ABUJA, NIGERIA - Nigeria’s Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has secured government approval for their officers to carry firearms. The commission pushed for the measure after an increase in road crimes and attacks on members of the corps. But not all Nigerians are happy with the idea that the people responsible for road safety will have deadly weapons at their disposal.
Blasting horns coming from vehicles in congested traffic is a morning ritual on this road in the center of Nigeria’s capital.
Members of Nigeria’s road safety squad are directing traffic. This is their daily routine.
Sini Kwabe is national coordinator of the road officers and a special marshal.
“I discovered that this is one of the spots that is so bad in terms of traffic congestion, and I decided to call my people to come out as early as possible today and I had to join them to make sure that we decongest,” Kwabe said.
But the duties of Nigeria’s road corps could be taking a new twist soon. Kwabe says the corps has secured government approval to carry firearms.
For three decades, the safety squad has conducted its operations without being armed.
Kwabe says his officers are well trained.
“The federal government has approved that and the officers and men have already undertaken their training,” he said. “When we had our own training two years back I was privileged to be part of the management.”
A recent spate of attacks on road corps members by armed robbers and reckless drivers prompted the government’s decision.
More than 70 corps members have been killed in the last year by armed robbers or hit-and-run drivers.
Some drivers, officials worried
But the prospect of armed road marshals has raised worry among some residents of Abuja.
Commercial cab driver Moses Ndawo explains his concerns.
“For them to have a gun is a suicide mission, with all those experiences that I have ... because I don’t see the reason. They never have guns. They’re doing all this. By the time he has gun, nobody can withstand or talk to him. By the time you say one thing they can shoot.”
Fidelis Nnadi is the executive director for Accidents Prevention and Rescue Initiative, a nongovernmental organization. He says he does not like the plan for armed road officers.
“The federal road safety commission does not need arms because by virtue of their creation, by virtue if their establishment — they’re established to ensure safety of road users. Road safety is more of a civil matter ... civil outfit, it is not a security agency.”
It is not clear when the road corps will begin carrying firearms. When it happens, Nigerians will be watching and wondering — will their weapons make the roads safer, or more dangerous?