By Bilesanmi Olalekan
The traffic log jam was unnecessary. It stretched to a combined 50-kilometre of roads: From Igando to Ikotun and to Iyana–Ipaja. And the death could have been avoided if necessary tools were available. Unfortunately, we are in a society where government’s effect is felt only before and during elections.
Time was 7.40am on Tuesday. Scene of accident was Car-Wash bus-stop along Egbeda-Idimu- Road, Lagos. A refuse truck belonging to one of the Private Sector Participation, PSP, operators for Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, God’s Ventures, was on its way to Solous dump site along LASU-Iba Road to empty its bowel of the refuse collected the previous night. In it were five passengers plus the driver. Three of the workers sat with the driver while Idowu, 44, was standing on the refuse compartment of the truck. Meanwhile, two commercial bus (known as Veragon) drivers, in their usual manner, were stopping anyhow at the bus-stops to pick passengers.
The two buses were trying to outwit each other to get passengers. In the process, one of them, without regard to the truck racing from behind, returned to the main lane. In order to avoid hitting the bus (which could have been fatal), the driver swerved, hit the street light on the median before falling on its side. The truck blocked one side of the expressway. But as the truck was going down on its side, Idowu , according to eye witnesses, came crashing with it. He was instantly crushed. The two commercial buses sped off.
The effect of the crash and the blockage of one side of the highway immediately became manifest on both sides of the road. Trust Nigerian drivers, they started driving against traffic. Within 30 minutes of the accident, the resultant traffic jam was heavy such that access roads nearby were congested. Policemen from Area M Command, Idimu and Ikotun stations were on hand on rescue operation and to control the traffic. Staff of Road Safety Commission had to trek five kilometres from their office in Ikotun to Car Wash, scene of the accident, to also help out. Two cranes brought in to lift off the truck to clear the road of the wreckage could not get it off the ground. By the time it was eventually lifted, almost six hours later, it was Idowu’s crushed corpse that was recovered.
Meanwhile, Idowu, whose wife put to bed a month ago, lost his elder sister two weeks back to breast cancer, one of the victim’s co-workers told Sunday Vanguard. Idowu volunteered to take care of the two children of the deceased sister. “His mother started living with him about three months ago. So he had six people in his house that he was feeding. He had three children, the last being the one his wife delivered a month ago. The burden of these people in his house was really heavy on him such that I was giving him part of my share of whatever we sold from the garbage everyday”, the co-workers said.
He continued: “We took a lot of refuse last night(Monday).We didn’t even disperse until around 8pm. So we all resumed very early today so that we could dispose the refuse this morning before we begin the real job of today. So we were actually on our way to Solous when the accident happened. I would have left this job since last month but I am just waiting for this month’s salary before I take my leave. I already have N40k with me. I only need N20k more to get a decent apartment and then I leave the job totally. There is really nothing much about this job. The only thing it does for you is to be able to feed. And that is why you see us fighting over disposable items all the time because it is from these items that we get something to go home with at the end of the day”.
However, Idowu probably would not have died if he had adhered to instructions regarding operations of disposing refuse. LAWMA, according to one of the officials at the site of the accident, said on no account should anybody stand in the refuse compartment of the trucks. Everybody should be seated with the driver. While corroborating the LAWMA stand, one of the accident’s survivors said when they were leaving Akowonjo, their boss told all to sit with the driver.” Two of us sat with the driver, then I joined them. I was with him but I just changed my mind to join my colleagues. He was even joking that I joined my other colleagues because I was scared. And I replied that I was too young to die and we all laughed it off. We told him to come inside to sit with us but he said we should not worry. We didn’t know that that was the last of what we were going to see of him”.
The bottleneck created by the accident would not have happened if the access roads were motorable. Majority of the roads in Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area are in deplorable situation. The roads include Yaba Street, Pipeline Road, Madarikan and Honourable Aliu. Petitions have been written against the council chairman, Honorable Waheed Adebayo Bello, about his ‘I don’t care attitude’ on the roads. Maybe accidents like this will inspire him to look into the access roads.