THE rate of avoidable ghastly accidents on Nigerian roads is alarming. Worrisome, particularly, are those accidents involving tankers and articulated vehicles. Most of such accidents normally trigger fire incidents that claim lives and properties. This is is becoming unbearable.
JUST last Wednesday, a tanker conveying petrol products fell into a drainage at MCC Bus Stop, at Upper Iweka area in Onitsha, Anambra State and caused an inferno that spread through such areas as Toronto Hospital, Abuja Park, Motorcycle Spare Parts unit, under the flyover to Ochanja Market, claiming lives and properties worth billions of naira.
As if that was not enough calamity, another tanker, laden with petrol, on Friday(two days after), fell along the road at about 3a.m at Omagba Phase 2 area of Onitsha and equally triggered a fire that burnt many vehicles and buildings.
Yet, another tanker was reported to have fallen at Agulu, Anambra State same day . Similarly, another petrol tanker was gutted by fire on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, same Friday. While a tanker with fuel in the early hours of same Friday, was found leaking and spewing fuel at the Victoria Island area of Lagos after it crashed with another truck.
IF NOT for the efforts of the Lagos fire service men and men of Anambra State Fire Service, along with other law enforcement agencies, the Agulu, Anambra State incident and that of Victoria Island, Lagos, would have triggered fire and claimed their own huge toll of lives and properties as was the case in the other fires mentioned earlier. Similar incidents and even worse situations abound across Nigeria.
ALTHOUGH accidents are not part of anyone’s wishes, they still happen and our readiness to do what we can to prevent them or deal with them portrays us as a people who are prepared for survival or not.
SO, the question of how our society sets itself up to avert such havoc is relevant. From the state of the roads to the condition of the vehicles that ply them, the level of inquest on them is relevant.
IT IS well known that the stability of the trucks and tankers are a challenge on themselves as most of them appear too heavy or long to ply the narrow roads. More so, the roads, narrow as they are, are terribly bad- pothole ridden, eaten up by erosion and flood.
Plying them with even rugged vehicles pose challenges. At some points, the roads cut off completely. Anybody with good knowledge of basic conditions of safety in road transportation would not miss the question: How can such vehicles, in their age and mechanical state be driven on such harsh roads?
ARTICULATED vehicles may have their balance issues and bumpy state of terrain to worry about but the heavy duty tankers that carry highly inflammable contents like petrol, kerosene, diesel and cooking gas, among others, are themselves heavy casualties as they trundle with their oft overweight load,
their contents often require very airy and wide roads but Nigerian roads, especially in cities and suburban areas have become marked by roadside traders and hawkers who sell all manner of items, including naked flames, lamps, among others, that can torch fuel and gas tankers. Where hawkers are not potential sources of fire, there are homes,
shops standing too close to the roads as people have erected buildings even up to the middle of the roads. Imagine where a tanker carrying cooking gas or petrol passes a barbecue (suya) spot at the road side. Is it not possible that they can catch fire?
SIMILARLY, most articulated vehicles plying our roads are rickety and inadequately maintained. Many of them should be marked ‘off road’. Most of them are old vehicles imported from foreign countries where their life span have been spent.
Worse, they are often overloaded, with half-baked drivers without due certification. The roads are equally so choked that one wonders if there is emergency. At how many points can they do U-turn on our roads?
Aside the age of vehicles, narrow bad roads, unqualified drivers, and others, most operators of tankers and articulated vehicles always ply the roads on the edge because of the activities of highway robbers, thugs and various levy agents that extort them in the name collecting tolls and taxes or performing their duties, including law enforcement agents. Sometimes, in the process of fleeing from these agents, they run into people or ditches and with markets on the roads at various points, nobody is assured of safety.
GIVEN these, the laws and policies in such states as Anambra and Lagos States, baring hawking and roadside trading must be strictly enforced in the interest of the people. What happened in Onitsha and Agulu in Anambra State, Victoria Island, Lagos and Ibadan, in Oyo State, among others are pointers that people are not safe.
WHILE we call on governments at all levels to pay due attention to roads, we also urge the relevant authorities to strictly ensure that vehicles should be certified road-worthy,and the roads should also be worthy for all manner of vehicles to ply on.
There is need to relocate some markets and motor parks that are close to the road, particularly those in densely populated or sloppy areas and ensure that filling stations are sited out of markets and residential areas.
MEANWHILE urban planners, city councils and states should strictly insist on giving due space for traffic on highways as most roads are too narrow for vehicles to navigate through. The vehicles also should have their right of way, else, the economy will suffer. Also, such vehicles, their drivers and tanks should be certified okay to ply the roads.
AGAIN, a system where the only operational Port is in Lagos puts a lot of load on the roads. We should therefore spread our ports across country and make them functional for easy access.
THERE is equally need to tackle security challenges in the country to be able to map out a period of the day, particularly nights for tankers and articulated vehicles to ply our roads. If their security is not guaranteed, hoodlum’s attacks on them at night will negate such policies.
AS WE urge all states to be strict on the law against roadside trading and urban planning, we also feel it is important that occupants of every home and shop should be trained in basic safety tips to protect their lives and property.