Mega City, Mega Hazards

WHEN the celebrated rap artist, DaGrin died from injuries sustained from a road accident in Lagos recently, he was just another sad number in the long statistics of the hazards of living in the mega city. It also further confirmed genuine fears of some of the dangers that exist in Lagos that need to be addressed by the state government in the journey to the attainment of a mega city dream.

Da Grin’s death and so many others in Lagos are unnecessary if the agencies responsible for preventing these hazards from happening are alive to their responsibilities.

Let’s face it; the business of administering one of the fastest growing mega cities in the world is not a tea party. Sure, state agencies and officials are doing a lot but since the Governor cannot be everywhere, it becomes imperative that state agencies have to be stringent in applying existing laws for those Lagosians, whose penchant is to trample on laid down laws, unmindful that their acts subsequently constitute dangers to residents.

I shall proceed to highlight some of the hazards that have in time past become a source of danger for Lagosians. Some of these hazards have led to untimely deaths in this city of 18 million people.

Stationary Killer Trucks

The late rapper’s car rammed into a stationary truck in an unlit road on a certain dark night. His death through this menace that has become a major source of death for Lagosians is a source of misery for motorists in the mega city. The incidence of killer trucks driven by drivers who are only fit for sanatoriums should worry the authorities in Alausa, the seat of government in the state. Countless lives have been lost when cars run into stationary heavy duty vehicles that are deliberately parked in the middle of expressway and inner city roads without a warning or caution placed at a distance to notify oncoming vehicles of the danger that lay ahead. What is even more galling is the fact those trucks spend days on the same spot without being towed away by the agencies concerned. The owners of trucks that are parked indiscriminately on roads in the mega city should face prosecution for this offence and be penalized heavily because those trucks have led to deaths, which have thrown families into mourning. Most of the trucks are owned by big haulage companies and individuals who should take responsibility and face prosecution for these crimes

Insane Truck Drivers Vs Unlatched Containers

The mega city is home to many hazards but one of the worst forms, and perhaps deadliest is the existence of trucks and tanker drivers who convey petroleum products to various parts of the mega city. These set of derange drivers have scant regards for human lives and hundreds of lives have been lost while others have been maimed for life in very unfortunate situations. These drivers, who come form different parts of the country, drive under the influence of alcohol and have no respect for other road users and consider traffic rules and regulations a burden. Hardly a day goes by without a reported incident of trailer accident that results in a loss of life. The Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, for example, has become synonymous with this menace. The tanker and haulage companies are a threat to Lagosians and the quest by the government to make this city safe for residents. But are these haulage companies above the law? It seems the reason this impunity has continued unabated is because no one gets prosecuted for murders and damages committed or caused by the petroleum tankers and other haulage companies. At the various police stations in the mega city, cases involved trucks are “settled” because the big organizations that owned the trucks have the financial muscle to block prosecution in the courts. Is the government powerless to call these people to order? They park indiscriminately on the road, causing obstructions and long traffic.

Dangerous Darkness… More Solar Powered Streets Lights Needed

Driving at night in Lagos is an arduous task. The state government has done a lot to make the streets of Lagos well lit at night through the provision of solar powered street lamps in some parts of the metropolis. But it appears current effort is inadequate given the darkness that envelopes the city at night. The hazard to Lagosians has manifested in various forms. Dangers lurk behind a street where there is absence of light. Lagosians have been mugged, accidents have occurred when motorists unknowingly rammed into stationary vehicles parked in the middle of the road. But this is one area where the private sector can help in the provision of solar-powered street lamps. This will go a long way in complementing the efforts of the state government in this regard. A lot of armed robberies and mugging in this city are committed under the cover of darkness. And with the Power Holding Company not living up to its responsibility, it has made the job of the state government difficult.

Untimely Deaths through Okada Menace

Commercial motor bikes popularly called Okada constitute one of the greatest dangers to lives in Lagos. This unorthodox means of commercially transporting residents in the mega city has accounted for the loss of many lives and led to untimely deaths. A visit to hospitals in the city and especially the Orthopedic Hospital in Yaba will reveal horrifying cases of motor bikes accidents with victims in various states of deformation. The Federal Roads Safety Commission has put the number of Okada riders in Lagos at over a million. The existence of Okada constitute s one of the greatest hazards and sadly with the chaotic transport situation in the city, the residents seem to prefer to risk their lives taking a ride in this merchant of death. But Lagosians are becoming aware of the danger they constitute. Rising unemployment has forced a lot of youths into riding motorbikes for commercial purposes. The advent of BRT buses has, however, reduced the incident of Okada accidents. The state government will do well to replicate the BRT system in other routes in the city.

Frequent Collapsed Buildings

The frequent incidents of collapsed buildings in the state seem to outnumber other states in the federation. But why this is happening in Lagos under the watchful eyes of Council of Registered Engineers (COREN) and other state government agencies beats the imagination. Just recently, a building went down in Oshodi area of the mega city, killing eight people. Many more Lagosians have died due to buildings going down.

The growing incident of collapse buildings should make it imperative for the state government and agencies responsible for giving approval for the construction of new buildings in the state to apply the rules more stringently. In Lagos Island, for example, most of the old buildings that have stayed for over a century in the city centre are being raised to as many as four or five storey to house offices. This is an invitation to danger. The high cost of building materials and the activities of quack contractors have led to the increase of this menace. However, the state government must be commended for responding quickly through its Emergency disaster management when buildings collapse. Of utmost importance, however, is putting an end to this menace in the mega city.

PHCN and Deadly Electric Wire Cuts

One danger that has been on the rise in recent times in the mega city is the frequent snapping of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) electric wires and cables. In Ajah area on Sunday April 2, 2010, the electric high tension wires along the expressway snapped and came down with live currents. It took some time for PHCN officials to respond to the potentially dangerous situation. The snapping of the electric cable caused panic in the area as people ran for dear lives. It has become routine for PHCN cable to snap in various parts of the metropolis.

These frequent cuts even when there is no storm have led to uncountable deaths of innocent residents. The truth in this matter is that PHCN is a largely irresponsible organisation. Most of the cables and poles are old and need maintenance. The cables have been in their dilapidated state for so many years and have not been replaced nor maintained, which explains why they snap at every given opportunity.

What is even more worrisome is the fact that officials of the Power Holding Company in Lagos are grossly irresponsible and lethargic that when a pole collapses it will take them days to respond to distress call from residents. All over the metropolis it is a common sight to see PHCN cables in various stages of decay with old electric poles and wires that will soon come down on unfortunate victims with deadly consequences.

Abandoned Buildings — Abode for Criminals

The state government recently gave a timeline for owners of abandoned buildings to complete or risk some sanction. Abandoned buildings in the mega city are home to criminals. These have served as dark spots where miscreants engaged in rapes, drugs and other criminal vices. These buildings have provided hideouts for armed robbers and petty criminals to hide. Some of those buildings have also existed for so many years you will be lucky not to get mugged if you ventured around the sites.

What is to be done?

These identified hazards and many more make the mega city sometimes unsafe for residents. In the quest for the mega city dream, the state government will have to address these issues and tighten control to curb the causes of these hazards and many more. There is also the need for state agencies responsible for some of the identified hazards to apply the full force of the law and punish offenders; especially Okada (commercial motorbikes riders) who have converted sidewalks meant for pedestrians into Okada lane. It is also hoped that the PHCN will be alive to its responsibility so we can avert unnecessary deaths in the mega city. The race for a truly mega city status begin when there is inter-agencies (both federal and state) cooperation for the good of the people of the state.

bayoolupohunda@yahoo.com



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