Many motorists do not have valid insurance cover, leaving victims to their fate after an accident. To correct this anomaly, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has initiated an awareness campaign, ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE and OLALEKAN AYENI report
It is a malaise that has become a culture on the road. A motorist hits another, usually the one ahead of him and within a twinkle of an eye, they begin a row that would leave a chaotic traffic gridlock. This usually continues until a law enforcement agent comes to straighten things out.
“You don hit my car…oyinbo repete,” a song in the 70s by Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, now an Evangelist, the scenario. However, the effect of such delays are more devastating now, because of the increase in motorised vehicles than they were in the 70s.
At such times, according to a motorist, Olaosebikan Olajide, “reason usually takes flight as the road ‘demons’ would simply take over”.
But the Lagos Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr Hyginus Omeje, said the ‘indiscipline’ occurs because of the “absence of insurance cover”on most vehicles.
He said over 85 per cent of vehicles plying Lagos roads either do not have insurance cover or are parading fake ones obtained from nebulous avenues. He said soon, the agency would swoop on motorists with fake insurance certificates.
According to Omeje, the sector has started an awareness campaign on motor vehicle insurance, which will see its officials going to schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, motor parks and other public places, to educate people on the advantages of having an insurance cover on their vehicles.
He said motorists often block the road during crashes, waiting for traffic agencies to intervene. Such behaviour, he said, would not arise if they had motor insurance – either third party or comprehensive.
“A will say you are not moving the vehicle. B will also disagree with moving the vehicle, forgetting that a minute of obstruction can cause people hours in gridlock.
He said what parties needed in the case of an accident was the exchange of the insurance papers, and then the insurance companies will take over. But people are fighting because they lack knowledge of this vital cover that gives them succour.
The Sector chief said many times some people transfer the burden of these minor accidents to motorists, thereby creating problems as they hold other road users to ransom over issues that could have been transferred to their insurers.
He said: “The situation is so bad that some have even forgotten that they are carrying comprehensive cover and would still be fighting someone who hits them from the rear, rather than just calling on their insurer to fix the damage.”
According to him, if their vehicles are insured, no matter the class of insurance, drivers need not engage in arguments that contribute to gridlocks.
Omeje said Section 139 (1) of the National Road Traffic Regulation, 2012 makes it an offence for any person to drive any uninsured vehicle, trailer, stage carriage or omnibus on any public road, while Sub-section 3 of the same regulation makes it an offence for any person to drive any vehicle with forged or false insurance papers.
According to him, the insurance required under the regulation shall either be the Third Party Insurance or Comprehensive insurance cover.
Reeling out statistics, Omeje said, “in the last three years, thousands have died or suffered from physical or mental disability from road crashes. “In 2013, a total of 367 accidents were recorded, with 1,030 injured and 115 dead. In 2014, 323 accident cases, recorded 707 injured persons and 106 deaths, while a total of 289 accidents recorded between January to September 2015, left 642 injured and 82 deaths.
Each time a crash occurs, the victims go uncompensated as a result of ignorance of their rights to same by the insurer.
He said passengers had a right to some form of compensation if they sustain any injury on any vehicle that had a genuine insurance cover, while opportunities are also available for insurance owners to increase the benefits if they could pay just a little bit more.
Omeje said it is sad that many Nigerians, including the educated, are ignorant of the benefits of insurance, adding that this would soon begin to change with the aggressive awareness campaign his sector intends.
The exercise, he said was being embarked upon in collaboration with critical stakeholders, such as the Insurance Awareness &Advocacy Group, (IAAG Nigeria) and the Nigeria Insurance Association (NIA). The campaign, he added, is to sensitise motorists, mostly the main stakeholders in the transport industry, Petroleum Tanker Drivers of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (PTD-NUPENG), National Association of Truck Owners (NATO), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), among others, to have a better understanding of the benefit of insurance and enlighten their members, a development which he added will reduce crashes on the road.
Omeje appealed to the IAAG and other stakeholders to give the campaign the widest coverage to get across to all the major parks in Lagos and its environ so that motorists will understand that giving token to touts for the procurement of insurance cover is not only illegal, but is defeating the purpose of insurance.
He praised the NIA for coming up with the Nigerian Insurance Industry Database (NIID), which has improved the public’s access to confirming not only the names of insurance companies and insurance broking firms operating in the country, but also the genuineness of the certificates procured from them.
He advised the vehicles owners to ensure they patronise insurance firms whose names are on the database for whichever category of insurance cover they require, rather than patronising touts or illegal outlets for such documents.
IAAG Nigeria’s President Mr Indongesit Mbat said the awareness campaign is aimed at improving the knowledge base of Nigerians to the huge benefits that are locked in the insurance sub-sector of the economy and how they could unlock these for their benefits.
Mbat bemoaned the huge ignorance that still pervades even the educated in the country on insurance, adding that the first step to correcting this is the campaign that would change the perception of the people to insurance.
“Insurance is viewed mainly as having nothing in store for the poor but exclusively for the rich. That perception must change and that is why we are going to all public places to re-educate the people to see the advantages they are missing in avoiding insurance. Insurance is all about life and providing for unforeseen eventualities that often causes disruption to the normal flow of life. So, everyone ought to embrace insurance and it must permeate to the grassroots.”
On motor vehicle insurance, Mbat said though insurance per se would not reduce accidents, he assures road users of the benefit of compensation when accidents occur. “Insurance brings succour in case of any accident, either on a comprehensive basis or to an innocent third party.
Insurance firms support safe driving. All classes of insurance can bring succour to a third party giving them reliefs from the effects of accidents. In case of any accident, insurance companies of both parties holding third party instruments would cover the damages to which their owners are exposed.
Mbat said even passengers are also liable to enjoy some limited reliefs even in a third party insurance as presently obtained, adding that governments should come out strongly to .
“Passengers have a limited cover in case of accidents even in the case of third party. A commercial operator could therefore expand the cover of the instrument to give more reliefs to his passengers.
An NIA official, Mrs Bola Omole, said NIA came up with the NIID to enable all to ensure that they patronise authentic insurers. She said in an economy that has a huge third party insurers, any vehicle owner can confirm the authenticity of a policy issued by any licensing office.
She said: “Someone could just log on to the NIID website www.askniid.org and follow the instructions laid out on the website, enter your Vehicle Number or Insurance Policy number to confirm its authenticity.
“Once entered, the result will appear right in front of you. If your policy is authentic, your vehicle number, policy number, vehicle type will appear. If it is fake no information will appear, meaning it is not in their database. If your insurance policy is not NIID, it is fake,” she says.
In such eventualities, such a person cannot make a claim if anything happens to him or his car and the authorities could impound his/her vehicle.
The benefits of this initiative, Mrs Omole said are quite enormous. “For example, by typing in the vehicle numbers of suspicious vehicle, or one which is contravening traffic laws, you would get the name of the owner of the car. The police can also use it to authenticate vehicle ownership against Vehicle Licence and Proof of Ownership documents. The benefits are, indeed, immense and will materialise as time goes on.
“This is a laudable development which I hope everyone adopts. I hope they go on to include Properties Insurance, Fire and Burglary Insurance, Life Insurance etc to this platform. That surely will change the landscape of insurance in Nigeria.”
She urged vehicle owners to follow the due process of getting a comprehensive insurance cover.
There seems to be no other way if Omeje’s assertion must be believed. With the FRSC set to begin a clampdown on all those without genuine insurance document, the road may eventually become safer for road users and end may soon be in sight for gridlocks on the roads.
Source: Nation Newspaper