Do you live in Lagos State and often use the roads? Do you ply the Lagos-Ibadan corridor? Then you better watch out for the burgeoning number of monstrous containerised trucks sputtering down the roads. Their fear at the moment is the beginning of wisdom. For the danger they pose is on the upward climb.
Over the past weeks as admitted by the Lagos State Federal Road Safety Commander, Mr Segun Ogungbemide, there has been an upsurge in the number of accident involving unlatched containers.
His admission was corroborated by the records of accidents involving fallen containers obtained from Lagos Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) platform. Everything points in one direction. Many have died from the incidents; property have been destroyed, scores are immersed in sorrow and sadness. All because safety precautions have been jettisoned.
Some people believe that drivers and truck owners are increasingly neglecting to maintain their vehicles regularly while the governments at various levels have abandoned maintaining and rehabilitating some of the roads the trucks ply.
But Mr Ogungbemide said that his command is addressing the situation frontally. He, however, insisted that all road users within the said space must play a role to ensure their personal safety. And their duty, he said, is to avoid trucks bearing unlatched containers.
He then tasked all road users to call the FRSC tool-free Number 122 – stating time, locations and other particulars – to alert the agency the moment they see drivers of articulated trucks bearing unlatched cargo on the highway.
Why containerised trucks dominate Lagos roads
Lagos is home to two of Nigeria’s major ports – the Apapa and the Tin Can Island ports. Daily, large cargos arriving in containers and other goods are discharged at the two facilities. They are goods meant for the hinterlands. They are conveyed by road to the various destinations for obvious reasons: the railways that could carry bulk cargo are not operational yet.
Before many of these containers are released to their owners, some of them are taken to various privately-owned container terminals in the city – as a way of decongesting the ports. The containers are conveyed by articulated trucks to the terminals. And there are uncountable number of trucks doing that.
So, at all times, Lagos city roads and the Lagos- Ibadan highway which is the gateway out of the city is busy with trucks hauling containerised cargo. It is either they are conveying goods out of the wharf or city or returning the containers to the ports or terminals. So, both in the day and at night, they are ever present, with many of their drivers operating menacingly. They are the king of the roads; they want to be feared because their vehicles can crush anything on the road. And when they do, their drivers are hardly the victims.
Record of fallen container accidents in Lagos in August, 2020
The month of August, 2020 recorded a harvest of fallen-container accidents in Lagos. Many lives were lost; property were destroyed. Everyone involved in such tragedies was a loser.
Going by the records released by LASEMA’s Public Affairs Officer, Mr Nosa Okumbor, on August 6, 2020, there was an accident involving a container-bearing truck on Olayiwola Street by Fagba Bus stop, Lagos. It rammed unto the median with its cargo falling off. The incident left the vehicle in a menacing position. It obstructed the road; no one could pass through.
On August 14, an articulated vehicle bearing two 20ft container killed one person when it collided with a commercial bus at Orile, leaving a few persons injured.
Similarly, on August 15, LASEMA response team rallied to clear a 40ft container at Iyana Isolo, using it forklift nicknamed Goliath, after it fell off the truck. The agency’s prompt response cleared the road of traffic and averted other accidents.
Then on August 16 at Ikorodu, a truck carrying a 20ft container loaded with fertilizer was involved in an accident. LASEMA attributed the incident to brake failure. No life was lost, but the vehicle’s cargo was destroyed. The next day, an unlatched 40ft container fell of a truck at Toyota Bus stop along Oshodi-Mile 2 expressway. No life was lost. But the incident caused untold hardship to road users.
Going forward, on August 22, LASEMA recovered two fallen trucks at Mile 2 area of the city. It said one of the trucks was carrying a 40ft container, which fell as it attempted to negotiate a bend. No life was lost. But the vehicle blocked the road. For many who were on that axis that day, life was a living hell.
And on August 28, a truck bearing a 40ft container was involved in an accident at Alagba Roundabout inward Agege. The incident cost road users lots of travel time.
Then on August 30, LASEMA Director-General, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, reported that a 40ft containerised truck broke down at Mosholashi inward Idi Oro, Mushin. It obstructed traffic movement, leaving the container at the risk of falling off before emergency response team arrived. All these happened in August alone.
But in the months before August, other deadly accident in which containers fell off caused brought pain and anguish across the city, with their impact reverberated all through.
For instance, on July 26, a 20ft container fell off from a truck at Ilasamaja along the ever-busy Oshodi-Mile 2 expressway. It landed on a commercial bus, killing no fewer than eight passengers. Among the victims were said to be two staff of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Ajoku Chidinma, 27, a graduate of Babcock University, Ogun State and another identified as Chima. They were on their way home from work.
Also in July too, a truck bearing two 20ft containers was involved in a multiple road crash with a private tow truck and a Toyota Sienna vehicle it was towing. The accident which occurred at Cele bus top along Oshodi-Mile 2 expressway, left one person dead.
Then barely two days into the New Year, a container-laden vehicle accident killed one person, according to Dr Oke-Osanyintolu. The incident involved a 40ft container-laden vehicle in Ogudu area. Two people sustained various degrees of injuries.
