By Chioma Gabriel
One of my uncles used to be a truck driver. He was light skinned and chubby and had his house very close to my maternal grandmother’s house.
One day at breakfast, my mother raised hell, abandoned her food as she threw herself all over the house crying. What happened? My uncle, the truck driver had died in an accident. The truck he was driving was in an accident and he died.
I have never liked trucks whether they are articulated or not. I hate to drive close to tankers and containers. I hate to see them on the highway when I’m passing and I hate the fact that I have no choice but to encounter them on my routes all the time. I have always wished there is another route meant for them alone.
It’s like hell living and working in Lagos and I keep hoping that one day there will be a miracle.
Not long ago, I was in a conversation with an aide of Anambra governor and when he asked how Lagos is, I was very humorous in my response but it was humour that bothered on sarcasm. I told him that we are still waiting for the governor-elect in Lagos to be sworn in, that Lagos is currently the trash of the earth. He didn’t understand until I narrated how tankers and containers have outrun Lagos and the pot-holes everywhere and the gory traffic one has to encounter. Then, he said that was exactly what another journalist from Lagos told him that same day. I didn’t know the menace was coming home to roost.
Few days after this discussion, Onitsha tanker fire happened.
Who would have told us that Onitsha would become a ball of fire some hours after our discussion?
The casualty figures from the incident are still hazy even as I’m writing. I’m still calling home to know if any of our folks are affected.
What irked me the more was the fact that the fire raged for hours with no fire service truck anywhere near the scene of the inferno and the fact that like many others that happened before it, there was loss of lives.
In Lagos and a couple of other places, there have been several instances where a petrol laden tanker, flouting all known traffic laws in the land, goes ahead to inflict pain and misery on innocent families and ordinary Nigerians.
Petrol tanker and articulated truck drivers seem to derive joy from obstructing free flow of traffic.
Articulated trucks and petrol tankers have been a menace in Nigeria for as long as anyone can remember and the regulatory agencies or authorities have largely looked the other way unperturbed for decades.
Dozens of innocent road users have severally caught fire after a petrol tanker crashed and exploded on a gridlocked highway.
The Ministry of Transport, the Federal Road Safety Commission and other stakeholders should rise to urgently address the issue of safety standards in Nigeria, with a view to stemming the frequency of these tragedies.
The federal government should make sure these agencies sanitize our roads and put the killer truck drivers in check.
When I was discussing with an aide of Anambra governor, we didn’t know it was coming their way and it baffles me that Anambra has no functioning fire service department or emergency response units; and that when tragedy struck, Governor Willie Obiano did not respond immediately.
What happened in Onitsha could happen anywhere and above all, the inferno was completely avoidable. Accidents involving tankers and other articulated vehicles, which are often fatal, should be tackled headlong and urgent concerted action must be taken to put a stop to it.
The time has come for federal and state transport agencies to launch fresh initiatives to decisively deal with the widespread deaths and destruction articulated vehicles are causing through their carelessness, indiscipline and recklessness on Nigerian roads.
Every day, oil tankers, trailers, container-bearing trucks and tippers wreak havoc on our roads, leading to loss of lives in many parts of the country. This should not be allowed to continue. The reign of terror by these vehicles of death must be stopped so that road users will heave a sigh of relief again.
There’s need to review the current laws used in operating these trucks to safeguard the lives of Nigerians and innocent people going about their socioeconomic life. Nigerians should not continue to undeservedly lose lives to the impunity of the drivers of these vehicles.