Lagos State: Wedged Between The Container And The Fueltainer
IN Lagos State, it is a matter of fate how some would join their ancestors. They might have the misfortune of being roasted like yam on a hearth or clinch the misadventure of being ground like pepper; something like being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Not the best way to go, you’ll agree.
LAGOS EXEMPTS PETROL TANKERS FROM DAYTIME RESTRICTION!’ screamed headlines last week. It was an urgent clarification needed to quell protest and threat of strike by notorious monster-vehicle drivers.
Earlier, and following a recent accident in which a container-laden trailer fell off a bridge at the Ojuelegba area, killing three persons, the Lagos State government had issued the ultimatum: ‘NO HEAVY DUTY VEHICLE MAY PLY THE ROADS BETWEEN 6AM AND 9PM!’
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transportation, Oluseyi Whenu, in a statement referred to the Road Traffic Law 2012, which states: “Save as may be prescribed by the Commissioner by regulation, no trailer other than petrol tankers and long vehicles used in conveying passengers shall enter into or travel within the metropolis of Lagos between the hours of 6.00am-9.00pm.
“Any driver who is found contravening the provisions of this Section shall have his vehicle impounded by a duly authorised officer of the Authority and shall upon conviction be liable to a fine of N50,000 (fifty thousand naira) or a term of imprisonment for 6 months or both.”
Other exempted vehicles, according to Whenu, include: fire service trucks, rescue and recovery trucks, perishable farm products trucks, refuse collection trucks, cement mixer trucks, tractors and refrigerated trucks.
Lagos State’s romance with petrol tankers is mysterious. The Centre of Excellence is married to its 14-legged monsters and only death might do them part. Sometimes, it brings to mind the story of an always-fighting couple who despite perennial altercations simply won’t untie the nuptial knot.
Whether fallen containers have wreaked more havoc on hapless Lagos residents than the beloved fuel tankers is a subject for debate. And whether fully loaded 40-foot boxes or 33,000 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) have the potential to inflict the most horrific disaster is a question the groom alone can answer.
Last week, the darling petrol tankers dared other road users and stretched their metallic bulk all the way from Gbagada to the MRS tanker park at Toyota Bus stop, a staggering 10-minute drive! This is besides their incursion into the gateway of the nation’s busiest airport, the Murtala Mohammed International, appropriating a huge portion of the road. Of course, aggrieved other users of the highway could take a trip to hades if they wanted to.
That it took a crushing of the Ojuelegba Three to remind government that it actually has a law that restricts the movement of heavy-duty vehicles underscores the problem of enforcement that has always dogged the state.
Once, the authorities swore none could sit atop a motorcycle without a helmet. But the law fizzled away. And when it vowed that motorcyclists should not ply certain routes at certain times, it literally handed out a platter to unscrupulous law enforcers to scavenge extras to their monthly salaries. Now that certain vehicles may not move at certain times, opportunist law enforcers might be lurking for another lucrative stint.
Why the 2012 Traffic Law exempted petrol tankers is unclear. What is clear, however, is that Lagos State, now and again, continues to witness petrol tanker fires.
A tanker in June toppled off a bridge and burst into flames at the Iyana Ipaja area of the state. The blaze reportedly destroyed 21 cars, 6 tricycles and 44 shops. Happily, no life was lost. Incidentally, two petrol tanker mishaps were recorded in Badagry and the Ojo area less than 24 hours to that incident. Then came the Idimu inferno when another tanker fell and spilled a fiery river that consumed 34 houses and 70 shops. Again, like the Iyana Ipaja incident, no life was lost. But Lagosians have not always been lucky. In January 2014, a petrol tanker fire claimed 15 lives and destroyed 30 shops and 20 cars.
Following the restriction on container-laden vehicles, affected unions had decried the move, citing security concerns. According to them, there is no assurance that government can guarantee the safety of their luggage after sunset. Besides, they complained that 9pm to 6am would not be enough for the arduous task of loading their trucks and vacating the road before dawn. Consequently, they hit the trench with threats and looked the authorities straight in the eyes. Sadly, the latter blinked. That explained why you still saw that container-carrier roar past you last week.
“Ambode o ni were ni jo!” one passenger spat furiously to another who sat beside him on a bus bound for Ikotun, from Oshodi. It was Lagosians’ way of saying a man was assertive, courageous and daring. Taken literally, though, ‘were’ means ‘crazy’. And the commuter wanted a governor who was ‘mad’ enough to confront the menace of heavy-duty vehicles on Lagos roads.
The railway system should be revamped, so that Lagosians, in particular, would have peace on the roads. If it is not fallen containers today, it will be tanker drivers tomorrow. Also, loading of petroleum products should be decentralised and not limited to Lagos ports. I am sure by the time this is done, the problem would ease greatly,” one Emeka Obinna told The Guardian.
Ambode o ni were ni jo!” one passenger spat furiously to another who sat beside him on a bus bound for Ikotun, from Oshodi. It was Lagosians’ way of saying a man was assertive, courageous and daring. Taken literally, though, ‘were’ means ‘crazy’. And the commuter wanted a governor who was ‘mad’ enough to confront the menace of heavy-duty vehicles on Lagos roads.
See, my friend, this problem is beyond what the Lagos State government alone can solve,” replied his co-commuter. The issue is deeper than you are looking at it. And it did not just begin today. In fact, the Federal Government has a bigger role to play. See, we are talking about fuel, about ports, about congestion. You cannot tackle these without input from the Federal Government. You will notice…
I will not notice anything! The angry man fired back, insisting that with Alausa, seat of the Lagos government, firmly in Ambode’s pockets (whatever that means), the man should get ‘crazier’ with truck drivers and call them to order. “When this very Buhari was in power back in the 80s, he made a decree restricting tankers from plying some routes in the day time, and there was 100 per cent compliance! What stops…
Yes, my brother!” It was a third passenger. “The only language many Nigerians understand is force. They will never never obey laws or live orderly unless a taskmaster stands over them with a whip!
“But you know that this is a democracy,” the co-commuter said. “And under a demo…”
“Democracy my foot!” shouted the angry man, cutting him short.
“Yes!” said the third passenger.
The yellow bus zoomed into the night.