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Curbing recurring articulated vehicles’ onslaught on Lagos residents

By Gbenga Salau and Azeez Olorunlomeru
05 February 2023   |   4:15 am
Just how many people would be killed by articulated trucks in Lagos State before the Lagos State government is roused to put in place, more effective ways of containing the menace beyond the repetitive issuance of directives and warnings that have done little or nothing to stem the calamity?

Mangled bodies of victims of the recent truck accident on Ojuelegba Bridge

Just how many people would be killed by articulated trucks in Lagos State before the Lagos State government is roused to put in place, more effective ways of containing the menace beyond the repetitive issuance of directives and warnings that have done little or nothing to stem the calamity?

As efforts to move the container failed, rescuers “freed” her by chopping off her legs with a machete. But it was too late to help her cause as she bled to death before reaching a hospital.

In June 2018, a container laden with plywood slipped and fell off a flat panel truck that was climbing the Ojuelegba Bridge crushing three commercial buses, and a car belonging to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

By the time that rescue workers were done at the site of the accident, which occurred at around 8pm, at least three people are confirmed dead and four are seriously injured.

It was also on the infamous Ojuelegba Bridge, that a 40-foot container fell off and flattened a car under the bridge, killing three people in the process on September 2, 2015.

Over three years ago, precisely September 16, 2019, a container fell from an articulated truck, which bore it and landed on a car at Agric Bus Stop, in the Ikorodu area of the state killing two persons on the spot.

Twenty seven-year-old Chidinma Ajoku, and 29-year-old Chima Nnaekpe, both staff of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) were crushed to death by a container, which fell on a bus that was taking them home from work in 2020.

Chidinma who lost her father a couple of month before her death, was only weeks away from travelling to the United Kingdom where she had secured admission for a master’s programme before the tragic incident.

In the thick of the double tragedy that befell the family, her brother, Obinna Ajoku, informed that two years earlier in 2018, the departed Chidinma was part of those that signed a petition to restrict the movement of container trucks in Lagos between 11pm and 5am. She also encouraged a lot of her friends to do same.

In 2022, Lagos State recorded 723 emergency cases involving trailers, trucks, and tankers, according to the Lagos State Emergency Agency (LASEMA), Of this number, 46 were trailer accidents, 89 cases of fallen containers, trucks, and tankers, 220 cases of broken-down trucks and tankers, and 368 cases of truck and tanker accidents.

While the statistics from LASEMA did not provide details about locations of the incidents, Ojuelegba and Otedola bridges seem to be famed for deadly articulated vehicle accidents.
For instance, on June 27, 2018, a tanker filled with petroleum product exploded, and burnt 54 vehicles in an incident that claimed 12 lives.

Also, on January 8, 2019, a petrol tanker spilled its content on the Otedola Bridge, while on May 21, 2020, another tanker loaded with petroleum products bumped into a bus and a car on the same bridge, killing one person, with several others injured.
On October 17, 2020, a petro tanker, carrying 33,000 litres of PMS exploded on the Otedola Bridge, causing a serious traffic jam, while on December 19, 2020, a diesel tanker exploded on the bridge, resulting in the long, chaotic traffic.  
A day after the latest Ojuelegba accident, the state government commiserated with the families of those who lost their loved ones, praying that the Almighty God would console them and grant them the strength to go through this difficult time.

This has been met with jeers and boos by many who insist that either the state government has not learnt from previous experiences, or it places little or no premium on human lives hence its failure to take concrete steps to end the madness.
In a statement, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, said that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, after receiving an interim report of the incident, directed the Police to speed up investigation into the incident.
He added that the governor directed that the driver of the truck and the owner, who are in police custody, must be prosecuted, while the Ministry of Transportation and the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) should meet urgently to find a lasting solution to the menace of falling trucks, just as all the laws governing the operations of trucks and related vehicles must be enforced with more vigour and diligence.
“The incident of January 29, 2023, is one too many and it shows the irresponsibility of owners and drivers of such articulated vehicles who under the law should care for other road users.
“The Lagos State government has zero tolerance for large containers that fall off trucks and injure or kill citizens, who are going about their lawful businesses. The driver (Sodiq Okanlawon) and the owner (Wasiu Lekan) of a container that killed three people on the July 26, 2020 on Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, Ilasamaja were prosecuted and convicted on February 28, 2022 and sentenced to life imprisonment by Hon. Justice Okikiolu Ighile. 
“The state government will, in a similar manner, ensure that the driver and the owner of the truck involved in the January 29 incident are put on trial for the needless death of our dear citizens. This, we hope, will send a strong message to all those who have no regard for other people’s lives that Lagos will not condone their recklessness. They must be stopped, with the strong backing of our laws, because their actions offend our avowed commitment to safety and decency,” Omotoso stated.  

