The perennial carnage on the popular Kara Bridge along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has continued to give motorists and all users of the road sleepless nights.
Hardly would a day pass without an accident on the bridge. Many lives have been wasted on that particular spot, leaving many others permanently incapacitated. For those who are familiar with the route, even a journey of 12 hours from the North, South-East or South-South cannot be termed successful until the less-than-five-minute drive on the bridge has been accomplished.
The bridge, to many, has been a harbinger of tears, sorrow and death. Curiously, the stretch is free of potholes. That has led many people to raise posers as to why the spillage of blood on the Kara Bridge has continued unabated. Many victims there have been maimed for life, while valuable personal effects have been lost. Its thirst for blood appears insatiable. It has killed many; still it seemingly remains thirsty, yet waiting to send more to their early graves.
The link has become so popular, but for the wrong reasons. Its name evokes an unnatural type of feeling in motorists and other road users. It is a major nightmare for many. Drivers and other users of the bridge must have had one or two ugly tales to tell from their terrifying experiences on the spot.
Perturbed individuals have kept asking and wondering when the accidents on the bridge would stop. But no one seems to have the right answers to the posers.
Some people believe that Kara Bridge is cursed by some spiritual forces. These category of people have called for the need to appease the gods so that the carnage could stop. But officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and other road traffic regulatory agents have said that recklessness, over-speeding, inexperience and vehicles that are not road-worthy were some of the factors responsible for the perennial accidents.
Whether travellers like it or not, Kara Bridge is an unavoidable access route for motorists coming into or travelling out of Lagos. It stands around the boundary between Lagos and Ogun states. It is perhaps the busiest entry point to Lagos.
The authorities and other concerned Nigerians have condemned the sheer recklessness and impunity displayed mostly by articulated vehicle drivers on Kara Bridge. They believe that some of the accidents were 100 per cent avoidable. In addition, disobedience of road etiquette and traffic rules by many drivers has been responsible for the recurrent fatalities.
One must have lost count of the accidents that have taken place on Kara Bridge. But many of them, due to their severity, cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
In the midnight of July 17, LASEMA’s response team put out a monstrous fire as a tanker loaded to capacity with 46,000 litres of fuel exploded and burnt at Secretariat Bus Stop, beside the pedestrian bridge.
The head of the agency’s public affairs, Nosa Okunbor, said though there was no casualty recorded, the tanker was burnt beyond repair. And the incident led to heavy traffic congestion along the axis, extending to Kara Bridge.
“The fire was put out successfully by the combined effort of the LASEMA Response Team, as well, as men of the Lagos State Fire Services,” he said.
On June 21, two persons were burnt to death, four trucks razed, while two others persons were rescued alive on Kara Bridge. The explosion that fateful Sunday involved four articulated trucks, which resulted in a gridlock that lasted well over 24 hours in virtually all parts of Lagos and some parts of Ogun State.
The incident occurred on the bridge outward Lagos at about 2.18 am. One of the bodies was recovered intact while the other had been mutilated. Also, one of those rescued alive sustained serious injuries, while the other sustained minor injuries. The four articulated trucks were burnt beyond recognition.
Like many others in the past, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) attributed the incident to reckless driving on the part of the driver of one of the articulated trucks.
The problem reportedly started when an articulated truck laden with 33,000 litres of premium motor spirit crashed unto the truck laden with compressed natural gas such that both discharged their contents, which spread unto the road, thereby leading to several explosions.
LASEMA’s director-general, Dr. Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said: “Two persons were rescued alive, one with minor injuries while the incident recorded two fatalities, one body recovered and the other charred to the bones.”
It is still fresh in many people’s memories how, on January 31, 2018, a three-year-old baby and three adults lost their lives when the cabin of a container-laden truck got detached from its mount and rammed into a motorcyclist and his two passengers. The truck then plunged into the river below. Three dead bodies were later recovered from the truck head.
On November 16, 2016, three persons were killed in similar multiple accidents that involved six vehicles, a car, three container-trucks and two tankers. The accident was said to have been caused by a speeding trailer loaded with petroleum products, which ran into other vehicles, spilling its content on the road. This led to an explosion and the fire extended to other vehicles.
As if that was not enough, two days later, two people were confirmed dead in another accident involving a luxury bus, a Liteace bus, a Mazda bus and a Grand Cherokee SUV.
Also, on July 23, 2017, a multiple accident claimed the lives of several people when an articulated truck lost its brakes, burst a tyre and ran into two commercial buses dropping off passengers at a bus stop
On November 20, 2017, several people were fatally injured when a BRT bus hit a commercial bus from behind on Kara Bridge, outbound Berger bus stop. The site of the incident, which flooded the media, was gory as blood could be seen splattered on the road.
A commercial bus driver, Mr. Ayanfe Ogundiran, posited that most drivers were usually carried away by the width and smoothness of the Kara Bridge. He said, on getting to the bridge, many drivers could be forced to lose total control of the vehicle, particularly when faced with an emergency situation.
“This is why you see accidents always involving several vehicles. I believe that, with caution, most of the accidents would not have happened. Everything is not spiritual, even though many drivers are claiming that there are some spiritual forces behind the frequent crashes on the bridge,” he said.
Another driver, who shuttles between Benin and Lagos, Mr. Efosa Odaro, told the reporter on the telephone that he usually said a special short prayer while approaching Kara Bridge.
Said he: “I have been passing that bridge for the past 12 years. Thank God, I have not been involved in any accident there. But I cannot count how many accidents I have witnessed. “Some drivers call it the ‘bridge of Satan.’ You won’t blame them because nobody really understands what is happening there.
“Everybody fears the bridge. That is not the only bridge on the major highway, but Kara Bridge is different from the others for bad reasons. Every accident on that bridge has always led to a fire outbreak.”
Odaro said, in many cases, the drivers were to be blamed for the disasters. But he asserted that, in many other instances, it was difficult for one to fathom what might have led to the crashes.
Besides being a harbinger of death, armed robbers, hoodlums and other dangerous elements cash in on the bridge to perpetrate evil. Unthinkable crimes have reportedly been committed under the cover of darkness on Kara Bridge. Many motorists, while in the usual traffic congestion, have had their vehicles vandalised and their precious belongings carted away by robbers.
The attackers have turned the space and bushes underneath the bridge to their hideouts. Once they strike, they vanish into the surrounding bushes that have become their place of abode.
A driver who pleaded anonymity urged the government to deploy police operatives to the area in a bid to caution and control erring drivers and to also provide security for the many innocent Nigerians that are robbed and traumatised on the bridge from time to time.