My observation revealed that each time an accident occurs on Nigerian roads, fairly large number of people believe it is an act of God. Therefore, you see many of the motorists, most especially the commercial ones drive recklessly on the roads even when they are sharing the road with haulage trucks. It is even more obvious among commercial motorcycle operators who believe that no accident can occur except God allows it and that no matter how reckless they drive, it can never lead to an accident. This is an erroneous belief that can result to an untimely death.

As an individual, a high rate of road accidents in Nigeria is neither acceptable to me nor do I think it is acceptable to any Nigerian but oftentimes, when you see an accident occur on Nigerian roads, it will not take you a long time before you hear people giving their final conclusion on the whole matter by saying “It is an act of God”. They easily accept any accident that happens on Nigerian roads as an act of God. What a wrong conception!

So, one may wonder if God had pre-destined many Nigerians to die by road accidents on daily basis. In addition, one may even be tempted to ask why God would choose road accidents as a means to kill thousands of people in Nigeria. These, among others, are the likely questions that may readily come to mind when one ponders on the frequency of road accidents and the general belief or common conclusion of many people on road traffic accidents as “the act of God”

Accidents by circumstance are not God’s errors

At this point, it is essential that the writer is neither an Imam nor a pastor over a church. Therefore, I am not looking at this erroneous belief from a religious perspective rather I am looking at it from a professional point of view. In all honesty, most accidents are caused by human errors.

The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe reveals that most road accidents in Zimbabwe happen as a result of human errors. According to the statistics given (in Zimbabwe), 93.4% of all accidents recorded during 2014/2015 festive periods were due to human errors. Source: Chronicle.co.zw

Although, a man can be a victim of an accident by circumstances, this is a situation when a man who has no fault is involved in an accident caused by another man’s fault. Yet, this does not mean that the accident is an act of God, rather it is an avoidable occurrence caused by another man’s errors that makes an innocent man a victim by circumstance.

A Case Study

For instance, in 2015, an articulated vehicle carrying an unlatched container suddenly slipped off the truck and fell on a commercial bus at Illishan, Ogun State, Nigeria, killing all the12 passengers on board. However, 11 of the victims were said to be students of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) and the last person was the driver of the said bus. In addition, the truck driver took to his heels and the truck has no registered number plate, making it so difficult to trace the truck owner and the driver.

This particular accident was caused by a human error traceable to four set of people or agencies namely:

  • The truck owner
  • The truck driver
  • The traffic regulatory agencies e.g. The Police, The FRSC, The NSCDC, The VIO, and
  • The Government.

It was a high risk of negligence on the part of the truck owner and the truck driver to carry an unlatched container on public roads. It was also an error from the traffic regulatory agencies to allow an unlatched container to be carried on Nigerian roads without being checked or arresting the truck driver. The last but not the least is the responsibility of the government to make it a law forbidding any truck to carry an unlatched container on public roads. It should be realized that the failure to do and enforce this would amount to an error on the part of the government.

However, the said students and the driver were the victims of an accident by circumstance. It was not the fault of the students to board a commercial bus and it was not the fault of the bus driver to use the public road or share the road with a haulage truck, yet they died in the accident they never bargained for by circumstance. It is painful and quite unfortunate that they were not the cause of the accident that claimed their lives. Their untimely deaths were determined by the errors of four categories of people mentioned above; otherwise, it would have been an avoidable accident.

Another Case Study

In 2013, on Christmas day, to be precise, a woman and her 4 children and 5 other people were killed when a container fell on a stationary commuter bus at Alaba Suru, in Lagos. It was revealed that the truck driver was trying to avoid killing a mad man who slept on the road when the container it carried fell from the truck.

It is a pity that the woman, her 4 children and 5 other people were the victims of the accident by circumstance. The death that claimed their lives was not as a result of their own fault, it was the fault of 4 set of people mentioned above. The mad man that slept on the road only showcased a characteristic of a mad man because a normal human being can never sleep on the public road for any reason. So, the mad man might not share in the blame. Moreover, observation also reveals that some of the bus-stops on public roads are luxury apartments for lunatics to live. They make this important transport infrastructure their dwelling place without being checked, thereby making it so difficult for public use. However, the state or government environmental board should be blamed. It’s a menace or a threat to the public to see many mad men and women moving around the city and on the public roads. This is why the government environmental board or agency responsible for environmental sanitation should be blamed. It is expected of them to rise up to the task in reducing the menace constituted by lunatics on our public roads.

However, the attempt made by the truck driver to avoid killing the mad man on the road was a good one but it was a big error of negligence for the driver to carry an unlatched container on the public road. Therefore, it was a human error that caused the death of 10 innocent people; otherwise it would have been an avoidable accident.

Nonetheless, in transport profession, it is an erroneous assumption or belief to see the death of 11students, the driver , the 5 other people, the woman and her 4 children as the act of God rather it is the act of men known as “human error” which made innocent men victims by circumstance.

In the recent time, observations from individuals and professional bodies have indicated that travelling by air is safer than travelling by road. In Nigeria today, hardly can one find a day without the occurrence of a road accident. On the other hand, it is almost a strange thing to hear of a plane crash in air transport throughout a particular year except for some occasional ones. Do you know that thousands of airplanes travel both locally and globally every day? The Federal Aviation Administration reveals that there are 30,000 flights a day in the US. Yet you will hardly hear the news of a plane crash as we have it in road transport on daily basis. My question to those that hold this erroneous belief is ‘Why doesn’t God choose to kill many people on daily basis through plane crashes as we have in road transport?

According to Captain Dave Thomas “….commercial air travel is the safest mode in the world.” In all honesty, air transport is far safer than road transport. Why? It is because safety is not negotiable in air transport. This is the reason we don’t have frequent plane crashes on daily basis as we have it in road transport system. When there is a plane crash, the aviation industry tries to research the causes and makes efforts to prevent a future occurrence. Air safety cannot be overemphasized in the aviation industry.

If road safety is given due consideration by all road users without being forced, the frequency of road carnages on daily basis will be a day dream and this erroneous belief that makes some motorists, most especially, commercial motorists and motorcyclists to throw caution into the air while making use of the road will no longer seem to have assigned function in a road accident.

According to a traffic safety officer in Zimbabwe, Tatenda Chinoda, drivers’ errors are generally the major causes of road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe.

Therefore, the high rate of traffic accidents in Nigeria and other parts of the world is not the act of God but the act of men even if an accident occurs due to a mechanical problem, it’s still a human error caused a by mechanical engineer.