Although the two bridges are notorious for articulated vehicles accidents, some residents, however, believed that articulated vehicle accidents in Ojuelegba and Otedola, or in any other part of the state would have been

The state government’s position notwithstanding, many stakeholders, including residents believe that needless deaths connected to articulated trucks would have been reduced or completely averted if the regulatory agencies were up and doing.
According to Tajudeen Akinola, a resident of Amuwo-Odofin: “On many occasions, these accidents are usually due to mechanical faults, which means that articulated vehicle owners are not paying enough attention to their vehicles’ maintenance, and regulatory agencies are not available to keep the drivers and the truck owners in line.”   
He also noted that some of the drivers of the articulated vehicles are usually very unruly with many of them operating under the influence of alcohol and hard drugs.
Commenting on the frequent accidents involving these vehicles, the Secretary of Corporate Truck Owners, Gbade Amodu, said that if the government fails to tackle headlong, the root causes of the problem, the accidents would continue to occur.
He lamented that drivers operating within the Lagos ports complex and its environs were under perpetual pressure from state actors and non-state actors.
Amode said: “When I say stress from state and non-state actors, I mean from officials of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA); Nigeria Customs Service; Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), who daily harass drivers with a view to extorting them. There are also hoodlums who wield sticks, rods and all manner of cudgels that are also extorting drivers. These boys are everywhere. So, these drivers are under perpetual stress while driving. When the drivers notice or suspect a fault in the vehicle and try to check what the nature of the fault is, both state and non-state actors would swoop on them, demanding that they must be paid for the stop. Just as the touts are demanding that they should be paid, LASTMA officers would arrive at the scene with the intention of towing the truck away for a fine that is not less than N100,000. It should be noted that these touts and LASTMA officers often work hand-in-hand and it is all about extorting truck drivers.

“A driver that is stressed, how accurate can be his sense of judgment? If you put all your trucks in order in a day and one of the trucks takes a trip to the port, when the truck returns from the port and the delivery location, you will be surprised about the sorry condition of the truck when you see it because different parts of the truck would have been damaged by touts and even officers of government agencies who wield sticks and all manner of weapons to demand for money from drivers. And when these drivers fail to comply, a part of the truck is managed. So, the government should look at that.

“Sometimes, it could be the consequences of the actions by touts, port officials and security and traffic agencies that we all see on the roads. These touts are on the roads and government officials and law enforcement officers see them but they pretend all is well. Before now, do we have this number of accidents?
“There is cause and effect. The state government should clear the roads of area boys. We all pretend as if nothing concerns us. The state actors, once they collect their money, everything is okay to them, including the area boys that operate unchecked extorting the drivers on Lagos roads. Yet, they want the trucks to be okay in the face of all manner of extortion, it is not possible. The truck cannot operate itself, it is somebody that operates it. If all these illegalities are stopped, we would see a positive result,” Amodu said.  
On Wednesday, following the series of articulated vehicle accidents in the state, between Sunday and Tuesday, the state government issued another statement, through which it condemned in strong terms the incessant truck accidents within the state, warning owners and drivers of articulated vehicles against recklessness, as any driver or owner found to be complicit in any truck accident would be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the State Transport Sector Reform Law (TSRL), 2018.
The statement by the Ministry of Transportation stated that the warning becomes necessary following recent truck accidents at Ojuelegba, Ikotun, and other areas of the state, which claimed the lives of innocent citizens aside from leaving scores of people injured.
According to the statement by the Permanent Secretary, Abdulhafiz Toriola, investigation revealed that the accidents happen, most times, due to negligence and recklessness on the part of the drivers, reiterating that the state government had resolved not to tolerate unabated truck accidents caused by large containers falling off trucks, which injure or kill citizens, who are going about their daily activities.
“Having carried out a critical forensic investigation on the causes of these accidents, the state government has resolved to evoke the full wrath of the laws stipulated in its Transport Sector Reform Law (TSRL), 2018, on the liability of owners for safety.
“The law clearly stated that a person who drives a commercial vehicle whose condition does not conform with the provisions of the law commits an offence and is liable on conviction to the penalty stated in Section 18 (2) and in situations where the driver of the vehicle is not the owner, the owner will also be liable in line with Section 18 (3).”
The statement further said that the enforcement strategies to checkmate the operations and activities of articulated vehicles plying the state roads are sacrosanct and will be enforced.
“The state government having registered its displeasure and position on the current situation seeks the full cooperation of all relevant stakeholders in the implementation of the exercise/enforcement in a bid to erase needless deaths, enhance movement without fear on our roads, and safety of lives and property.”

