By EmmanueL Edukugho
With so many articulated vehicles plying the roads especially on working days including those carrying containers with heavy cargoes of all kinds, the damage done to road infrastructure and discomfort suffered by other road users who cannot enjoy smooth transportation due to incessant traffic hold-up can better be imagined than experienced.
Presently, several lives are being lost and properties destroyed as containers dangerously mounted on long trailers are falling off while passing through most of these rickety roads that are even death-traps already. No one can say precisely who would be victims of such tragedy. Tanker-accidents spewing petrol, diesel, kerosene and bursting into flames have become common sights on Nigerian roads with scores of innocent people killed almost daily.
For containers, most of them are so massive and huge, their sight intimidating and threatening to road users as they are not usually securely hooked or fastened to the long vehicles conveying them to and from warehouses and terminals.
Ordinarily, a container is a very large standard-sized metal box used for transporting goods even including cars, crates of motor parts, textiles, furniture, home appliances, heavy industrial products, equipment, weapons and so on.
The situation is taking another dimension as containers are no longer limited to urban highways but are seen at inner city roads and streets, thereby causing obstruction, blocking smooth flow of traffic. Container laden trucks are taken to these inner roads where there are several warehouses operated by private companies and individuals, resultantly damaging such roads, causing untold hardships to several residents.
Muftau Raji, a private commercial transport operator who lives at Boundary area, Ajegunle, told Saturday Vanguard that up to three warehouses are located in the neighbourhood.
“Some of these containers are so big they’ve constituted hazards and nuisance to the people staying in the neighbourhood. They cause damage to our street thereby not allowing the road to last as long as required. Something must be done to check the excesses of these container laden trucks which are invading several nooks and corners where there are warehouses.”
An accountant with a bank at Ilupeju who does not want his name mentioned blamed the proliferation of warehouses on government that lacked the capacity to control such places.
“Government officials cannot claim ignorance about these illegal warehouses found in several parts of the Lagos metropolis. The city is growing into a megacity which requires that certain things should be done to reflect the status. Warehouses are too many as many people have become importers and exporters of all types of goods. This is not good for our economy.”
The roads are not good in the first place. Allowing heavy duty trucks to move on them will not only damage further, but cause more carnage. The inner city roads are often neglected and abandoned by government. To allow container trucks to ply them indiscriminately could lead to more damage.
Dauda Musa, an auto mechanic, wants government to identify these street warehouses and close them down.
There are already sufficient government approved warehouses everywhere across the country. Government should not be seen to be encouraging private warehouses that do not pay duties and taxes to the authorities and turning into nuisance.
Just like illegal schools, government has to clamp down on mushroom warehouses used to keep and store contraband goods. This situation must not be allowed to continue. Some of the streets are just too narrow for these containers coming in with goods to pass through,” Dauda said. He added that apart from damaging the roads, it also shortens their life span.
However, investigation showed that there is a low level of Nigerian container traffic while at the same time the African container traffic is less than one per cent of the total world container traffic of over 400 million containers.
According to a reliable source, it is less expensive to carry a container from China to Lagos. If you are taking goods to Ghana from Nigeria by road, it takes six days, but if by sea, it takes 60 days because you will use European vessels to take the goods to Europe first and then bring them back to Ghana.
Nothing is basically wrong with plying most of our roads, except for the damage often caused by the volume of cargo that passed on them.
Analysts and transport experts believed that the solution is in putting the goods on rail system. This explains why Lagos State embarked on both road expansion and light rail simultaneously. Though much work remained to be done, but there is hope on the horizon when eventually completed.
Often, container trucks find it very difficult to manipulate on these inner roads and in trying to do so, they break down, in some cases, for three, four days holding car owners and other motorists to ransom.
Most of the trucks are prone to mechanical faults and worsens while on these inner streets. They don’t abide to traffic rules and regulations prohibiting these vehicles from accessing inner city roads.
Hence in some neighbourhoods, especially in several local government areas, there are warnings that such articulated vehicles are prohibited from entering. They can disconnect electricity supply because of their height hence men who accompanied these container trucks carry wooden sticks to shift power lines in congested neighbourhoods.