30th May, 2013
What our eyes have not seen and our ears have not heard is the story of a deaf and dumb commuter bus driver who was arrested in Lagos on Monday, 27 May, 2013. He was conveying commuters in his bus when he was arrested.
It is difficult to imagine that a man with such a severe disability could go into driving profession that requires the sense of hearing among others for one to be able to effectively control a moving machine such as a motor vehicle.
That is the story of Sunday Ogunmola who has been driving danfo, the ubiquitous Lagos commuter bus, since 1999 without being detected by law enforcement agents. He was even driving without a valid licence. Luck ran out on him on Monday when he drove on the prohibited BRT lane at Apongbon area of Lagos, southwest Nigeria. He was arrested by officials of the state Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit.
When he was asked why he was driving on the prohibited lane, he could not reply. It was then the officials discovered that he is deaf and dumb. His arrest underscores the danger danfo drivers constitute to other road users in the state. They drive under the influence of alcohol and hard drugs, which explains why they defy traffic rules and regulations with impunity.
In September last year, the state government came up with a startling statistics of commuter bus drivers who drive under the influence of illicit drugs and alcohol. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris announced that out of the 2,500 of them administered with breathalyzer to check their blood alcohol content, 441 of them tested positive to psychotropic drugs such as cannabis or marijuana and cocaine, while 781 were found to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
What this means is that public transportation in the state deserves serious scrutiny to flush out these drivers who constitute a serious danger to other road users and even the commuters they convey. There are many Sunday Ogunmolas that have not yet been detected. If a deaf and dumb man could drive in a city like Lagos for 14 years without being detected, then something is seriously wrong with law enforcement agencies.
The state government must regularly carry out checks on the mental state of these bus drivers. If checks conducted in two motor parks, Alaagba Motor Park in Iyana-Ipaja and Under Bridge Motor Park within the metropolis, could turn up such a huge number of drug addicts as drivers, then thousands of them may be plying the roads.
The government should come down hard on these potential killer drivers by invoking section 21, subsection 1 of the new traffic law which stipulates that anyone convicted for violating this law is sentenced to two years imprisonment or made to pay a fine of N100,000 or both. This is one of the ways the devil-may-care attitude of the drivers can be put in check and safeguard other road users.