February 3, 2023

The carnage continues with truck accidents

By Adekunle Adekoya

THE last edition of this column for the year 2022 dwelt on carnage on our roads, in which I wondered whether all the uniformed services emplaced by federal and state governments to ensure safety in our transportation system have abdicated. That edition was prompted by several accidents, especially those where containers fell off trucks and sent people to untimely graves.

I also penned a ghoulish prediction that those accidents that occurred Thursday, December 22, 2022, May 11, 2022; and September 19, 2021 plus November 10, 2021 before them would not be the last. Alas, I was proved right. In just one week, in Lagos, three major accidents occurred, claiming lives as usual.

On Sunday, January 29, a container truck fell on a small bus, the type we call korope here, in the Ojuelegba area of Lagos. Flattening the ill-fated bus, no less than nine persons lost their lives. The bus normally sits seven people, and if you add the driver, and the inevitable conductor, that brings to nine the number of hapless Nigerians sent to their untimely graves.

Barely 48 hours later, another truck rammed into a tricycle in the Ikotun area of Lagos, killing the driver and one of the passengers. And on Wednesday, under the bridge at the ever-busy Oshodi Bus-Stop, another truck fell, dropping a 40-foot container on the road. The resulting gridlock on that busy road lasted hours. In the Ojuelegba case, it was discovered that the container was not properly latched to the pallet of the truck carrying it. In the Ikotun case, brake failure was ascribed as cause of the unfortunate incident, while the Oshodi episode could be anything.

Reacting to the Ojuelegba case, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered prosecution of the truck driver. That, from where I’m sitting is a knee-jerk response to a malaise that has deeper roots. As Chief Obafemi Awolowo once said: “Problems are like plants, they have roots”. The Lagos State governor should go to the root of the problems bedevilling the transportation sector of the economy in Lagos State. Once again, I take the position that we are yet to see the last container falling off trucks and killing people. This is because all the agencies of government with the mandate to ensure sanity in the transportation system have either abdicated completely or refused blatantly to do their work as specified in their operation manuals and by our laws. Or else, how does one explain why an articulated truck with faulty brakes will be allowed access to our roads? These things do not require specialised knowledge to discern. Almost everybody in this town knows that most trucks carry heavy, wooden blocks (shocks), which their motor boys (apprentice drivers) use as wedge to stop truck tyres from rolling. I mean, we see them everyday on the roads.It goes without saying that carrying these wooden blocks are  immediate remedies since the brake system is known not to be reliable. For trucks carrying containers, is there a system by which we can ensure that they are safely latched before they leave for their destinations? Does the Federal Road Safety Corps do its work by carrying out routine inspections of trucks and ensuring that they are roadworthy at all times. I know that roadworthiness is almost the exclusive preserve of the Vehicle Inspection Services in the states, but where are they in this regard? Their attention is focused almost exclusively on private car owners. They stop motorists and ask to see driver’s licenses, fire extinguishers, spare tyres, C-Caution signs, and a thousand and one other items. While they’re busy with that, a thousand trucks with faulty brakes drive past and go ahead to commit murder, right under their noses!

The political leadership, managers of our affairs are also complicit in this unending carnage. No governor, minister, commissioner, or legislator has deemed it fit to come up with an initiative that can help mitigate losses of lives and carnage on our roads by articulated trucks. Is it because none of their sisters, brothers, uncles, or other relation has been victim of these accidents? Every year, the nation appropriates billions of Naira to pay salaries and emoluments of officers and men of the Vehicle Inspection Services, FRSC, the Police, and other services and the only thing we get in return is shedding of innocent blood. That must stop. In addition, the political leadership must get these services working to deliver premium service to Nigerians. There must be structured engagement with the truck owners, and they are known. These services must ensure that trucks are roadworthy at all times, while for those carrying containers, it must be seen that every container is properly latched according to specification.

This takes me to the biggest of all the issues concerning road safety in Nigeria — the condition of our roads. Just how many roads in this country are car-worthy. Every year, each motorist is compelled to pay road-worthiness charges to various state governments. If we pay road-worthiness charges, it is only equitable that we get car-worthy roads. As I speak, there are not many roads in this country on which a motorist can drive for one or two kilometres without a bump or pothole. Craters exist on many roads, causing severe damage to vehicles daily. When will governments rise to their responsibility in this regard? The Buhari administration is on its way out; it can no longer do anything. I therefore task the incoming government to take this matter seriously. We should stop wasting lives needlessly.