto state led both in reporting to the Police as well as to the FRSC.

Noting that victims of road accidents tended to report either to the Police (38%) or to the FRSC (23%), an average of both institutions showed that only about 31% of road accident incidences are reported to the authorities in Nigeria by 2013. Why 69% of victims opt not to file reports remains unclear but it negatively impacts on the road safety efforts of both the police and the FRSC.

Section V: Driving Patterns and Culture

In order to understand general practices and driving culture among Nigerians, we posed questions about a number of practices in order to determine what was common on the roads and how these could affect road safety in Nigeria.
a)      Possession of Valid Drivers Licence by State
To determine the average skills drivers have in Nigeria and to measure compliance with national regulation on the use of drivers’ licences, we found that across Nigeria in 2013, only 13% of all motorists had valid driver’s licences. Meagre as this figure might be, it is still a percentage drop from the 14% reported in 2012. When disaggregated across States, we found that only 1% of motorist in Zamfara had valid driver’s licence, 4% in Katsina, and 6% Kano. Anambra had the highest valid driver’s licence with 22%, followed by Abia (19%), Ekiti (18%), FCT and Edo scored 17% each. Nationally, it is clear that nearly 80% of those who drive do so without valid drivers’ licences.
Yet it should not be assumed that drivers who hold valid licences are actually well trained. Only slightly over 1 in 2 drivers (55%) did go through a driving test before the licence was issued to them. This means that 45% of holders of valid drivers’ licences were not tested before being issued licences. Across states, 100% of respondents in Zamfara who had licences also went through testing. Zamfara was followed by Cross River (96%) and Edo (85%). On the bottom we have Yobe (26%) Kebbi (25%) and Delta (17%). Zamfara State presents an interesting puzzle: although only 1% of drivers posses valid licences which suggests high disregard for traffic laws and regulation; all those who do possess the licences actually went through testing before receiving them which suggests universal compliance with the law.
b)     Use of Seat Belts
The use of seat belt is a valuable indicator of road users’ own safety consciousness. In Nigeria, we found that only 14% of the respondents across the country use seat belt “often” or “fairly regularly” when driving while another 14% said they “occasionally” use seat belt. On the other hand, 72% said they “hardly” or “never” use seat belt when driving. Aggregating those who used the seat belt every time or fairly regularly, we found that the use of seat belt is highest in states like Benue 41%, Bauchi 38% and Yobe 33%, while state like Ogun and Sokoto scored 3% each and Abia 2% were on the bottom rung. Osun and Zamfara state both scored 0% each which means none of the drivers interviewed in the state used the seat belt either every time or fairly regularly.
c)      Motorists’ behaviour
In an attempt to ascertain the prevalence of some observed practices on the roads, we asked respondents to report the frequency of a number of practices on the roads.
Engaging in races among drivers is reportedly very common and is a common cause of accidents. As much as 73% of drivers admitted participating in these races occasionally, while 5% admitted to doing it often/always. Other practices included underestimating the speed of on-coming vehicles when overtaking; 66% of respondents admitted to having done this occasionally at some point while driving and another 7% said they do it often/always. Driving on the wrong side of the road (e.g. one way or on dedicated bus lanes) is another common practice; 77% of respondents reported this behaviour either occasionally, often or always when driving. But not all observed behaviours are dangerous and accident prone, 35% of surveyed drivers often or always stop for pedestrians to cross while another 44% do so sometimes.
d)     Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
The abuse of alcohol has been identified as a leading cause of accidents across the globe and has been identified as a leading traffic offence committed by drivers. In the absence of a robust system for testing level of alcohol consumption by drivers in Nigeria, we resorted to self reportage to determine the frequency of this practice by asking drivers how often they consume alcoholic beverages before driving.
72% of surveyed drivers in the rural areas and 74% in the urban areas reported that they “sometimes” consume alcohol before driving while another 5% (both rural and urban) said they do this “often/always”; only a total of 22% of respondents in the rural areas and 21% in the urban reported that they “hardly” do this. Obviously the trend of alcohol consumption among drivers is a common phenomenon in both rural and urban areas of Nigeria and there are at the moment no easy ways of enforcing the regulation against the abuse of alcohol among drivers and passengers do not have the means to know the level of intoxication of a driver before embarking on a journey.

