NURTW gives us daily traffic updates —FRSC Lagos PRO

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The Acting Public Education Officer in Lagos State, Federal Road Safety Corps, Deputy Route Commander Olabisi Sonusi, speaks to TOBI AWORINDE about her public enlightenment work

What do you do in the Federal Road Safety Corps?

I am more like the (FRSC) public relations officer for the state, but in an acting capacity. I handle public education and protocol activities for the sector commander. I have staff who work with me and my daily routine starts every day with Lagos traffic report in the morning. Thereafter, I come to the office, do public enlightenment for traffic offenders who have been apprehended and brought to pay for their fines. If there is any other radio programme that we have slated for that day — mainly Mondays and Fridays — we also go for that. I do that with any of my staff officers who is available. And if the sector commander has any activity that warrants going out, we do protocol activities also for him as an advance team and advise him on when to move and prepare whatever we need to take along for such visits.

How long have you worked with the FRSC?

I started really early as a junior officer and I have worked for 24 years.

When does the day begin for you?

A normal day for me starts at 5 am. I wake up and the first thing I do is a short prayer thanking God for sparing my life. I start making calls to any of my colleagues at critical routes. When I say critical routes, I mean Lagos-Ibadan Expressway leading to Third Mainland Bridge and the Island (Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Ajah, etc.) I also take the stretch of Ikorodu Road down to Funsho Williams (Avenue). For those at the core of Ikorodu Town, I tell them what the traffic situation is like on that stretch of road down to the old Western Avenue, which is now Funsho Williams Avenue. That means I take the stretch of Odo Iyalaro to Onipanu, for those heading through Jibowu to Yaba, Oyingbo, Herbert Macaulay; and for those who want to use the Dorman Long Bridge down to Alaka to access Eko Bridge or Carter Bridge, using that stretch to connect back towards VI or Ikoyi. Last but not least of the critical corridors is Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway towards Agege Motor Road — for those who want to use that stretch, maybe to come down to Mushin through Moshalashi to Funsho Williams — and also Apapa Expressway. That is a typical day for me.

How early does your radio traffic update begin?

When I make all these calls and I put all this information together, the first (radio) station that calls me every morning is Inspiration FM, and they call between 6:08 am and 6:10 am. At about 6:15 am, almost immediately after that call, Rhythm (FM) is calling me. And in about five minutes, once I am through with Rhythm, I pause a little to call (my colleagues) again to be updated, in case the situation anywhere has changed, before Raypower FM calls. Raypower calls between 6:20 am and 6:30 am. And I do these three stations every morning, Monday to Friday.

What happens if one of your colleagues is unable to reach one of those critical areas?

Whenever there is a (crucial) corridor and I don’t have the traffic situation, I just leave it out. Apart from that, with any information that I get from any of my colleagues or any of the Twitter handles, because I have a mental picture of how that road is, I know what it is like by the time I go on air. Take Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, for instance. I know there is no time of the day that, around Alakuko, you will not experience slow movement because, one, the yellow buses would be picking passengers, some (passengers) would be alighting and dashing across the road, which always slows down traffic. The same is the case on AIT Road, and not even now that we have some bad portions around that corridor too. So, I look at the day and what the volume of traffic in other areas would be like and when my colleagues are not there, I could picture a near-true situation of that road. But I wouldn’t give in-depth information about how it is. I could just use “busy movement” or “moving traffic on that end.”  But when my colleague sights a broken down truck, they tell me the type of vehicle it is, and in some cases, if it is very early in the morning and they can see the colour, they tell me and give me the registration number. So, when I go on air, people would be wondering, “Is she a witch? How does she know the situation?” But someone has gone through that route to see what is happening. I can’t be everywhere at the same time, but I have people giving me this information which helps me to help other people to have a smooth journey.

Do you involve commuters in information gathering?

Presently, for me, I have just a few people that I use for that. I work closely with the National Union of Road Transport Workers because of the nature of my job. There are some of them whose numbers I have and I could call, especially those who do early morning runs. Fagba-Pen Cinema-Agric is one place where I have people that give me such information. Some of the ones that pass through this place (Ojodu) — because I can’t give traffic report without telling people about where I am based — give me information about what is happening in the axis where my office is. In most cases, when I get such people telling me what these situations are, if there is a crash, I immediately call the office. So, by the time you hear me come on air, you’ll hear things like, “Our men are on the way,” because I have contacted them. It makes the work seamless.

Is there a response time limit for when there is an emergency situation?

It is easy for the office to respond because we have men who do night rescue. They don’t go anywhere. For them, once they get that emergency situation (report), theirs is to move immediately. It is a complete team: You have the driver, who is put on standby to ensure that once the whistle is blown, they set out immediately. When it comes to the response time, immediately we get the information, men are deployed. Once they get to the scene of the accident, we need to also send what we call the FIR — first incident report. You give the situation you meet on the ground before you follow up with a detailed report, so that the appropriate authorities are aware. For instance, if the Corps PRO in Abuja is contacted, though he is not in Lagos, it is that FIR that he uses. So, once he is called that “at so-and-so time, we heard that there was a crash and our men did this, but a detailed report will also follow up,” that gap of reporting is also closed. But, just as I said, the response time depends on when we get to know of the crash.

When you started out, how did you familiarise yourself with the Lagos terrain?

The first advantage for me was that I not only grew up in Lagos, I was given birth to in Lagos. I schooled in Lagos and up till now, I am still in Lagos. Fortunately, in the course of my job, the only time I have been able to move out of Lagos was to Ogun State, which is the nearest. That alone has given me the opportunity. Growing up in Lagos, I had no issue. I went to the Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo before I did my master’s degree at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. That was the only time I left Lagos for school. So, it was really easy (to transition to doing Lagos traffic report). That is why you can call me ‘Lagos babe.’

How do you unwind?

I am an introvert. My staff officers are still helping me (to come out of my shell): “Officer Sonusi, you need to go out.” I am an indoor person. When it is not work-related, I am at home with my daughter either reading or listening to the radio because learning is continuous. I also love listening to Tope Alabi and Ebenezer Obey. I still read to catch up with the latest trends. One of my companions is Lagos Traffic Radio; it is a radio station meant for traffic situations. That has also given me more time to cover new ground and learn about places I have not been to. Such places have one issue or the other that I am not aware of. Outside of that, I don’t drink alcohol, so there is no way I would go to a club. Once in a while, some friends will come around and we’ll go to a few places, where I will take my bottle of soft malt drink. And if you invite me to any party, I will come, just to loosen up and meet new people. But I look forward to joining a social club.

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