13th June, 2012
In the last few years our highways have become highways of death as accidents have become a daily occurrence, often claiming the lives of innocent Nigerians and causing damage that run into millions of naira.
Last weekend a fuel-laden truck fell across the Ibadan-bound lanes of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway near Berger Bus stop spilling its contents on the road. But for the timely arrival of Federal Road Safety Commission officials a major fire disaster would have consumed vehicles on that busy major highway. The highway was closed off and traffic diverted as fire fighters tried to prevent the spilled fuel from catching fire.
This happened barely a week after another accident caused by oil trucks parked indiscriminately on both sides of the highway caused a serious inferno and several deaths.
The expressway, built in the 1970s, has been in need of major repairs for years, which is why greater care needs to be taken by road users. But truck drivers have turned the highway into a death trap for themselves and other road users.
Over the years, as the rail transportation failed trailers became the only source of transporting goods across the country. By the time the first generation of long haulage truck drivers left the scene and a younger generation of drivers came in, they became increasingly reckless with little regard for human lives, including theirs. Because these heavy duty trucks and articulated vehicles are bigger and stronger, the truck drivers show their disdain for smaller vehicles by smashing into and damaging them.
The little or no regard these truck drivers have for other road users is obvious in the way they behave towards other road users. Just last week, two persons were burnt to death while ten trucks were consumed in an inferno at the Sagamu axis of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The accident was caused by a reckless tanker driver who was trying to overtake two other vehicles at a very high speed and the tyres of the truck burst and the driver lost control, spilling its contents, resulting in an explosion and carnage.
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is now referred to by many as the expressway of death because of accidents that occur daily on the highway, many of which could be blamed on truck drivers.
At the Sagamu axis of the highway, the recalcitrant drivers have refused to use the truck park provided by the Ogun State government. They prefer instead to park on both shoulders of the highway, obstructing traffic and constituting a nuisance to other road users.
About two years ago, around Berger Bus stop where the police had mounted a road block, a truck driver also lost control of his vehicle and smashed into other vehicles resulting in an explosion during which many vehicles and their occupants were burnt beyond recognition. The death toll was so high that the road blocks were immediately dismounted and the buck passing began.
The police denied that they were in any way involved while the people insisted that the road block caused the pile up of vehicles which contributed to the high death toll, yet nothing has been done to curb avoidable disasters on this highway of death.
Each time government seems to want to do something about this menace of avoidable deaths by evacuating the trucks, the tanker drivers threaten to go on strike and the carnage continues. We believe the situation is not as hopeless as government may want us to think. Government can rein in these killer trucks if it musters the will to do so. We cannot continue to lose people and man hours because some Nigerians think they are above the laws of the land.
The highway is too badly damaged to safe, though the activities of these truck drivers have ensured that journeys are no longer safe. We cannot continue to allow a group of lawless individuals control our collective destiny by their reckless action.
As it is, air transport has become a nightmare and the roads have become death traps. How then do we travel the length and breath of Nigeria?