The recent inferno caused by a tanker carrying 33,000 litres of petrol on the Otedola Bridge end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway recently, with 12 confirmed deaths and 54 vehicles burnt, is yet another sad reminder of how menacing articulated vehicles have become. These trucks have killed a lot more Nigerians on the roads than other types of vehicles.
As a maritime media outfit, it grieves our heart and we become more pained by the fact that all the trucks come from the ports or associated locations and businesses. Apapa in Lagos is the hub of maritime activities in Nigeria.
The horde of articulated vehicles which transit Lagos enroute other parts of the country is perhaps a testimony that Nigeria has abandoned other modes of transportation.
Apapa is a very strategic to the nation’s economy. The port city of Apapa is home to Nigeria’s two foremost ports which are currently being managed by nine terminal operators. Between the two ports called; Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port, more than 65 percent of dry cargoes and about 90 per cent of the nation’s liquid (petroleum products) are handled. This is because it hosts about 32 tank farms (and still counting).
Certainly, the presence of these tank farms has brought untold hardships to residents, owners of businesses, motorists and workers in the port city. This can also be said of other Lagosians who have had to contend with the trucks, which either loaded with petroleum products or dry cargoes, have also brought pains, sorrow and even deaths to Lagosians.
A few examples will suffice here. In June 2017, a container truck crushed bus-load of students in Lagos. Another one happened also in June of the same year at Anthony Oke, when a container fell on vehicles. Yet, another occurred along the Sagamu-Benin expressway, when a container truck crushed a fully loaded bus, killing 12 occupants of the vehicle. Before the Otedola bridge disaster, there was another incident on the Ojuelegba Bridge in Lagos.
Arguably, the number of these trucks has increased tremendously since the ports were concessioned in 2006. Volume of cargo has increased significantly, so also is the means of conveying the cargoes out of ports. Also the emergence of tank farms has added to the number of trucks coming in and leaving Lagos daily.
Three things may be fingered as being the causes of the frequent carnages attributable to trucks. First is that most Nigerian roads have deteriorated. Second is that most of the trucks are not road-worthy, third, and related to this is the fact that there have been established cases of substance abuse by the truck drivers. Most important of course is that our law enforcement agents are compromised.
We recall that, at the peak of such accidents sometimes in 2015, the Lagos State Government announced the full implementation of its traffic laws as it affect movement of articulated vehicles. It announced that articulated vehicles should move only between 9pm and 7am on Lagos roads.
This immediately led to a stand-off between the state government and various truckers and drivers’ associations. The debilitating effect of the strike forced the state government to rethink. It suspended the restriction.
We agree that restricting movements of truck to night may not be the best option. In a country where day and night robbery and other vices are rampant, safety of the truck drivers and the cargo can never be guaranteed.
We think that collapse of infrastructure (especially roads) is as much responsible for the accidents as the state of the vehicles and the law enforcement agents.
There is nothing new in the directive of the Lagos State Government to all articulated vehicles coming into the state to obtain the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) certificate of road worthiness.
It also announced centres where truck owners/drivers could obtain MOT certificate of road worthiness, they are: Berger Ojodu, Odogunyan Ikorodu, Agric/Ishawo Road, Ikorodu, Worksyard, PWD, Shogunle, NCI Gbagada, VIS Yard, Oko-Afo, Badagry, VIS Yard, Ayobo in Ipaja, Test Centre in Badagry, VIS Yard, Epe and VIS Yard, Oko-Oba Abbatoir.
These centres are not new; they are well-known MOT centres that were turned to business centres by government officials who are more interested in how much they will covet into their pockets than te safety and actual roadworthiness of the vehicles.
The Lagos state government is also more interested in revenue than safety of the vehicles. Every day vehicles renew their documents; including road worthiness, but the state of the vehicles are never ascertained. The same will happen in the case of trucks, unless they are physically inspected by vehicle inspection officers (VIOs). Of course, this is not practicable, because the MOT centres do not have facilities for such.
We think that, as it is done in other climes, government should explore alternative modes of transportation of cargoes, it is unsafe and uneconomical to move huge volumes of cargo by road , when they can as well be transported by rail.