Everybody saw the pictures and the horror that happened on Otedola Bridge in Lagos!
Charred cars, burnt out trucks and roasted body of fellow citizens.
People who committed no crime other than that they were going home orgoing about their businesses but were in that place at that time.
It could have been you and me. It could have been a member of your family or someone you know. Take time to let this sink in. It could have been you!
And this is the constant story of Nigerian roads. Unworthy rickety vehicles daily slaughtering Nigerians in the cities, in the highways and even in their homes! Yet we have agencies charged with the responsibility to keep our roads safe from the menace of un-roadworthy vehicles. You have the various ministries of Transport and their VIOs, you have the Federal Road Safety Corps, you have the Traffic unit of Nigeria Police, yet, a majority of the vehicles on our roads are utterly unworthy.
Most of those trucks you see are vehicles that escape crushing in Europe, America and Asia from where unscrupulous dealers and transporters scavenge them from! Yet these weapons are allowed on our roads often without any form of certification, test or maintenance.
These trucks daily snuff out the lives of breadwinners but our leaders carry on as if all is still well!
But even worse are the drivers of these behemoths. They straddle both sides of the road with scant respect for other road users. They overtake at will even at bends and curves forcing many motorists to veer off the road or get crushed! Indeed they behave as if they built the roads. Worse still is that most of these trucks are driven by untrained drivers some of whom are kids, I repeat kids and motor boys who also serve as assistant drivers and relief drivers even without any training whatsoever.
Many of them simply graduate from riding okada to driving trucks.
Then there is the wickedness exhibited by the truck companies and their clients. Not once have unsecured container slipped off and crushed commuters and other road users. Not just once have we seen cars flattened by shipping containers that fell of trailers because they were in no way chained down or bolted down.
We have seen such many times particularly in Lagos, yet nothing has changed in the attitude of either the drivers or the regulatory agencies. Bribery and corruption will not let them do their jobs. For goodness sake, why are our roads so unsafe?
Is it that the truckers have suddenly become above the law? All this talk of reform ends on paper?
Why are so many trucks using bridges as parking lot? Why do they ply roads that are clearly marked not for trucks? Why are they allowed to exceed their tonnage bearing limits?
Who benefits from the utter lawlessness in the haulage industry?
There is hardly a Nigerian who has not had a close call on our highways. A friend of mine describes our roads as ‘potways,’ not highways because of the fact that the roads have ever widening and deepening potholes, which hardly get attended to except by kids who hope to get a tip from motorists for filling them!
Many accidents are indeed caused by these potholes as any keen observer can attest. If you doubt me, next time you see an accident scene on the highway, look around and you may find the pothole that the driver or drivers were avoiding!
Then of course are the added challenge of poor road furniture and the near absence of well-equipped ambulances! Never mind the shinny ambulances parades by Federal Road Safety Corps. They have no drugs, they have no equipment and they have no appropriately trained first responders. Even the ambulances are too few for the thousands of roads we have.
I have been actively involved in road accident rescue efforts and I know what I am talking about. Not too long ago, between Lafia and Makurdi, I chanced on an accident. Indeed, it was a J5 that was in front of me. An approaching truck simply ran into it before my very eyes.
The truck veered off into the bush but left the J5 in shreds and tatters. I parked and ran in to see what I could do to first stop other cars from running into the dead and wounded. To cut a long story short, Road Safety showed up after more than an hour with a pick up and an ambulance. They came to carry the dead and the wounded to the hospital but they had not even a bandage, not to talk of even one tablet of Panadol.
Trust Nigerians, some stopped to help while some simply refused to help evacuate any wounded even though their cars were empty! They didn’t want bloodstains, they were in a hurry or they didn’t want any wahala with either the police or the hospitals!
In conclusion, our roads are rather unsafe and to make them safe again, the various agencies must shun bribes and do their jobs.
Simple. For example, why are motor parks synonymous with alcoholic drinks? Why are drugs, hot drinks and other intoxicants freely sold in motor parks? Many drivers get drunk while waiting for their turn!
The idea of allowing all kinds of vehicles to overload and snuff out the life of Nigerians must be seen as the crime it is. It is collusion in the murder of road users. The trucking companies themselves must share in the blame for allowing unmaintained trucks on the roads. It should be considered a punishable crime against society. Moreover, they should provide training for their drivers. This idea of allowing untrained motor boys drive trailers is criminal.
Many years ago, after an experience I had on the road, I wrote to Federal Road Safety Corps. I urged them to insist on eye tests as part of the requirements for the renewal of driver’s licence. Expectedly, the letter was not even acknowledged, talk less of acted upon.
I hope those who man the roads and those who regulate the roads are reading this.