In his comments, Professor Iyiola Oni of the Transportation Planning And Management department, University of Lagos, noted that calamitous accidents involving articulated vehicles were becoming too frequent in the state. He bemoaned the fact that the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) road ‘Traffic Safety Standards,’ ‘Safe to Load’ and other interventions are not implemented at the ports or site of loading.

He listed factors responsible for the accidents resulting from articulated vehicles to include ineffective adherence to safety measures and standards, less utilisation of other alternative modes of transport such as rail and water (multimodalism), ineffective enforcement process and procedures, and clear-cut responsibilities of the policy implementation and monitoring.

Others included lack of training, education and enlightenment of all the stakeholders in the chain; use of sub-standard and rickety trailers; lack of weighbridges; and inadequate ‘fine’ for overloading is to deter offenders.
“There is also the fundamental problem of deliberate attempt at neither keeping to control measures nor latching containers as there is no insurance cover for their vehicles, but only on the goods carried. Their belief is that if the containers are effectively latched, it will warp and destroy their vehicles.
Therefore, the whole logistics chain process requires a complete overhaul,” he said.

Meanwhile, some residents of Ojuelegba bridge attributed the incessant accidents on the bridge to unruly behaviour of some truck drivers and underage truck drivers. 

A resident, Akinniyi Towobola stated that government should find a lasting solution to the frequent loss of lives as a result of negligence from truck drivers on the bridge.
“What I have observed recently is that most of the articulated vehicles are not latched thereby endangering the lives of innocent Lagosians,” he noted.

On the Otedola bridge incidents, which had also been recurring, Bright Innocent, a resident of Ojudu Berger noted that most of the accidents that happened on the bridge were usually those of laden petrol-laden tankers that find it difficult to climb the bridge because of its sloppy nature.

Reacting to incessant accidents of articulated vehicles on Lagos roads, former Dean, School of Transport and Logistics, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi disclosed that there is need for government to develop the Standards and Regulatory framework, which he said has already be done in conjunction with the FRSC. “The most critical item is the enforcement and this is where the challenge is.”

He stated that education and enlightenment is also an important component, which he said is the easier aspect of the challenge stakeholders do not consider as important.

He said that the media, both print and electronic, is also part of the guilty partners. He lamented the emphasis of news delivery on entertainment while rarely reserving spaces for enlightenment and education on safety and security in transportation.

Odewunmi noted that the challenge with enforcement is that it is not only non-rewarding but dangerous, noting that many traffic control officers have been killed in an attempt to enforce the law.
“The sad aspect of it is that the citizens who should cooperate to ensure effective enforcement of the law are always supporting the law breakers thereby encouraging impunity that ends up endangering the lives of everybody.”

He further stated that enforcement officers find it profitable to turn a blind eye to violators of the law. “We must all take it as personal responsibility to promote enlightenment of the populace because if they are aware of the rules and buy into it, the enforcement will not be as arduous as it is now. Let the standards be known to the populace and persuade them to buy into it.”

Also a safety and environment expert, Patrick Adenusi observed that the Ojulegba bridge accident is not as a result of bad roads but because of the architectural design of the bridge where there is a little curve that affects motorist.

He stated that although bad roads affect the state of a vehicle, most of the truck accidents that has happened recently actually occurred not on the portion of the bad roads.
“By now, government should have taken steps to reduce the depth of the slope by building another bridge that will replace the existing one.”

He frowned at the practice of under age drivers for trucks, adding that it is part of the factors militating against accident-free roads in the country.

The safety expert further stated that in other climes, getting commercial driver license is an herculean task because of the importance.