Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, southwest Nigeria, has raised alarm that commuter bus drivers in the state now take cocaine and engage in other substance abuse, warning that it is a dangerous trend that is akin to taking a gamble with people’s lives. He said this must stop.
According to the governor, at least 162 bus drivers in two motor parks in the state tested positive for cocaine and marijuana while 996 others in three parks were found to be driving under the influence of excessive alcohol.
Fashola made this known on Thursday during a Motor Park Health and Safety Awareness Campaign organised by the State Ministries of Health and Transportation in partnership with Guinness Nigeria Plc. The event took place at the New Garrage Motor Park, Bariga.
According to Fashola, tests conducted on 988 bus drivers at Oyingbo Motor Park revealed that 59 drivers tested positive for cocaine while another test conducted on bus drivers at Iyana Ipaja Motor Park showed that out of the 1,025 drivers tested, 103 of them tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.
He explained further that 884 motor drivers were screened at Ojota Motor Park, where 239 of them, representing 27% of those screened, were hypertensive, while 86 people representing 10% of those screened were found to be diabetic; 60 drivers representing 7% tested positive to substance abuse, and 287 people representing 32% of those screened had excessive blood alcohol level.
At the Oyingbo motor park campaign, 988 people were tested out of which 363 or 37% of the people were hypertensive; 156 or 16% had diabetes, 59 or 6% tested positive for cocaine or marijuana, and 494 or 50% tested positive for alcohol.
While at the campaign at Iyana Ipaja motor park, 1,025 people were screened and 162 people or 16% had hypertension, 71 people or 7% had diabetes, 103 or 10% tested positive for cocaine or marijuana and 215 or 21% had excessive alcohol in their blood system, he disclosed.
Fashola said since the inception of the campaign in 2011, at least 2,500 public transportation and commuter vehicle drivers had been screened for blood alcohol content, substance abuse, hypertension and diabetes as well as health education and enlightenment.
The governor added that the latest campaign at the New Garage Motor Park, Bariga which started on Tuesday had the drivers being tested for high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer screening and providing counselling and guidance for all the park operators and drivers in the park.
“Let us resolve today that we will stop taking a gamble with our lives. Every time you cross the highway, every time you drink Alomo and Paraga, every time you get behind the steering wheels with drugs in your system, it is like putting a loaded gun to one’s head and wondering if it can kill or not. It is a huge risk to take and we should stop taking that risk,” said Fashola, who was represented by his deputy, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire.
Fashola urged commuter vehicle drivers to desist from taking alcohol, drugs or other related substance before going behind the wheel, stressing that evidence abounded that road traffic accidents were influenced and precipitated by substance abuse which impair driver’s ability to manage and manipulate a vehicle well.
He noted that the Motor Park Health and Safety Awareness Campaign Programme was an initiative of his administration to raise awareness about responsible consumption of alcohol and initiate change in attitude among motor park drivers.
“The aim of the initiative is to reduce road traffic accidents, thereby ensuring the safety of drivers, passengers and other road users. The campaign is also aimed at increasing awareness about mental health and what can be done not only to prevent it but also to cure it. It is part of the composite health care plan for the sustainability of our people as well as improving their life expectancy rate,” he explained.
Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, urged drivers to dislodge drug and alcohol hawkers from their parks and also cautioned against substance and alcohol abuse, adding that abuse of these controlled drugs was responsible for the high rate of road traffic accidents.
He noted that the Drivers’ Institutes located in Epe, Ikorodu, Oshodi, Ikeja and Lagos Island were built to train motorists both private and public, about techniques, driving methods and driving habits.
Opeifa added that the state government would from 1 October, 2013 begin the enforcement of accreditation of all professional and commuter vehicle drivers, stressing that any commuter vehicle driver that does not have certification of the Drivers’ Institute would not be allowed to operate in the state.