March 14, 2023

On the avoidable Ikeja train accident

ACCIDENTS never happen all by themselves. Humans set the conditions and events that lead to them. The collision between a Bus Rapid Transport, BRT, bus carrying civil servants of the Lagos State Government, LASG, to work in the early hours of Thursday, March 9, 2023 and a mass transit train, was purely as a result of several man-made blunders.

According to the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority, LASEMA, Olufemi Osanyintolu, the accident occurred due to recklessness displayed by the driver of the BRT bus while trying to beat the train traffic signal. 

Through that split-second act of foolishness, six people lost their lives while 84 more sustained various degrees of injuries.

Accidents like this are bound to happen because the LASG, the Nigerian Railways Corporation, NRC, and their contractors have not exactly conducted themselves in ways as to optimise the safety and security of lives and property. 

They act as if they have never lived in countries with railway culture or even read about them before we even talk about putting competent professionals on the job.

Everybody is blaming the bus driver after people died and many got maimed, perhaps for life. The real question is: what proactive, preventive measures were taken? Every railway level crossing (the portions where vehicular and human traffics cross the railway line) is a potential accident and death zone. This is why, in saner climes, no train is allowed to ply unless all level crossings have been secured.

Iron gates are lowered, flashing lights and alarm bells are activated long before an approaching train comes into sight. That way, nonconformist people and drivers are forced to wait for the train to pass. Where this mechanism does not exist, a railway flag person is stationed to alert commuters to the danger of an approaching train.

But in Lagos, these rules are observed, if at all, in the breach. Railway crossings are neither properly equipped nor manned. The worst spot is the Ikeja-Along railway axis where the LASG is putting up a flyover bridge and an impressive, mega train station. Here, the defective mentality of government and its contractors treating the public with contempt is at play. For years since the construction started, deep potholes developed on both sides of the rail tracks, and motorists struggled to navigate through them. Area Boys had been having a field day. 

Many vehicles were wrecked in the process. This spot was an accident waiting to happen. Eventually, the contractors blocked the crossing altogether, thus worsening the traffic snarls around that axis.

If the right things were done, the reckless driver would not have had the chance to kill and injure so many people. If we keep doing things the wrong way, innocent citizens will continue to pay for them with their lives and property.