Despite the fact that the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway in Lagos has been rehabilitated to a reasonable standard, commuters and residents of the area are yet to get any relief. They have continued to experience nightmares, day and night.
The route has become popular over the years not just because it leads to the Apapa Wharf, which is the nation’s major source of revenue, but also for the death, pain and sorrow that it has unleashed on road users.
Everything against safety rules is often displayed by commuters on this route. For instance, driving against traffic has become a norm, particularly among commercial bus drivers. Without minding the consequences, they flout traffic rules with impunity, thereby endangering the lives of other road users.
Also disturbing to many people is the attitude of drivers of trucks, tankers and other articulated vehicles. Saying that many of the drivers are careless and wild could be an understatement. The truck drivers are said to be guilty of recklessness. Many hardly bother to properly latch the containers to their vehicles. As such, such containers fall many times, landing on the road or on vehicles and their occupants.
While the road haulage industry in Nigeria plays a critical role in ensuring the economic prosperity of the nation, the high fatality rate accompanying crashes caused by heavy duty vehicles is much more worrying.
Government and other stakeholders have employed different means to ensure that there is sanity on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, all to no avail. It is always a chaos, especially within the Mile Two area. Trucks and tankers are indiscriminately parked on the main road.
On Sunday July 26, tragedy struck on the road again, leading to the death of two persons. The deceased were said to have died on the spot even before help came their way. Other persons sustained varied degrees of injuries in the process.
The tragic death of the two individuals, both staff of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), while returning from work has once again increased the clarion call to tackle the continuous dangers such articulated vehicles pose.
The incident occurred when a container-laden truck fell on a commercial bus. It was a scene that left many people wailing uncontrollably, as the victims lay the pool of blood.
The truck, with number plates SGM 715 XA, loaded with a 20-foot container fell on the bus at Ilasamaja Bus Stop beneath the bridge, along the expressway.
According to an eyewitness, the accident occurred when the bus was discharging some of its passengers at the bus stop, unaware of the danger that was lurking around.
General manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, (LASEMA), Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, while confirming the incident and giving details of how it happened, said three other passengers, including the bus driver, were rescued with injuries and were rushed to the Isolo General Hospital. He added that three other passengers escaped unhurt.
While consoling the bereaved families, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said that losing a loved one was extremely painful, regretting that losing them prematurely was even more painful.
He tweeted: “That was the sad fate that befell the Ajoku and Nnaekpe families when they lost Chidinma Ajoku aged 27 and Chima Nnaekpe, 29, to a fallen container on their way home from work at Ilasamaja.
“Their deaths are totally avoidable, and we take responsibility for this sad incident. The onus is now on us to enforce stricter and more stringent laws in order to put a total stop to these types of unfortunate incidents.
“The heat of the sun will not be an excuse for the irate tempers and impatience of trailer, container and truck drivers on our roads. We will deploy security forces as cooling aids.
“It is very sad that these young people died in their prime due to no fault of theirs. I deeply sympathize with the families, and I pray that God grants them strength during this period.
“The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, represented me on a condolence visit to the families, and relayed my message to them.
“We will ensure the departed and their families get the justice they deserve,” he pledged.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in 2018 decried the high rate of crashes involving articulated vehicles in Nigeria. In a data it released, in 2016, the statistics for truck, tanker and trailer accidents were put at 1637, 359 and 657 respectively.
In 2017, the data for truck, tanker and trailer accidents were put at 1732, 308 and 624 respectively. Also in 2016, the number of road transport crashes recorded and the crashes involving articulated vehicles were put at 9,694 and 2,653 respectively with a percentage of 27.4 per cent, while in 2017, the figures were put at 9,383 and 2,664 with a percentage of 28.4 per cent.
FRSC has always linked some of the causes of such road carnage to non-adherence to road traffic safety practices; inadequate driver’s training/certification and re-training leading to drivers’ errors; inadequate provision of tanker/trailers parks across the country; non- adherence to safe laden/haulage standards. Other factors could be aging trucks and lack of fleet renewal programmes, heady and non-cooperative attitude of drivers and other stakeholders, security challenges and lack of clear-cut policy on tanker/truck transit in Nigeria; alteration of original design value of truck heads and/or trailer, parking on unauthorised locations along the road, failure to install speed limiting device and lack of cooperation of private tank farm owners on “safe-to-load” programmes.
In a viral video, Chidinma’s bereaved mother said: “I will like to tell the public what happened. My daughter, Chidinma and her colleague, Chima, were returning from work. We were told that the driver of the commercial bus in which my daughter and her colleague were in stopped to either pick or drop passengers at Ilasa bus stop when a reckless trailer driver on high speed fell on the bus. I was waiting for her to return home. I dialled her number, but no response. When a colleague of hers called me to say they were involved in an accident and that they were at the Isolo General Hospital.
“When we got there, we were told they were not among those brought in. We were referred to the government hospital, Yaba. When we got there, they told us to go and check the morgue. My friend’s husband and my sons went to check the morgue, only to find the bodies of my daughter and her colleague.
“These container drivers keep killing people and nobody is talking. My daughter was just 27 years and had plans to travel abroad for her master’s in the near future only to have life snuffed out of such a promising girl and her colleague.
“I appeal to the authorities concerned to bring these people to book. The government should do something because it is getting too much especially in Lagos. I remember there was a time when these trucks were virtually off the road in the day and were only allowed at night. Now, they are everywhere, driving recklessly.”
Apart from the July 26 incident, many other lives have been wasted on the route. Goods worth millions of naira have perished due to incessant accidents occasioned by many factors.
Many of the accidents have been described as avoidable. Perennial gridlock has made life unbearable for people living in the axis. Trucks are left on the road for weeks and months without consideration for other road users.
Similarly, in December 2019, at least five persons were crushed to death in an accident after a truck rammed into a commercial bus along the ever-busy expressway.
The accident occurred around 3pm at Agulenjika Bus Stop, close to Cele Bus Stop. It was gathered that a white commercial bus was driving against traffic inward Mile Two when it collided with a container truck.
An eyewitness narrated that many passengers had their legs crushed, while many others were trapped underneath the truck.
In June, motorists plying the road went through a most harrowing experience when they were trapped in traffic for the better part of the day. However, commercial motorcyclists hijacked the opportunity to hike the fare.
A resident of Festac Extension in Mile Two, Mr. Chijioke Okoro, said he believed that the government was the cause of the abnormality on the route.
“We shouldn’t have been experiencing all these problems, if there had been loading bays for these trucks. Besides, why is it difficult to make ports in other states to be functional? Many people have suggested this, including the former governor of Lagos State, but nobody cares to listen. Innocent lives keep getting wasted on the road over what can be resolved once and for all,” he said.