Abiola Seun writes.
Lagos, the commercial capital of the country has been under traffic siege in the last two years. Interestingly, the siege is attributed to the increasing cargo throughput into the Nigerian seaports.
Available statistics show that the city which is the hub of seaports in the country has had its fair share of tragedy resulting from the increased activities in the ports.
Thus, while the ports in Lagos are getting busier, the residents of the city are counting their loses in many ways.
For instance, it is believed in some quarters that continued dependence of the ports operators to use a single mode of evacuating cargoes out of the seaports has led to the perennial traffic gridlock in the city of Lagos. A situation that is almost grounding the economy hub of the nation.
Aside the traffic gridlocks, the residents are now at the mercy of containers falling off trucks and killing innocent citizens, as the numbers of such accidents keep increasing by the day.
One spot that has become very notorious for these type of incident is the popular, Ojuelegba Overhead bridge which links the seaports areas of Apapa to the mainland and the connecting routes out of Lagos.
Reports of containers falling off trucks conveying them to their various destinations on the Ojuelegba Bridge date back to September 2015, when one of such occurred and crushed truck and a couple who were the occupants of a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) to death.
The couple were said to be returning home from work when they lost their lives in that tragic incident. Although another person was reported to have died from the same accident ,the occupants of another private car were lucky to have escaped death as the fallen container also touched part of their vehicle.
As it is usually the case, investigations were carried out which revealed that the unfortunate incident would have been averted if the container had been latched to the truck as it is the practice in societies where there is value for lives.
In June 2018, another 40ft container that left the Lagos Port complex, Apapa, fell off its bed while ascending the same Ojuelegba bridge. This time, the incident claimed the lives of two persons, crushing a Toyota Camry and three commercial buses in the process.
Two other persons sustained life threatening injuries and were taken to hospital for treatment.
Confirming the death of the victims, the general manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Adesina Tiamiyu attributed the accident to overloading.
“A flatbed truck laden with plywood and finished boards tilted on top of Ojuelegba bridge and fell on three commercial buses and a Toyota Corolla Camry,” Tiamiyu said.
“Unfortunately, two people died while two other people sustained injuries.
“The vehicle was definitely overloaded and that was what I think caused the accident, ” the LASEMA boss said.
Six months after, precisely in December 2018, another tragedy struck when a container fell from a truck on two cars along Bank Anthony Way, Onigbogbo, killing one passenger and seriously injuring another.
The incident, which occurred inward Ikeja, adjacent to Ikeja Cantonment led to heavy traffic as people trek miles to get to their destinations.
For the past three years, Lagosians have recorded huge loss of lives emanating from death related to containers falling off from the bed of trucks. Such death has continued unabated despite cries by many Nigerians especially those living around the ports environment.
Again, the Ojuelegba Bridge came on the scene on May 7th 2019, when a container fell from a truck. Luckily, this time around no casualty was recorded but movement was impeded.
According to an eyewitness, “The load is too much for the body, so as it was climbing the bridge, it was rolling down. It is 40 feet tall,” he said.
The truck driver, who also spoke to journalists said the accident was as a result of a bus driver who overtook him.
He said, “As I was climbing the bridge, a bus overtook me and I had to stop. When I set out after the bus left, the gear dragged me back and the container turned and fell. It is not because of the break. There is no casualty. I was not the only one in the truck, we were three in number, but nothing happened to any of us.”
“This is not the first time such was happening on this very Ojuelegba Bridge. The one that fell off last month destroyed seven vehicles”
As if that was not enough, penultimate Saturday to be precise, a 40container crushed two fairly used vehicles cleared from Tin Can Island Port in Lagos during the heavy rainfall in Lagos.
The incident which occurred at the First Gate axis of Tin Can Port, Apapa, Lagos was said to have happened after the truck was cleared and on the road to the owners’ warehouse for delivery.
The vehicles affected in the incident were two Toyota Corolla (Blue and Brown).
These few incidents of casualties are among the many unreported risk the Lagos roads users face daily due to containers falling off from trucks while on transit.
Though, stakeholders have attributed constant fall of containers to bad portion of the road but the state of the trucks had also been a cause of concern to road users.
Investigation had shown that the average age of trucks ferrying containers out of the seaports are 40 years and above.
Interestingly, although this has led to port users and Nigerians in general calling for reform of the nation’s trucking system, the authorities appear not to be showing enough concern.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), have called for overhaul of trucking system in the country.
The council argued that the current trucking system is deceptive as operators are fed up with having trucks not maintained for up to 20 years.
