By Bose Adelaja
The frequent ‘invasion’ of the ever-busy Oshodi/Apapa Expressway by fuel tankers with its attendant traffic congestion cannot be said to be news any longer. The development is a nightmare that most commuters and motorists also seemed to have resigned themselves to accept with longsuffering even after several lives have been lost in the process.
Some months back, a mother of four met her untimely death at Ijesha Bus-stop when a trailer veered off the expressway and hit a commercial bus, crushing the woman to death.
Another accident was also recorded about two years ago when an unhooked trailer fell on a private car leading to the death of a couple who were on their way from a town meeting around 7pm of that fateful day.
There are also numerous other accidents on Nigerian roads involving heavy trucks and trailers. Apart from road accidents, the indiscriminate parking of tankers and trailers continues to expose commuters and motorists in Lagos State to untold suffering and hardship. The worst case scenario is often experienced on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway which has become notorious for traffic gridlock that last for hours.
This unfortunate situation has prompted the Lagos State government to initiate steps to curb the menace of tanker drivers which often resulted in a show down.
One of such steps last Monday to restrict the drivers from parking indiscriminately at Sanya Bus-stop on the expressway led to violence as the defiant drivers opposed the move. Trouble started around 9am when the tanker drivers had as usual parked indiscriminately on both the express lane and service lane of the road, thereby causing a heavy traffic on that day.
The traffic stretched from Sanya to Ilasa preventing many vehicles from accessing Mile Two from Ilasa. Also, commuters who had business in the area were faced with the task of trekking their way from Ilasa.
This prompted LASTMA officials to rush to the scene to maintain orderliness. But their effort was violently resisted by the tanker drivers with whatever dangerous weapon within reach, including broken bottles. Many people sustained varying degrees of injuries in the process.
Many commuters were stranded for hours as they could not get vehicles to their various destinations until around 2pm.
According to eye witnesses account, trouble started when the LASTMA officials attempted to tow three tankers for obstructing traffic on the road.
One of the witnesses, Abiola Aberuagba said the drivers barricaded the road and deflated the tyres of the LASTMA towing vehicles, threatening to set it ablaze.
When Vanguard Metro, VM, arrived the scene, the towing vehicles, with tyres deflated, were on the expressway while the entire service lane was taken over by the tankers right from Power-line Bus-stop to Sanya.
Some of the drivers who spoke with this reporter, however, denied attacking LASTMA officials. “We did not attack them, we were only trying to prevent our tankers from being vandalised by hoodlums. LASTMA did not want us on this road and if we run away and leave the tankers, area boys may come here and vandalise them,’’ said Adam, Yisa and Abu.
Efforts to speak with the authorities of the filling station where the violent drama plyed out proved abortive as VM was told that senior officials were not on ground as at the time.
However, a LASTMA official who pleaded anonymity said they acted on an order from their new Area Commander, AC, to prevent vehicles, including tankers, from adding to the existing gridlock on the expressway. “A new Area Commander was appointed some days back; he was from the Operation Department and dislike obstruction of any sort.
Moreover, he had heard about the frequent gridlock on the Apapa-Oshodi axis and had warned us to manage the situation very well. The drivers took the law into their hands by barricading the road and causing traffic jam which the new AC frowns at,’’ he said.
Also on Monday around 11am, an accident was recorded at the Mile Two area of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway involving a truck with plate number Lagos XV 851 EKY, a sports utility vehicle, SUV, with plate number Lagos FD 440 EKY, a commercial bus and a motorcycle.
The accident occurred when the truck was said to have veered off the express lane to the service lane, thereby hitting the SUV which was also negotiating to enter the service lane. The commercial bus was trying to escape the accident scene when it rammed into the motorcyclist who ended up being trapped underneath the SUV.
The motorcyclist was seriously injured and was rushed to a hospital while the driver of the truck escaped unhurt.