By Evelyn Usman
Globally, injuries from auto crashes are among the leading causes of death. Back home in Nigeria , they are rated the third leading cause of overall deaths, with a report of over 39,000 deaths of Nigerians recorded every year, according to the World Health organization.
In the 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety, the World Health Organization, WHO put the figure of road traffic fatalities in Nigeria at 39,802, while the estimated rate per 100,000 deaths stood at 21.4.
One type of the road accidents that is increasing daily in Nigeria, with little or no effort made by the government to address , is caused by articulated trucks – tankers loaded with combustive substances or containerized trucks. And whenever it occurs, there’s usually wanton destruction of lives and property.
The recent one occurred last month in Kogi State , where 23 persons, among them, five students of the Kogi State Polytechnic, three primary school children who were being taken to school by their father and a woman with her two kids, died in a petrol tanker explosion that also razed several cars and other properties around Felele area of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.
A similar incident involving three vehicles; a Toyota Carina, Scania Truck and Mack Tanker, occurred along same expressway two years earlier.
That same year, a fully-loaded 33,000-litre fuel tanker exploded on Otedola Bridge along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, killing many people and razing about 67 vehicles.
Two months ago, a tanker exploded along Owerri/Onitsha express road, Imo state, while off loading premium motor spirit to one of the filling stations along the road. Unfortunately, a woman and two other persons died in the resultant inferno,.
.The list is unending. From the North to the South , East and West regions of Nigeria, the story is the same- bloodbath!
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 sight of these heavy duty trucks sends fear into many motorists as they are considered a mobile death trap, due to the unlatched containers which usually fall off . Sometimes these containers which can never be lifted by human beings, except cranes, land on other vehicles , killing occupants who never envisaged such tragedy would befall them as they set out of their homes.
Two FAAN staff
One of the heart-rendering incidents involved two staff of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN: Chidimma Ajoku and Chima Nnaekpe, in August 2020.
The duo left their respective homes for work but ended in the morgue , no thanks to a 20ft container that fell off a truck at Ilasamaja bus-stop along the Oshodi- Apapa expressway and landed on the commercial bus they were in. Their mangled bodies were later removed after the container was lifted by a crane.
One of the victims, late Ajoku Chidinma, 27, who was a graduate of Babcock University, Ogun State, had plans to travel abroad for her Masters in the near future. Unfortunately, she did not live to realize that dream.
Perhaps, the tragic incidents which usually left relatives of the victims in anguish, would have been averted , if the containers were latched to the trucks as it is done elsewhere in the globe where there is value for human lives.
In September 2020, a container which fell off a truck landed on some vehicles along Sango road in Ogun state. Fortunately, occupants of the vehicles had managed to escape before the truck landed on their vehicle.
Same month in same state, a gatekeeper in one of the private hospitals in Atan, Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government area of Ogun State, was crushed to death by a truck .
Another gory tale occurred in Ojuelegba, in September 2015, after a container fell off the Ojuelegba bridge and landed on a Sports Utility Vehicle SUV ,in which was a couple returning from work.
In 2011, for the second time in one week, four persons: three men and a woman, were crushed to death by unlatched containers, which fell off their trucks at different areas in Lagos State.
The first incident that year, occurred at Ijesha, along the Oshodi/Apapa expressway, where a truck conveying an empty container veered off its lane , apparently due to a break failure. In the driver’s bid to control it, 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.
Few days later, 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.
Another vivid instance of similar incident was that of February 18, 2009, where a family of five was sent to an unprepared grave at Ijesha, along the Oshodi Apapa expressway, no thanks to the recklessness of a truck driver which resulted in the 40- foot container falling off 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 cart pusher to the culvert, killing the struggling leader of tomorrow in his prime.
In Owerri, the Imo State capital, a truck fell off a heavy-duty vehicle and crushed some persons suspected to be students of the Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo.
Again in Imo State, a commercial bus driver narrowly escaped death on September 17, 2019, when a container laden trailer fell on his vehicle.
Influence of alcohol
Most times when these incidents occur, truck drivers blame them on break failure. But Saturday Vanguard investigation revealed that one of the major causes of the countless incidents and loss of human lives is the use of hard drugs and alcoholic drinks by truck drivers.
A visit to their parks at Kara along the Lagos/Ibadan expressway and the Apapa Ports , Lagos, showed that indeed, some of these truck drivers operate under the influence of alcohol and hard drugs, as some wraps of Indian Hemp and alcoholic drinks were seen in their trucks
Some of them claimed that the substances were energy boosters which kept them awake while embarking on long journeys.
From the conversation, it was obvious that they were either oblivious or unconcerned about the impact of such intake on other road users, or pretended not to care.
Another cause for the such incidents was discovered to be recklessness on the part of these truck drivers. Most times, they are seen driving in reckless manner, shoving off smaller vehicles out of the road. Besides, there is this confidence that in the event of an accident, drivers of the smaller vehicles are usually at disadvantage position .
Sometimes, these truck drivers run into people in their bid to maneuver their ways.
An instance was the incident that occurred at the popular Aleshinloye market in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, where a reckless truck driver ran into four women, killing them.
Another unfortunate incident which occurred due to recklessness of a truck driver in February 2018, resulted in the death of a three-year-old baby and three other persons, who were passengers on a motorcycle, on the Kara long bridge along Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
To address this, the Federal Road Safety Corps , FRSC introduced a speed limit device which was made mandatory for all trucks , with a view to checkmating their speed limit. Enforcing this has failed.
Again, the use of old and rickety trucks that are not roadworthy contributes significantly to cause of containers fallen off trucks.
Investigation also showed that the average age of trucks ferrying containers out of the seaports is 40 years and above.
Most times , these truck drivers are seen at night battling to move the content of the containers. At times, they break down in the middle of the road without any sign to alert other road users , some of who run into the stationed trucks.
Another major cause of accident caused by trucks is bad road. Today , almost all the roads and adjourning streets in Lagos and neighboring state have been taken over by trucks, while the roads are in sorry states.
On daily basis, at least six containers fall off their trucks while going or coming out of the Ports , due to the bad roads
Also, highways and major roads in Nigeria, particularly in the South-Eastern region are in great disrepair. Most of these roads were built more than 30 years ago when the volume of vehicular traffic was low, and there were alternative means of transportation such as railways. However, the rate of increase in vehicular traffic has not been matched with a commensurate rate of road construction.
One of the numerous problems experienced during such incidents, is the resultant gridlock, where motorists go through harrowing experience. During such incident, the wreckages which usually cause a hitch in traffic flow, remain on the spot for hours before they would be cleared . Most times, commuters have to trek long distance before boarding buses to their respective destinations.
In spite of this worrisome developments unlatched containers have increased, unfortunately there seems to be no serious law to check this. Government seems reluctant to initiate measures that would reduce accidents. At one of the scenes at Ojota, Lagos, 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.