On fuel trucks’ fire tragedies
WITH the death of over 80 people in Onitsha, Anambra State due to an inferno which broke out when a truck laden with petroleum product had an accident, there is the urgent need for the government and other stakeholders to stop this alarming carnage on Nigerian roads.
At the time this tragedy happened in Onitsha, two similar ones also occurred in Lagos. Apart from the highly disturbing death toll, these tragedies led to the loss of several vehicles, houses and businesses.
In Onitsha, most of the victims of the inferno were innocent people who had already boarded buses in a motor park, waiting to leave for their destinations. Such an unnecessary waste of lives must stop.
The nation has had enough of such gruesome accidents. Sadly, these are human tragedies that could have been averted if some precautions were put in place. For one, most of these drivers involved in such tragic accidents are young people.
They are obviously too young to drive vehicles, especially trucks carrying combustible petroleum products. Their being too young to handle such vehicles is often demonstrated by the carelessness with which they drive on the roads.
They drive as though they are the lords of the roads. They do not care about the rights of other drivers and the safety of their own lives. And despite the poor state of the nation’s roads and the fact that they are carrying petroleum products, they are always on top speed. Even the vehicles they drive are not fit to be used on the nation’s roads.
Most of these accidents like that of Onitsha were caused by faulty brakes. Obviously, the owners of these vehicles who give them to these reckless drivers are so pre-occupied with profit from their businesses that they do not put their vehicles in good order before handing them over to these exuberant drivers. They are as culpable as the drivers in their employ.
Beyond the familiar condemnation of these tragedies by the government and its agencies, it is imperative for the authorities to take cognisance of the fact that they are partly responsible for the carnage on the roads. For some of these accidents need not occur at all if the government and its appropriate agencies perform their duties effectively.
Officials of government agencies such as the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Vehicles Inspection Office (VIO) see these vehicles on the roads but they do not care to restrict their movement because they are not fit for driving.
How did these young people get their drivers’ licences? Thus one way of effectively averting these accidents is for the government to begin a process of verifying and validating the licences of these young drivers.
And these accidents have brought into focus once again the need for the government to fix the nation’s roads. Since most of these roads are ridden with potholes, vehicles easily crash on them. Billions of naira are budgeted for roads maintenance every year, yet most of them are dilapidated.
These accidents happened during the scarcity of petroleum products. The drivers involved in the accidents might have been under pressure to make as many trips as possible. Perhaps, if there were no scarcity of petroleum products, these accidents would not have occurred.
And, why must the nation’s petroleum products be transported by trucks to long distances? The government should avert further tragedies of this nature by considering more effective ways of transporting petroleum products.
While there should be good networks of roads, there should equally be a functional rail system for the transportation of such products. More importantly, there should be a functional network of pipelines to transport products to various locations.
To serve as an effective deterrent, the government should equally focus its attention on the owners of the trucks. Such owners who know that their vehicles are not road-worthy and yet give them to reckless people to drive and cause death of innocent people should be severely punished.
It is important for government at all levels to put in place appropriate measures to check a recurrence of these incidents. And the time to break this cycle of carnage on Nigerian roads is now.