Otedola Bridge Tragedy And The Moving Time Bombs On Nigerian Roads

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Otedola Bridge Tragedy And The Moving Time Bombs On Nigerian Roads, By Adegbenro Adebanjo

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Yes, brake failure and other mechanical malfunction could have been responsible for the spate of accidents of tankers and articulated vehicles, which has become a recurring phenomenon laden with tragedies in different parts of the country. As we continue to bewail the monumental tragedy that occurred in Lagos on Thursday, June 28, 2018, when a petrol tanker crashed on the Otedola Bridge at full speed, leaving in its wake a carnage of horrendous proportion, including a conservatively estimated 9 deaths and 54 burnt vehicles, by official accounts, which is open to disputation because of the scale of the tragedy involved. It is obvious that there is more to such tragic accidents than mechanical failure and over speeding. One area that the authorities and other institutions vested with the responsibilities of keeping our roads safe from such horrible and heart wrenching accidents have all failed to look at critically, is the personality of those who drive these tankers and articulated vehicles.

This piece was written by Adegbenro Adebanjo. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

The physical and mental state of the drivers of the vehicles and their assistants (motor boys) could be largely responsible for the growing rash of accidents of the magnitude that occurred on Otedola Bridge. Some of the drivers are not well trained to handle such vehicles, while a number of them do not possess the right mental and physical capabilities to be on the road. And, of course, they are also forced by accident or design to work beyond the threshold of their resilience. It is inconceivable for a driver to be behind the wheel for 72 hours without taking time to rest properly. Some of the drivers routinely drive for between two and four days non-stop. They are simply accidents waiting to happen and when their vehicles are the types that convey inflammable liquids like petrol, diesel and gas, they are simply moving time bombs on the roads, unknown to other road users.

A few months back, I was travelling from the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) with a contingent of eight people, including professors and other senior academic and administrative staff. Just before Ogere, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a tanker fully laden with combustible oil, which was traveling at high speed, left its section of the road and faced oncoming vehicles. In a twinkle of an eye, the drivers on the other lane sensing clear danger veered off the road for the menacing tanker. Mercifully there was no gully or any encumbrance by their side of the road, and they were lucky that the side they were on had a small pathway through which they could manoeuvre out of the path of danger, otherwise the tanker would have forced them into a gully, precipitating deaths, injuries and other tales of monumental tragedy. After some tense seconds, the tanker was maneuvered back to its proper side of the way by the driver. We had helplessly watched the near tragedy that was averted with trepidation. After some minutes, our driver managed to overtake the tanker and the cause of the near mishap became apparent. There were four people in the Driver’s cabin, three of who were fast asleep and the driver’s bloodshot eyes showed that he was struggling to stay awake. He was driving with one hand and using the other hand to rub his face with a substance we suspected to be aboniki or a similar ointment.

The fact is that the majority of the drivers of petrol tankers and other articulated vehicles barely have time to rest and are prone to committing avoidable errors on the road, leading to accidents and colossal tragedies. From investigation, some of them wait endlessly to be attended to at depots, ports and other rendezvous points where they take their consignments for onward delivery at designated places in other parts of the country. During the periods of waiting, they carouse all day and all night long, abusing alcohol and other drugs. And when they are attended to eventually and are ready to embark on their usually long journeys, they are often spent, mentally and physically. Of course they make stop overs at Ogere, Ibadan, Ile Ife, Akure, Owo, Ibilo, Okene, Lokoja, Onitsha, Umuhaia, Enugu, Minna, Eyenkorin, Sokoto, Bauchi and other major routes. But during the stopovers they barely take time to rest. It’s another opportunity for more carousing and endless banter with their colleagues and passersby. Without proper sleep or rest, they hit the road again. And to ensure that they keep up with their deadlines, they resort to the use of all sorts of energy drinks and enhancers, including alcohol and other dangerous beverages and drugs in order to, according to them, keep alert and stay awake. These impair their senses of judgment on the road and at times they simply sleep off on the wheel. They then become accidents waiting to happen and because of their states of physical exhaustion and metal incapacitation, such accidents, like the one that recently occurred on Lagos, have become a frequent occurrence.

The Lagos tragedy should be a wakeup call to the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to reappraise its enforcement mechanisms of forestall such accidents. To be fair to the FRSC operatives, stopping the tanker drivers on the highway is a suicide mission. The moment the drivers sight the operatives or even road blocks mounted by security agents, they simply increase their speed and the operatives who dare to stop them then do so at their own peril. So it’s not enough for FRSC officials to flag down erring motorists or overspeeding tanker drivers on the highway. The time has come for a coordinated approach to put a stop to these avoidable carnage on our roads. It will not be out of place to begin a regime of examination of the state of tankers and other articulated vehicles and carrying out random test of drivers at loading bays, ports, depots and other point where they converge. The drivers should be tested for drugs and when it is discovered that they are mentally or physically impaired, they should be stopped from driving. The FRSC should also ensure that it enforces its policy on the compulsory installation of speed limiting device in these vehicles, to the letter. Only certified drivers and vehicles should be on the roads. Those who employ the drivers should also be more concerned with their physical and mental wellbeing and physical welfare. Some of the drivers are too young to drive, while some of them are also too old to drive. They should also be trained and retrained and taught the value of human lives. The governments at all levels should begin the comprehensive enforcement of all relevant laws and regulations relating to road safety and safe driving. And the work of rescuers and first responders are usually made more difficult by the intrusion of on lookers eager to capture such tragedies with their phone camera and post on the social media. Could we have less of such intrusion please!

We must all collectively work to make our roads safe and keep deaths, destruction and tragedies and of course moving time bombs off Nigerian roads.

Adegbenro Adebanjo sent this piece via obanijesu@yahoo.com.

This piece was written by Adegbenro Adebanjo. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

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