The Federal Road Safety Corps has sent 80 persons to mental health facilities for various traffic offences, as traffic marshals commence pilot exercise for new road safety enforcement policy.
Bisi Kazeem, the commission’s spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES in a chat on Sunday afternoon that the offenders were arrested between Saturday and Sunday.
The new policy kicked off on July 1.
The 80 persons were arrested for 86 offences which ranged from driving without seatbelts to making phone calls while driving, Mr. Kazeem said.
On Saturday, Boboye Oyeyemi, the Corps Marshal of the FRSC, deployed a team of road traffic marshals to major roads around Abuja, in a new operation codenamed ‘Cobra Squad.’
Mr. Kazeem said 19 people were arrested on the first day for 22 offences.
On Sunday, 61 offenders were arrested for 64 violations, Mr. Kazeem said.
Driving while making phone calls and driving without seatbelts were the most prevalent infractions — at 27 and 23 instances, respectively.
Mr. Oyeyemi said probing mental stability of road traffic offenders will help curb abuses and promote sanity on the road.
But some psychiatrists have criticised the policy as ‘reckless’ and ’embarrassing.’
Ambrose Lawani, a psychiatrist based in Benin City, said the FRSC did not consider some crucial factors before announcing the policy.
“They cannot implement psychiatric tests without putting key arrangements in place,” Mr. Lawani said.
For one, Mr. Lawani said, traffic offences are part of normal social misbehaviours that require only caution through fines rather than being seen as mental disorders.
Another major concern is that the policy “would be a serious distraction for psychiatric doctors in the country because of the high number of individuals that will be forced to take tests when those with genuine mental illnesses are not even getting the treatment they require,” Mr. Lawani said.
Similarly, he said FRSC did not outline what will happen to any offender shown to be suffering mental disorder after evaluation.
“Anyone found to be suffering mental disorder cannot be allowed to go home without proper treatment,” Mr. Lawani said. “If the person doesn’t have money, who will pick the bill?”
Dumping hundreds of drivers in mental health centres will only worsen the centres and little budget they receive, which has been stagnant since 2006, the psychiatrist said.
“Nigeria is in for a big embarrassment with this hasty and poorly-researched policy that will soon somersault like others before it,” he said.
The doctor advised the FRSC to consult psychiatrists across the country for a possible synergy on how the policy could be properly implemented without disrupting existing arrangements for mental health evaluation and treatment.
But Mr. Oyeyemi said mental evaluation requirement was not unusual in road traffic enforcement and likened it to the process of obtaining a driving licence.
“This is one of the criteria before you obtain a licence,” he said.