However, road users have urged the federal government to enact a law guiding carriage of containers on highway in other to forestall further loss of lives.
According to Femi Owoade, he said containers should be properly latched to the body of the truck to forestall further death of Nigerians.
He said, “It is high time our government enacted a law guiding the carriage of containers in Nigeria especially in Lagos state. Imagine the containers not latched to the trailer crushing people on daily basis. The innocent souls that were crushed to death woke up normally, bade their families farewell hoping to meet them at the end of the day but an heartless container carrier short lived their lives.
“Recently, a container fell at Onipanu, Lagos and another at Mushin, Lagos Nigeria. Our Government should act fast. Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) should also act fast and responsibly.”
However, a freight forwarder, Kenneth Nwabunike, has placed the blame on terminal operators who he said allowed unlatched containers to leave their terminals.
He said, “The problem is from the terminal operators at the port, why would they place a container on a truck without proper examination of that particular truck if all the hooks are good or not?”
“All they are after is load and leave our terminal, some terminal operator will check after placing the container on the back of the truck if all the hooks are working or not, if the container is not in a good condition they will order the forklift to offload it with immediate effect and tell the clearing agent to go and book for well sound truck. The issue here is not from the the FRSC on the road, it is the terminal operators duty to examine the container before and after loading if it’s in a good condition. May the victims soul rest in perfect peace, amen, he said.
Also, the coalition of truck operators had also shared the same view with Nwabunike saying terminal operators do not posses necessary equipment for loading of containers on truck at the ports that is why containers fall frequently.
After the container that fell from a truck and killed three persons at Ojuelegba in 2015, Joint Council of Seaport Truckers (JCOST) have blamed terminal operators for the accident.
Rising from the then joint meeting, the Chairman of AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi had said, “The terminal operators too have not being doing enough in the area of providing necessary equipment to make sure that the trucks are well loaded and to even certify trucks suitable for carrying certain weight of goods.”
He also said government was part of the factors responsible for falling of trucks on the highway even as he said that the state of the roads were not good for vehicles to move safely.
Ogungbemi pointed out that the government has failed to play its own role by providing suitable roads for their trucks to move and therefore should lay the entire blame on the truck drivers alone.
Speaking on the constant fall of containers and subsequent killing of innocent Nigerians, the spokesperson of Federal Road Safety Corp, Bisi Kazeem said the corp is determined to nip it the bud.
According to him, the the Federal government is planning how to overhaul the haulage industry with a view to ensuring a better future and safety of Nigerians.
Kareem in a chat, said, “The recurrent falling of containers from trucks and the incessant killing of innocent citizens is to say the least unfortunate and the Federal Road Safety Corps is deeply concerned about it. As a proactive organisation championing the cause of safety in Nigeria, the Corps has always put critical measures in place to nip it in the bud.
“One of such measures, targeted at safe haulage of Tankers is the safe to load programme of the Corps in Tank Farms across the country. This policy gave birth to the establishment of FRSC commands in Tank Farms with the responsibility to inspect Tankers and certify them safe to load before they carry any product out from the Tank Farm. If you have been following the trend of Tanker carnages in the country you will notice that there is a huge decline in crashes associated with tankers on the highways.
“Another measure is the efforts of the Federal Government on total overhaul of haulage operations in the country. To achieve this, the Corps Marshal Dr. Boboye Oyetemi and the critical stakeholders including NUPENG PTD etc had a critical session with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha to determine the future of haulage operations in Nigeria. As I talk to you, machineries are already in place for effective enforcement of the decisions of the Federal Government on this.
“Apart from the
aforementioned, the Corps is also working in synergy with the Vehicle Inspection Office to ensure that those articulated vehicles are subjected to test and regular checks so as to put off the road, vehicles that are not fit to use the road. This effort will help in taking expired and bad vehicles off our roads.
“Other measures include the deployment of staff for special patrol operations, mobile court sessions and other interventionist approaches.
“From available data, we have also noticed that most tanker drivers lack the knowledge of basic safety tips needed. As such the Corps has also instituted strategic initiatives to ensure effective public enlightenment campaigns to educate these drivers.
“Over time, the Corps has intensified its public enlightenment campaigns, trainings and retraining, seminars and workshops organized for drivers of these articulated vehicles. And you know of course that the Corps is highly committed to public enlightenment/ education campaigns due to its impact on road traffic crash reduction on our roads.
“So, be rest assured that FRSC is fully committed to ensuring safety on the roads and we shall definitely succeed even in this regards,” he said.
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