By Evelyn Usman

Scene of the recent Ojota, Lagos truck accidentFor the second time in less than a week, four persons, three men and a woman have been crushed to death by unlatched containers, which fell off from their trucks at different areas in Lagos State. The first incident occurred last Tuesday at Ijesha, along the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, where a truck conveying an empty container veered off the expressway, apparently due to the a break failure. In the driver’s bid to control the truck, the unlatched container fell off and landed on some commuters at Ijesha bus-stop, compressing them beyond description. One of them, a woman, who was standing on the service lane was cut into two, from the chest.

Just Monday this week, another unlatched container fell off a truck, snuffing life out of a lone passenger in a Jeep with Lagos registration number DW 206 LSD at Ojota area of Lagos.

The reoccurring incident is one two many in recent times. Conveying containers to or fro the Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports have become one of the most critical sources of danger to road users.

The presence of these heavy duty trucks, be it petrol tankers and their likes have continued to elicit fear in the minds of many Nigerians, due to the recklessness of some of the drivers and the poorly secured containers which usually falls off lorries at the slightest opportunity, thereby sending its victims to an unprepared grave. In fact, the fear of these trucks particularly those carrying containers, is the beginning of wisdom for motorists now in Lagos.

Some of the truck drivers as reliable gathered, sometimes drive under the influence of alcohol and hard drugs, some under fatigues and others aggressive, with most of them popularly referred to as ‘agents of death’ giving little or no consideration to other road users.

Not only do the trucks constitute road hazards particularly on the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway but the unlatched containers leave owners of smaller vehicles praying against the unexpected. This is because anytime the unexpected occurs, just like that of Ojota, it always leave in its trail death, with immediate family members of the victim left in untold anguish.

A vivid instance of similar incidents was that of February 18, 2009, where a family of five was sent to an unprepared grave at Ijesha, no thanks to the recklessness of a truck driver which resulted in the 40- foot container falling off the truck and landing on the Mercedes Benz 2000.

Another, occurred on September 2009 at Volkswagen Bus-stop along Badagry Expressway, again, snuffing life out of the unsuspecting occupants of the car.

Same year at Liverpool, Apapa, a truck which apparently had a break failure had its unlatched container fall off from the bridge and pinned an innocent truck pusher to the culvert, killing the apparent struggling leader of tomorrow in his prime. The list is endless. The only incident which was, however, averted by the promptness of driver of a Mercedes car at Toyota , along the Apapa Oshodi Expressway occurred in May last year, when a 20 -foot container slipped halfway out of a flatbed articulated truck on the fly over bridge. But for divine providence, driver of the vehicle, his wife and two children would have been yet another victims.

One of the numerous problems experienced during such incident, is the resultant gridlock, where motorists go through horrific experience. Most times, commuters had to trek long distance before boarding a buses to their respective destinations.

In spite of this worrisome development unlatched containers have assumed, unfortunately there seems to be no serious law to check this, as government seemed to be evasive to initiate measures that would prevent its reoccurrence.

At the scene of Monday’s incident at Ojota, some of the wailing sympathizers blamed government for being insensitive to the plight of the masses, following its presumed silence any time an incident of such occurs. In fact, one of them, a woman trapped in the traffic said, “ I just wish the container had landed on any government official. That way, drastic measures would be put in place to check incident of such .“

Another commuter who simply identified herself as Afusat Usman, said amidst tears, “ How do you explain this? That a man who left his home hail and hearty to drop his children off in school, had his life cut short no thanks to a container that fell off its truck?”

Calling on government to sanction any truck owner for such incident, she also blamed bad roads as one of the possible causes. “Why would there not be incident of such when you have pot holes all over the places, particularly in Lagos State. Take the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway for example, an area that has the largest concentration of big trucks, the road is in a sorry state and government is not doing anything about it. It is a shame and to think that it is the innocent, who usually falls victim of containers falling off from trucks, makes it more pitiable,” said the Modern Language graduate .

For Mr Nathaniel Osemekhian, a Banker, he was full of consternation for the government and the truck owners. For him, not only should such trucks be seized but its owners should be made to pay for the up bringing of the bereaved children, up to their university levels. This he opined, would not only help the bereaved family even though it would not bring back the dead, but would also go a long way to check the excesses of truck drivers on the road.

Osemekhian also suggested that specific time should be announced for movements of the such trucks, pointing out that this would go a long way to not only decongest traffic during the day but would also save gruesome situations such as this.

Another concerned sympathizer who gave his name as Jerry Musa asked, “ what does the law say about unlatched containers? It is from that premise we should ask who has failed in his responsibility.

Vanguard’s findings revealed that the Nigeria Ports Authority is responsible for checking container that enters and leaves the ports, with a view to ascertaining whether they met the necessary acquirements which include whether trucks conveying the containers were road worthy or whether they are over loaded, as over loaded trucks as gathered, usually pose problems to the roads.

But when contacted, spokesman for the Nigeria Ports Authority, Chief Michael Ajayi stated emphatically that once a container leaves the port, it was no longer under NPA’s jurisdiction of supervision. He admitted, however, that checks on trucks were usually carried out before they enter into the ports but lamented also that they were also plagued by some of the rickety trucks.

According to him, “ Most times, when they are certified okay before leaving the ports but when they go out anything can happen. It is just like the case of any car.”

Continuing, he asked, “ are the roads themselves in good condition? Even a car will somersault if an accident occurs . The road is a probable factor but that is not to say that I am absorbing the truck owners and drivers.”

On whether there is any section imposed on any defaulting truck, particular those unlatched, he said, “ when they get out of the ports, it is no longer our responsibility. In this case, it has become a civil matter since it involves life. The Road safety also has a role to play in this as well as the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA.

But in a sharp decline, Chairman, Chief executive Officer of LASTMA, Mr Young Arebamen, said checking unlatched containers was not part of LASTMA’s area of jurisdiction, reminding that its primary responsibility was to control the flow of traffic. A source at the Ministry of Transportation said the state government will soon contact relevant bodies, including National Road Transport Owners, licensed customs agents and freight forwarders to bring an end to the menace of unlatched containers and rickety trucks on Lagos highways. According to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, 90 percent of truck induce accidents is caused by the human factor.

n the part of the Federal Road Safety Corps, it attributed some of the causes of accidents involving heavy duty trucks to human and mechanical factor. According to its FRSC report made available to Vanguard, among over 700 lives lost between 2008 and 2009 in road accident, one third of the number was caused by heavy duty trucks.

Also contacted on the worrisome dimension in which unlatched containers has assumed, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Samuel Jinadu said the Police will henceforth be on the look out for any container which is not properly fitted on the truck. Already, he said driver of the truck, which snuffed life out of the lone passenger at Ojota, Monday, had been arrested .

Reminding that the constitutional responsibility of the Police was to ensure safety of life and property of the citizenry, Jinadu said any driver arrested would be apprehended alongside the owner of the truck, nothing that it would go a long way to check the situation.

This situation cannot be allowed to continue. If concerted action is not put on ground to checked the growing spate of accidents involving long vehicles now, government both at the federal and state levels would have failed in their primary responsibility of protecting the lives and and property of the citizenry.

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