A Call for 'Convoy Code of Conduct'
As concerned citizens who are looking for signs that respect the rule of law and that the principle of servant leadership are understood at all levels of society, members of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) are dismayed to see that the traffic convoys of governors and various other officials continue to endanger the lives of citizens. NAS International calls upon the Inspector General of Police and the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to come together to urgently devise, publicise and implement a code of conduct for all official convoys.
This call comes in the wake of three incidents that exemplify the dangers of reckless behaviour that continues to be condoned at the highest levels. Not too long ago, a fatal accident occurred among the security vehicles following the Presidential convoy on the way to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. One person died and a number of others were severely injured and hospitalised.
On the 10th February, in Ikoyi, Lagos, members of an Imo State Governor’s convoy of about six cars deliberately rammed the car of a lady driver, with her two young children inside and, having stopped her, proceeded to assault her physically and further damage the vehicle. Her crime apparently was that though she moved aside, she failed to halt completely to allow the convoy to pass.
Third is the recent tragic death of the Ogun State Secretary to the state Government (SSG) returning from the funeral of the Vice-President’ Jonathan Goodluck’s Father.
These incidents illustrate a common theme – that members of official convoys believe themselves to be above the law, and perhaps even above the laws of physics that govern vehicles in motion. Their behaviour poses a danger to the lives and property of other road users. NAS recognises that our senior officials need protection and need to be able to move about freely but it is a mark of civilisation that these requirements are still subject to law and due consideration of others.
No public engagement is worth the loss of a single life. Yet time and again we hear of ghastly accidents involving convoys, either killing innocent road users or members of the convoy themselves. The accidents are almost always caused by excessive speed and reckless driving. It is galling to listen to the hypocritical homilies and watch the hollow gestures of generosity at the subsequent funerals when the same officials do nothing to stop a repeat incident.
Even if lives were not lost, no engagement can be so important that convoy outriders must hang out of their vehicles using weapons to strike cars, drivers and pedestrians simply because their boss is in a hurry. This behaviour has even spread to private companies, the main culprits being banks, aided and abetted by the police hired to escort their bullion vans.
It is not only the outlaw behaviour of official convoys that is an abuse of public office but their composition. Very often only one official is moving around, yet it is not unusual to see the number of accompanying vehicles reaching double figures, all crammed full with people. This is a scandalous waste of public funds and also a misuse of manpower that could be easily deployed to more constructive ends.
It is ironic that far from improving security of the principal many convoys endanger them further by drawing undue attention, by becoming involved in altercations that can divert security personnel from the main task of protecting their principal and when they drive recklessly they risk reducing the deployed personnel through death and injury and the further diversion of people and vehicles to perform emergency ambulance duty!
It is a mark of the lack of professionalism of so many of our security personnel that most of them do not know that one of the first rules of VIP protection in traffic is to drive safely to minimise the chance of any incident occurring that has not been meticulously planned. Protection is about being in control of the situation at all times. It is our observation that most convoy security personnel are out of control most of the time. Any one who has seen a convoy in motion will have noticed the almost juvenile level of over-excitement which results in dangerous speeding, swerving from side to side and veering dangerously close to other vehicles to intimidate them.
In some cases, the principal being escorted should not in any self-respecting country be moving in a convoy at all. Why should senior police officers, customs officers, military personnel, heads of parastatals, or ministers merit anything more than an escort or pilot who rides in the front of their car? If more is needed, surely unless you are the President or a State Governor there is no need for more than one escort vehicle.
There may of course be other exceptions and this is why NAS believes there is an urgent need for a national code of conduct that specifies which public servants should be afforded protection by vehicular escort. Strict limits should be imposed on vehicle numbers and the use of siren. The code should outline those few traffic rules that may be broken, the rare circumstances that may warrant it and the precautions that must be taken when doing so to ensure public safety.
Respect for other road users must be emphasised and security personnel must be warned that laws exist to protect citizens from unprovoked assault and criminal damage. Road users should be encouraged to report reckless driving and press charges in case of assault. Justice should be seen to be done in such cases.
The National Association of Seadogs urges President Umaru Yar’Adua to take the lead on this matter to halt this abuse of privilege and begin to entrench in practical way the much touted respect for rule of law and the admirable concept of ‘servant leadership’ in the Nigerian polity. We are equally imploring our law federal law makers in the National Assembly to come to the rescue by enacting statutes to check this disturbing and retrogressive culture of impunity.
Professor Olatunde Makanju
National Association of Seadogs, NAS
April 13, 2008