And last year too, at Durbar Bus stop Mile 2, a container fell off the truck as it maneuvered through a bad portion of the road. It fell on a motorcyclist and his passenger. It broke the leg of the lady passenger, trapping it under the heavy container. Sympathisers were however helpless as they lifted the heavy cargo and freed the lady as she agonised.
At Ijesha bus top inward Odofin Estate last week, one of such incidents occurred.
A truck was making its way to the area they now use as a parking lot. There was a bad portion on the road it had to pass through. Beside it were commercial motorcyclists and roadside petty traders. Just as the vehicle was attempting to manoeuver, the container it bore flew off and landed on its side with a deafening bang about two feet away from the traders andokada riders. Everyone within the area bolted.
“God I thank you oo,” a banana seller exclaimed as she sank on her knees, hands raised skywards in deep appreciation.
“This is not the first time containers are falling here,” an okada rider recalled. It happens from time to time. It is only God that protects us here.”
Drivers react to fallen containers
An articulated vehicle driver who identified himself as Abdulkareen said that the cause of containers falling is majorly because of bad roads. “Many of the roads we ply nowadays are bad,” he said. Take the Mile 2-Apapa road for instance. Look at all the access roads into this Odofin Estate. All of them are bad.”
Another driver, Isa, accused truck owners of poor maintaence of their vehicles. “Some of our trucks are old. Yet their owners keep them on the road as long as they can move. Many of them are not maintained.”
He debunked the allegation that some of his colleagues deliberately unlatch the containers soon after leaving the ports. “That’s a big lie; no one does that. Many of the containers are not latched at all except perhaps cargos belonging to big companies.”
A Lagos resident who identified himself as Chibuike lamented the rate at which containers fall off vehicles these days.
“It is alarming. The Ilasamaja accident that killed many people about two months ago was a clear case in point.
“Government needs to do something about this situation urgently,” he said.
Equally, Alhaji Olawode, a transporter, decried the menace of articulated truck drivers. “Because they are driving big vehicles, they don’t consider any other road user as having right of way. They are reckless. We need the government intervention to stop their menace.”
Danger of fallen containers
According to Mr Ogungbemide, “the damage these trucks and their containers is obvious. When a container falls on the road, it damages it. When it falls on the vehicle, it damages it and fatalities could arise. Either ways, when a container falls off a moving vehicle, it is not a good story. And that is why we are taking it seriously.”
Mr Ogungbemide said series of interventions had been put in place in conjunction with the various stakeholders by the FRSC.
“Prior to 2017, cases of fallen containers were more like a daily affair. And that was what prompted the reduction in all the crashes that we have in the city.
“But the recent incidents have generated a lot of outcry from the public. That is what is giving the impression that there is an increase in the rate at which containers are falling down in their large numbers. But despite that, we have started series of interventions to stop the trend.
“Along the Lagos-Ibadan corridor, the necessary intervention is going on and all our men are on the alert.
“In the last three weeks, we have mounted some measures to checkmate this; the first one was coded-named Operation Scorpion 2.We had more than 470 trucks and containerised trucks impounded along Lagos-Ibadan corridor. That operation lasted more than one week. And when we realised that the bulk of the crashes involved only trucks that plied the metropolis, we extended our operation to various parts of the city since Monday last week. That operations in underway.
“There is a special operation that is going on in Apapa with the mobile court. We are trying to get the drivers and operators of the trucks that are not latched arrested. These are regular routine measure that are being put in place by the agency to check the irresponsibility of some of these operators.
“We have gone beyond enforcement; we have gone to their operating terminals where we are checkmating their activities. But there are compromises. And that give rise to the pockets you see all over the town.
“We have also done a lot of collaboration with the stakeholder – major operators of these trucks. That accounts for the significant improvement we have noticed over the years.
“Outside the issue of advocacy, our research also confirms that when the trucks are loaded at the port, they lock the containers, but when they leave the wharf, they unlock them. Because they think that as a result of the bad roads, rather allowing the vehicles to be spoilt, let the containers fall. So, you can imagine how wicked man can be.
“We have done a lot of activities. Over the past three weeks, I have been on air – radio and television – talking, passing the message of safety to these truck drivers. We realised that it is not all about talking and talking. So, we added enforcement to it in the past three weeks, it has been aggressive enforcement. This is yielding results and we are not relenting on that,” he said.
Advice to Lagos motorists
“To all motorists, when you are moving along the road with a truck bearing a container that is not hooked, or a product that is not latched, please always endeavour to call 122 and give our men the location of the truck.
“You will agree with me that we cannot be everywhere. When we receive information about those trucks whose drivers are not willing to comply with the laid down minimum safety rules, definitely there will be quick intervention; we are going to quickly intervene so as to make the roads safer for all of us.
“But the first thing every road user has to do is to keep safe. If you notice a vehicle carry a container that is not latched, you have to be very careful. Alert us to do the necessary intervention. Then anywhere you find anyone that is not latched, get across to us.
“But you must keep safe. If you know that, that space is not safe for you to move along side with the truck – which must use the road anyway – you can slow down behind it, while waiting for the right spot to do your necessary over taking without endangering your life.”