Some of the burnt vehicles at OPIC Plaza

Some of the burnt vehicles at OPIC Plaza

By Tayo Ogunbiyi

Five people were officially confirmed dead as a result of the explosion that recently occurred from a fully loaded Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG tanker, at Maryland, along Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way area of Lagos.

The sad episode led to the destruction of several vehicles as well as properties running into billions of naira. Several others also experienced a diverse degree of burns, while others suffered different physical injuries.

According to eyewitness accounts, the incident occurred when the gas tanker, which was on top speed, suddenly slipped and exploded, thus leaving in its trail ball of fire that spread with the speed of lightning.

Reports also had it that some motorists abandoned their vehicles and fled in different directions as the inferno gathered momentum, thereby creating intense pandemonium across the axis. Watching the episode on the Television was such a gory sight that will certainly make hearts of steel melt. The cost of the ill-fated incident is obviously enormous. Indeed, many are still counting their losses.

Unfortunately, as victims of the Maryland incident were still coming to terms with the reality of their pains, miseries and losses, came the sad report that another articulated truck fell into the Oshodi BRT terminal due to mechanical failure. Fortunately, no casualty was recorded from the incident, as the state’s emergency responders swiftly responded.

In view of the needless agony and losses caused by the reckless actions of articulated vehicle drivers, the time has come for stakeholders to put up a common front against their menace, which is becoming too close for comfort.

Many pointless mishaps and carnages on our road are often caused by reckless driving. Articulated vehicles drivers, in particular, need to be more careful and professional in their operation. Across the country, they are mostly notorious for the sloppy manner they function. Findings have shown that several carnages recorded on most roads in the country have been caused by their complicity.

A recent research indicated that out of about 358 transport accidents recorded in Nigeria between 2019 and 2020, 70 % involved articulated trucks and heavy‐duty vehicles. The survey further shows that about 32 per cent of truck drivers are below 30 years and probably immature and inexperienced to handle such psychologically demanding tasks.

Studies have equally confirmed that 62 per cent of trucks involved in serious road mishaps that resulted in monumental disasters were of poor quality which probably aided fire outbreaks whenever there was an accident. Study has also shown that about 54 per cent of fuel spilling that had led to fire outbreaks was as a result of negligence on the part of truck drivers.

For obvious reasons, Lagos will continue to attract articulated vehicles and trucks of all shades because of its prime socio-economic status. Lagos accounts for over 60% of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activities; 70% of national maritime cargo freight, over 80% of international aviation traffic and over 50% of Nigeria’s energy consumption. The two seaports in Lagos account for 70 percent of the sea trade in the country.

With all these indicators, it would be difficult, for now, to banish articulated vehicles and trucks on Lagos roads. However, with the cooperation of major stakeholders in related sectors, the havoc being wrecked on lives and properties by articulated vehicles on residents of the state could be grossly reduced.

For instance, the continuous importation of locally consumed fuel in the country, arising from the inability of the Federal Government, over the years, to fix local refineries places a serious burden on the state. With more than 50 fuel depots in Lagos alone, at least over 3,000 trucks travel to the state on a daily basis with the intention of lifting petroleum products.

To redress the current trend, there is a need to encourage more investors to build new refineries, just as the Dangote Group is currently doing along the Lekki Free Trade Zone axis. Continuous importation of fuel, no doubt, will exacerbate the pressure on road infrastructure across the country. Various stakeholders in the oil sector need to ingeniously look into the petroleum distributive arrangement to evolve a more scientific and less cumbersome order of distribution.

Equally, we need to invest massively in the infrastructure development of the transportation sector. Investment in transportation infrastructure enhances private sector activities as it lowers operational cost; enhances productivity, job and wealth creation through exchange of goods and services. Infrastructure development in the sector is, therefore, critical to achieving human capital development and safety in the country.

One vital way through which this could be done is for us to de-emphasise road transportation and revitalize rail transport. If we had developed a viable rail mode of transportation, most of the road carnages that result in monumental loss of lives and properties could have well been avoided.

The rail option is a cheaper, effective and less cumbersome alternative through which millions of liters of fuel and, indeed, people, goods and products could be effectively and effortlessly transported across the country. Hopefully, by the time the ongoing efforts by the Federal Government to revamp rail transportation fully sees the light of the day, things would improve considerably.

While commiserating with those who lost loved ones and valuables in the ill-fated episode, kudos should be given to operatives of the Nigerian Police, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA; Lagos State Fire Service; the state’s Ambulance Service; Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, the Federal Road Safety Commission among others who worked tirelessly and endlessly to coordinate rescue and emergency operation that mitigated the effects if the gory episode.

-Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director (Public Affairs), Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.