Ogun, FRSC trade blames over recurring accidents at Sango toll gate
Although the November 14, 2019, fatal tanker accident that claimed lives and destroyed properties, at the Ota old toll gate, Sango, on the Lagos-Abeokuta highway, Ogun State, might have come and gone, the indictment of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) by the state government, remains an issue of debate.
Governor Dapo Abiodun, through a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin on November 17, blamed the men of the FRSC for incessant accidents around the area.
He was quoted thus: “Those vehicles that the FRSC usually ask to park by the roadside contribute to the gridlock and pose dangers to unsuspecting motorists. Governor Abiodun has therefore issued a ‘no parking’ directive to the corps.”
Aside the two unidentified persons burnt beyond recognition and six others rescued, out of which one later died in the hospital, 17 vehicles-10 trucks and six mini buses were burnt in the accident. The FRSC Command, located at the old tollgate was also affected as the fire burnt the command’s perimeter fence; two gates; staff canteen and the office signboard.
No doubt, the axis remains a black spot, which has claimed many lives and ruined many over the years.
According to data from the state FRSC Command, a total of 140 Road Traffic Crashes (RTCs) were recorded on about 200 meters stretch of the tollgate, in the last five years-January 2014 to October 22, 2019.
A total of 397 vehicles were involved, resulting in 33 deaths with a total of 1,254 persons involved in the crashes.
Within the reporting period, a total of 338 injured victims were rescued alive.
Aside the deaths and damages are done to the road and environment, the Crash Investigation Report done by FRSC, said over N269m was estimated to have been lost to the November 14 incident.
The State Sector Commander of the FRSC, Clement Oladele, did not only exonerate his officers, he said the avoidable crash and other crashes would have been prevented if simple safety practices are strictly adhered to.
“The FRSC is a safety agency with ISO 9001 Quality Management System certification and we do not cause road traffic crashes, but established to prevent them.”
However, The Guardian observations revealed that the ‘stop and check’ operations of the Corps opposite the Ota command’s office, few metres away from the tollgate is adding to the gridlock within the axis.
Coupled with this is the obstruction caused by seized vehicles that have been completely abandoned by the roadside. The vehicles have completely taken over a sizeable part of the motorable part of the road, while motorists manage the remaining parts with craters.
A commuter bus driver, Jimoh Bello told The Guardian that while motorists would not stop the Corps from performing their statutory operations, they need to completely stay off the tollgate axis, to reduce rowdiness along that axis, which has become the order of the day.
“That axis should always be free of any traffic obstruction, as the place is known for accidents. Majority of casualties recorded there are those lurked in the gridlock. The bad state of the road is also not helping matters.”
Another motorist, James Igoh, also condemned the roadblocks, especially at bad spots, adding to traffic challenges experienced by road users. He noted that vehicles illegally parked in front of a hall close to the corps’ unit’s office are also contributing to the problem.
“The Governor too needs to rehabilitate the road. While Lagos State is fixing its side of the road, Ogun should also replicate it. If the road is okay, the probability of an accident on the axis will be minimal. It should be less talk and more action, proper fixing of the road, pending when the Federal Government is ready to re-mobilise the contractor back.”
But Oladele denied that FRSC operations cause gridlocks, as vehicles apprehended are not usually detained, except if a case of dangerous driving or theft is suspected.
He said: “Usually the offender is ticketed and allowed to go. Another instance that could warrant FRSC impounding a vehicle is when the culprit does not have acceptable means of identification like a valid driver’s license or original vehicle papers. In that case, the vehicle is impounded until the offender returns for prosecution or payment of the citations and thereafter reclaims the impounded vehicle.
“Where a decision is taken to impound such vehicles, such are usually kept in safe custody within the FRSC premises. There is no way the FRSC’s operations by this SOP could cause any gridlock since FRSC does not mount roadblocks. Some of the vehicles parked around the old toll gate, where the FRSC office and other buildings are located, are mainly accident vehicles with some involved in litigations and kept close to where the crash occurred by some sister agencies as exhibits.”
The Sector Commander said the FRSC in the state would continue to discharge its mandates professionally till highways in the state become the safest in West Africa.
“From the FRSCs routine road audits of the Lagos-Abeokuta corridor, a re-engineering of the old toll gate area was recommended to eliminate the sloppy gradient, which usually prevent vehicles, especially articulated vehicles (trucks & tankers) that suffered break failure from crashing into passengers waiting to board vehicles to Lagos or other parts of Ogun State, since it’s a major transit point in Ota, situated by the old toll gate.
“A comprehensive audit report was prepared by the FRSC and deposited with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Federal Road Maintenance Agency, Ogun State Ministry of Works & Infrastructure and other relevant stakeholders to aid decisions.
“The summary of the audit report is that it examined the major causes of frequent crashes around the area and suggested that wholesome traffic re-engineering solution would separate motorised traffic from other non-motorised traffic, especially pedestrians, which would remove all points of traffic conflicts that would not allow vehicles to interfere with pedestrians, nor allow pedestrians to have any contact with vehicles in transit at that major intersection. That would best prevent fatal road crashes.”