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Endless wait for solution to Lagos truck menace

A motorboy using rags to stop fuel from spilling off a NNPC tanker in Lagos at the weekend.

Three days after the tragic explosion on Otedola bridge that claimed lives and property, the Lagos State government on Sunday restricted tankers to designated trailer route and also gave a 30-day ultimatum for articulated vehicles to obtain road worthiness certificate.

It is now mandatory for all articulated trucks coming into Lagos to obtain the Ministry of Transportation’s Road Worthiness Certificate at any of the designated centres within the next 30 days.

Addressing a joint press briefing at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in Alausa after meeting with all the relevant 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, the Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson, said the decision became necessary following preliminary investigations into the Otedola bridge incident, which revealed a combination of vehicular defect and human errors.

Lawanson said: “As an immediate response to the latest incident, the Lagos State government hereby announces the following measures: Fuel tankers are hereby directed to ply the designated trailer route, that is, Apapa-Oworonshoki Expressway via Ogudu to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.”

Either lame or forceful, it is yet to be seen if these measure will put a stop to the menace of tanker accidents on the roads. The horrendous daily incidents across the country have made the sight of articulated trucks dreadful like the fabled messengers of death.

Worried citizens are left to wonder who is next to be the victim of another accident, explosion or the lawless attitude of the truck drivers on the road.

A drive to Ajao Estate through Chivita Avenue; Ojuelegba to Stadium to Iponri all the way to Brewery and the bridge leading into Ijora; Ago Palace Way to Festac; Festac through second rainbow; Western Avenue bridge, Iganmu, Mobil Road, Auto Wharf; Badagry through Mile 2; Liverpool bridge and the entirety of Apapa, is like passing through the shadows of death as these monstrous trucks take over every inch of space and even compete with other road users.

Careful observation of these trucks reveal that a number of them do not have rear lights, indicator lights, complete head light, C-caution signs and even registration plate number.

All known safety and traffic regulations are breached by these drivers, including installation of speed limit devices, and ensuring that containers are properly latched.

Last year, the Corps Marshal, 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.

Same year in March, one person was confirmed dead after a trailer conveying a 40-foot container fell at Motorways bus stop, outward Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

Months later, five people were killed and about five others injured after a container truck fell on a bus in the Ojota area of Lagos. The list is endless.

During the administration of former governor of Lagos, the current Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, it was a war without end as several policies and enforcement put the state government at loggerheads with operators of the articulated trucks.

One of the measures adopted at the time, which was barely enforced was restricting their movements within the Lagos metropolis between 9:00p.m and 6:00a.m. when the roads are usually not congested to reduce the hazard of accidents.

This though did not last as the organized body of truck owners under the umbrella of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) embarked on an indefinite strike to protest against the law, which in days led to a damaging fuel scarcity.

Also, in Apapa, men of the Nigerian Navy have tried to no success to clear the ports and free the area of congestion through the deployment of effective logistic strategy involving the use of call cards signed by the Navy commander for authentication of trucks due for loading and passage into the area.

This only pushed the truck menace further into the city away from Apapa as they constituted their regular nuisance on the stretch of Apapa-Oshodi expressway.

In spite of government’s renewed decision to effect a clampdown on the truck nuisance, stakeholders are of the opinion that it is only a knee-jerk reaction that may not stand the test of time like the previous policy statements issued to that effect.

To them, the country is not in short supply of beautiful laws to address the nagging problems but enforcement as well as concerted efforts by the authorities to ensure there are no sacred cows no matter the constituency affected.

According to Mr. Charles Nzeh, who works at one of the flour mills in the Tin Can axis of Apapa, while the directives are a welcome development, the enforcement is a situation that needs to be given critical attention because some of the law enforcement agencies have been found wanting in the discharge of their duties.

Enumerating factors responsible for the usual reckless behavior of truck drivers on the road, he said: “The drivers usually operate under the influence of alcohol.

They indulge in over-speeding and reckless driving. The physical condition of most of the vehicles falls far below prescribed standards even as relevant regulatory authorities are known to have shied away from necessary checks and enforcement.

President, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Mr. Remi Ogungbemi, said he is not aware of any restrictions either in place or time but an order for the Ministry of Transport (MOT) test to ascertain the road worthiness of every truck in state.

According to him, the upsurge in accidents, which is attributable to both mechanical and human errors, can largely be blamed on fatigue, stress and frustration on the side of the truck drivers.

“Anything accident is something that happens unexpectedly. Nobody prays for that or leaves his home with the hope of not returning, it is something that happens as a result of mechanical deficiency, or human error as result of fatigue, stress and frustration on the side of the driver.

You know, these days we operate under abnormal conditions in the event that you see a truck driver being on the queue for a week or more, no good feeding, sleep or means properly taking care of himself.

“Then you have the rampant cases of hoodlums and touts trying to extort money from truck drivers in almost every community in Lagos.

So, how can such a person behave normally? However, no amount of maintenance can totally shield away the breaking down of any mechanism, just like we heard the breaking down of the private jet meant to convey the vice president recently. Nobody is exempt from such incidents.

“I will not dispute your fact that the recent accidents are attributable to human error, but when accidents occur, many people come out and start giving their reasons as its cause.

I want you to know that we don’t manufacture trucks, we are dependent on fairly used trucks. By the way, how many people have the money to afford a brand-new truck.

Nigeria is a developing nation that is dependent fully on second hand trucks, so the story of these trucks overloaded or carrying more than its capacity is just a personal view,” he added.

The Lagos Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corp, Mr. Hygienus Eweje, however, reiterated that safety should not only be left in the hands of government because it is everyone’s business.

He noted that while agencies couldn’t all be exonerated from accusations ranging from collection of bribes to aiding and abetting lawless truck drivers, FRSC will not take it easy with any of its operatives found wanting in that regard.

Meanwhile, the FRSC has urged the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) and the Petroleum Tanker Driver (PTD) to engage their members on thorough traffic facilitation in order to reduce the level of accidents involving their truck.

While speaking to newsmen, the Head of Public Education, FRSC, Mr. Bisi Kazeem said such training would minimize accidents involving tankers on the roads.

“We are charging them to start engaging their members in rigorous traffic trainings so as to meet minimum safety standards concerning their vehicles.

It is very important to train and retrain them, to enable them follow the rules and regulations and to meet the road standard concerning their vehicles,” he said.

He noted that there is the need for the government to initiate policies and legislation that would help curtail the excesses of tanker drivers.

He also added that the government must work with stakeholders to ensure that things are done the right way.

According to him, ongoing rail projects across the country would put an end to the menace of tanker accidents when completed.

For NUPENG/PTD National Chairman, Mr. Salmon Oladiti, said the union was ready to work with the FRSC and other law enforcement agencies to observe the minimum safety standards on the highways.

“All efforts will be put in place to ensure that this kind of Otedola disaster does not occur again on our roads. We sincerely mourn the dead and share in the pains of the affected families,” he said.

In this article:
Lagostruck menace
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