The recent tanker explosion at Otedola bridge axis on Lagos-Ibadan expressway in Lagos, which claimed the lives of 12 persons and burnt 54 vehicles, has once again brought to the fore the need for our governments to urgently put up measures that will end these tragedies on the nation’s highways.
Shortly after the disaster, the state government said preliminary investigations showed that the accident was caused by a combination of vehicular defect and human errors. This was what should have been prevented from happening if the government was alive to its responsibilities.
The government, in a quick response to curbing a similar occurrence, issued guidelines designating trailer route. The commissioner for Transportation, Mr Ladi Lawanson, also informed stakeholders, including Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Association of Maritime Truck Owners, Petroleum Tanker Drivers, National Association of Transport Operators and Container Truck Owners Association of Nigeria, among others, that the government has issued a 30-day ultimatum for articulated vehicles to obtain road worthiness certificate.
It is unfortunate that it took such a tragic incident for the government to wake up from its inertia. The Otedola bridge accident and others in recent times showed that the government has failed to enforce its traffic laws. If the government had been doing its part in enforcing its traffic laws, what seem to have now become a routine of petrol tanker accidents and falling containers from trucks crushing other vehicles and their occupants would have been curbed or minimised.
The carnage on our roads has become a recurring decimal. Last year, the Corps Marshal of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr Boboye Oyeyemi, revealed that over 1,000 people lost their lives between December 2016 and January 2017 as a result of auto crashes caused by tanker drivers.
It is an eyesore that while most of the articulated vehicles plying our roads are unworthy, rickety, with tyres of several of them worn out and some others in a state of total disrepair, government agencies charged with the responsibility of keeping the roads safe from the menace of un-roadworthy vehicles are not alive to their duties.
Careful observation of these trucks reveals that a number of them do not have rear lights, indicator lights, complete head light, C-caution signs and even registration number plates. These drivers breach all known safety and traffic regulations, including installation of speed limit devices and ensuring that containers are properly latched. Most of the trucks loading petrol do not have brakes; yet they are allowed to ply the roads.
To worsen matters, the drivers of a good number of these trailers and tankers are often either drunk or half asleep behind the wheels. They overtake at will even at bends and curves, forcing many motorists to veer off the road or get crushed. Worse still is that most of these trucks are driven by untrained drivers.
Yet, we have the various ministries of Transport, VIOs, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Traffic unit of Nigeria Police, Force charged with the responsibilities of ensuring safety. They seem to be ineffective in discharging their duties because they have been accused severally of extorting the drivers and closing their eyes to whether they are worthy to be on the road or not.
There are reports that law enforcement is often hampered by the sacred cow syndrome whereby some highly-connected individuals are seen to be above the law, as most of these trucks, tankers and trailers belong to highly-placed and well-connected people.
In a sane clime, the authorities at both the states and the federal level ought to wield the big stick and allow the law to take its due course. For sanity to prevail on the highways and to avoid a repeat of the Otedola incident, there must be zero-tolerance of deliberate infraction of traffic laws, particularly by the owners and operators of these trucks. We urge the government to come up with measures that will make the operators in the sector to do what is right or face the rigours of the law.
Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) should be more pro-active by sanctioning any truck that is not road worthy. The federal government and the security agencies should collaborate with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to stop the wanton destruction of lives and property on the highways. Tankers that cannot pass integrity test should not be allowed on the highways, let alone into the depots to load inflammable products and endanger human lives.
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