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Unlatched containers: Harbinger of deaths on the prowl

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Accident involving unlatched container at Otedola Bridge along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

Motorists, commuters lament as three die in two weeks
• Want drivers of unlatched containerised trucks prosecuted

It has been a traumatic experience for motorists and commuters in Lagos and environs in the last two weeks, following killings involving unlatched containers falling on victims.

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The deaths occurred when unlatched containers fell on vehicles in two different locations.
 
While the first happened on Sunday, July 11, at Magboro Bus Stop, along the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, there was a repeat on Sunday, July 18 at Otedola Bridge in the same area.
   
In the accident at Magboro, inward Ibafo, a container fell off a truck at the Expressway, hitting two vehicles. Two people died instantly, three others were seriously injured.
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The incident at Otedola, which involved a Mack 20ft containerised truck with two different registration numbers: LSD 973 XM in the front and FKJ 214 XY at the back, and two vehicles, a Toyota wagon with registration number JJJ 28 FR and Toyota Camry BDG 597 CY, led to the death of the driver of the Camry, while two people among the six occupants were injured in the incident.
   
The accident happened barely a month, after a container-bearing truck moving towards Lagos, on Tuesday, June 9, evening around 9.00 p.m., lost control and the container fell, spilling its content as well as blocking the entire lane.
 
The accident compelled motorists to use the service lane, thereby causing gridlock for vehicles going towards Oshodi.
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The situation continued till 11.00 a.m., the following day before the container was removed by officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA).
   
Incidents of fallen containers have become regular features of Lagos roads.

Conveying containers to or fro the Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports is a daily business and when not done according to safety standards, it becomes a source of danger to road users.
 
The presence of these heavy-duty trucks, be it petrol tankers and their likes have continued to elicit fear in road users, due to the recklessness of some of the drivers and the poorly secured containers, which usually fall off at the slightest opportunity, thereby sending victims to an untimely death.

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In fact, the fear of these trucks, particularly those carrying containers, is the beginning of wisdom for motorists now in Lagos.
 
Some of the truck drivers as reliably gathered, sometimes drive under the influence of alcohol and hard drugs, some under fatigue and others deliberately aggressive, with most of them popularly referred to as ‘agents of death’ giving little or no consideration to other road users.
 
Not only do such trucks constitute road hazards, particularly on the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, unlatched containers leave owners of smaller vehicles praying against the unexpected. This is because anytime the unexpected occurs, just like that of Otedola Bridge, it always leaves in its trail death, with immediate family members of victims left in untold anguish.
 
Motorists are also worried that there are no alternative roads for trucks that move containers. Even the time stipulated for them by the government is not adhered to.

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According to a motorist, Mmaduka John, who resides at Ogudu, Lagos, most of the recent falls, occurred along fairly good roads, meaning that bad road was not responsible, but that authorities saddled with the responsibility of checking trucks before they leave their stations are either slacking on their duties or indifferent.
 
He said while it is not the first time containers are falling in Lagos, the recent episodes are happening on roads recently completed.
 
A commuter, who watched helplessly as the bodies of the deceased were recovered last Sunday, while the driver of the tanker fled, asks the government to take decisive action against flagrant disobedience of traffic laws, especially regulations on latching of containers, driving under the influence of alcohol and over speeding.
 
The commuter, Odion Michael, said the recent events have shown that agencies saddled with responsibilities of manning standards on roads have not done enough.

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Similarly, Mrs. Blessing Odeh, who witnessed an incident on February 18, 2009, where a family of five was sent to an unprepared grave at Ijesha when 40- foot container fell off the truck and landed on the Mercedes Benz 2000, said it is becoming one death too many.
 
She said the fear of truck drivers has restricted her driving to where they are not allowed to ply like Ikeja GRA and Airport areas.
 
According to her, there is a need to prosecute drivers and owners of trucks found culpable to deter others.

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Another commuter, Adekunle Ibidemi, was also worried that agencies of government are not monitoring the drivers, as there are reports that they were being compromised.
 
But the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Lagos Sector Command, Corps Commander, Olusegun Ogungbemide, said the Corp has been arresting defaulting containerised vehicles, while mobile courts try them virtually on a weekly basis.
 
Ogungbemide said the mobile courts take care of vehicles arrested for not latching or twist locking and not for those involved in crashes.

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According to him, the Corp uses both the Lagos State and the FRSC traffic laws to prosecute defaulting drivers in the mobile courts.
 
He said: “We have routine checks at the point of loading in the ports. There is one we call the Safe To Load, but most of these vehicles when they are about to be loaded in the ports, will latch and twist-lock them because if you don’t do that, you would not have access to the ports.
 
“But sometimes, they now move to bonded terminals where they transfer the items to other vehicles.

“If you look at the one that eventually crashed at Magboro, maybe it left Lagos at very late hours of the night when our men must have vacated the road.  Most of them will always go and park somewhere and wait until later hours of the night before they pull out of Lagos because they know that daytime is always very hot for them, These are the windows we see where we record such misdemeanor.”

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When crashes are involved, the police handles such but when drivers are arrested for going against traffic rules, it is the FRSC that handles that, either by regular or mobile courts
 
According to Ogungbemide, FRSC has confirmed that 3, 298 trucks and articulated vehicles have been impounded for various offences since the beginning of the year.
 
He said: “There is no backing down on the battle against vehicles without minimum safety standards on Lagos roads.
 
“In case of emergency, motorists are enjoined to call FRSC Toll-free number 122 for prompt rescue and removal of obstructions while he urges truck owners and motorists to maintain vehicles and obey traffic rules and regulations in the state.”

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