Section VI: Managing the Okada Challenge

The use of motorcycles as commercial taxis (commonly called Okada) has become popular in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. While this means of transportation is favoured by commuters for its ability to reach remote areas with poor road infrastructure, it is also notorious for causing traffic congestion and disorder as well as the leading vehicle involved in road accidents in Nigeria. In recent years, there have been campaigns and laws in some states to ban this means of transportation or to limit its usage to rural areas. Those who favour the proposals to ban Okadas refer to the order that would be restored to the roads without them and the rate of accidents that is likely to drop. Conversely, others worry about the hardships citizens would be exposed to especially where taxis and busses are not available.
In 2013, nearly half (47%) of the road accidents in Nigeria involved an Okada. Other vehicles involved in road accidents included commercial minibuses (30%), cars (7%), private buses (7%) and commercial luxury buses (7%). Trucks and trailers were the least accident prone vehicles on the roads with 3% followed by minivans and SUVs (4%).
So should Okada be banned in Nigeria or not? A national average of 36% of the respondents interviewed nationwide expressed their support for the banning of commercial motorcycles.  Disaggregating this support for banning by states, it was revealed that there was nearly a unanimous consensus among residents in Bayelsa and Plateau (90% each), followed by Abia (81%), Imo (77%), and Rivers (70%). The lowest support for the banning of Okada came from Kaduna and Oyo (15% each), Kebbi (14%), Katsina and Zamfara (both 13%), Ondo (12%) and Kwara (11%). 41% of those who supported the banning of Okada said their main reason is that it cause accidents; this finding agrees with the high frequency of okadas in road accidents as observed above. Another 34% said okada promotes crime while 26% supported the ban because too many people die in okada accidents. Others (25%) were concerned about the reckless driving of Okada riders, 6% said it cause traffic congestion on roads while another 3% expressed their support due to the menace/trouble Okada usually cause to pedestrians.
Close to 3 in every 5 respondents (57%) opposed the proposal to ban okada. Common reason given by respondents for the ban was that it will create unemployment (54%), 32% said it will increase crime another 32% also said it will increase suffering of the poor and 9% said they did not support due to the social unrest or strike actions which could result from such a ban. There was a direct correlation between the support and opposition for okada as States where opposition was fiercest were Kwara (94%), Ondo (84%), Zamfara and Ebonyi (both 83%)  while the opposition was weakest in Rivers (27%), Imo (22%), Abia (18%), Plateau (15%) and Bayelsa (7%).

Section VII: Perceptions on the FRSC

For the Federal Road Safety Commission to effectively discharge its mandate, a certain degree of trust, support and confidence by the Nigerian population is required. Considering that the FRSC has worked among Nigerian road users now nearly 3 decades, we posed a number of questions relating to citizens’ perception of the FRSC and the work it does.
As an indicator of prevention, citizens were asked how effective they thought the FRSC was in reducing road accident and fatalities in the country. A large number, 7 in 10 Nigerians (70%) rated the FRSC as “ineffective”; nearly a third (27%) was of the view that the FRSC was “effective” while 3% were undecided.
Nearly 1 in 2 Nigerian (48%) were of the view that they were likely to be made to pay a bribes (that is offer money, beside any official levies or charges) when they approach the FRSC to get help or services. Almost an equal number (45%) disagreed and uphold that they were unlikely to have to pay bribes to the FRSC. Evidently, Nigerians seem undecided on the likelihood of demand for bribe by the FRSC.
Besides the likelihood to pay bribe, 1 in 5 Nigerian (20%) have had actual experience of being asked to pay bribes by the FRSC before official services could be rendered to them in the past 12 months. While this is a worrying statistic, it is indeed a drop from the 26% demand for bribe reported in 2012. Across Nigeria, the demand for bribe by the FRSC officials was not evenly spread out; the most severe instances were recorded in Adamawa (67%), Ogun (60%), Ebonyi and Edo (50%), Anambra (47%), Kebbi (45%), Kano (44%), Imo (42%), which were more than twice the national average of 20%. The lowest incidences were recorded in Bauchi and Abia, which were all 0% each, followed by Osun and Plateau which recorded 3% and 5% respectively.

Towards Improved Public Safety on the Roads: Recommendations

In view of the findings presented above, a number of suggestions are recommended to improving road safety in Nigeria.
·         To check the abuse of alcohol by drivers on the roads, we recommend the deployment of breath analysers on strategic points on our expressways. The FRSC and other law enforcement officials on road patrols should be equipped with such devices to check drivers and enforce the laws where deviation is observed. All public bus parks should be equipped with breath analysers to check and ensure that only sober drivers are allowed to leave such parks.
·         A national audit of road availability and quality by state. Such an audit will show clearly the types of roads available to commuters and their current state of repairs and thus better informing holistic road repairs and management efforts of all government departments.
·         Installation of speed breakers in residential and congested neighbourhood: the installation of well-designed speed breakers in busy communities would ensure that drivers reduce speed and thus allow for pedestrians to move about with greater ease.
·         Installation of ICT devises to check speed: There is need to deploy motion detectors, cameras and other modern ICT devices along major highways to alert authorities on drivers’ overspeeding and allow for the erring driver to be apprehended and disciplined.
·         Installation of pedestrian bridges and zebra crossing: there is need to ensure that pedestrian crossing spots are installed and clearly marked in residential and commercial zones.
·         There is need for the standardization of drivers instruction process in Nigeria with driving schools registered and regulated to ensure that all new drivers are imparted the same amount of training and are adjudged fit to drive by the authorities before being issued with driving licences.
·         There is need for improved sensitization, collaboration between the FRSC and all sections of society to pass the message of safety on Nigerian roads.

[1] The time frame for which the data collected was between August 2012 and June 2013.


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