•How imported second-hand tyres cause carnage on Nigerian roads
By Cosmas Omegoh
The sun was overhead that afternoon. Everyone was feeling hot and sweating profusely, as it beat down savagely, even in the rainy season.
That hour, some people – men and women – were weaving in and out of this relatively expansive compound, housing a thriving commercial warehouse. Traders and buyers were coming in from far and near to purchase all manner of used goods imported from Europe and North America.
That hour, the big warehouse, which is situated somewhere at Ijeshatedo community, along Oshodi-Mile 2 Expressway, was a beehive of activities. Only a few people know where it is and the unbelievably high volume of activities that go on there. Every imported used material, which many in Lagos call tokunbo, was sold there – household items, footwear and vehicle spare parts.
Then, suddenly, a big truck roared in, sputtering as many in the crowd hurried off from its way. It halted at an open space to allow for the discharge of the goods it bore in its belly.
As soon as it became stationary, some bare-chested young men, whose job it was to evacuate such goods, burst unto the scene. They effortlessly flung open the truck’s rear doors to reveal columns of used tyres carefully stashed away. The cargo rose from the floor all the way to the roof.
With a certain practised move, two loaders scampered unto the truck and began flinging the tyres to the ground. The rest of their colleagues on ground were well positioned gathering the tyres, which they began to arrange at a position a few strides away.
The tyres were of various sizes and grades. Some appeared really tired and distressed, with some of their portions bruised, stained and strained. Some smaller ones were expertly and tightly stuffed into the bigger ones. Each two formed a perfect pair, with their colours looking something of faded black. They clearly lacked that vivid, alluring colour and character of newness, suggesting that they had been used elsewhere.
Some of the tyres actually looked clean and tidy. Only a little difference existed between them and the new tyres that many know. However, the tread on some of them, which looked intricate, appeared firmly intact, leaving clear impression that the tyres might have not been used for long.
In a matter of seconds, columns of the arriving tyres had arisen. They stood there, waiting for buyers. Some of such buyers were around, hovering to make clearance buy at the right price.
One of such willing buyers was a middle-age man, Martins. He said he owned a shop in Surulere area of Lagos where he resold such products. He boasted that depending on the price, he could buy as many as 50 or more at a go. He said for nearly two decades, he had been in the business.
Why used tyres thrive
“The used-tyre business flourishes because of the hardship in the country,” Martins told the correspondent. “If not for the hardship in the land, what would anyone be doing with tokunbo tyres?
“Modern tyres, I’m sure you know now, bear expiry dates. If you are conversant with tyres, you will always see their expiry date etched on their sides. However, some used tyres do not come with any of such dates.
“Some of the tyres we buy come into the country expired, while some are not. But the truth is that they are used but they are still good. They are cheap; most of them are still durable. Some of them are still better than the new ones you can buy in the market. That is why some people still prefer them.”
He told Daily Sun that the average used tyre would cost between N2,500 and N3,500. “Compare that to the cost of the average new tyre, which is in the region of N20,000, you will see why people prefer used tyres, especially when they are faced with the challenge of replacing two to three tyres at a time.
“If one is a transporter or a private vehicle owner, you can see what difference that could make in one’s family finances in these austere times.
“These tyres come into the country from the ports; some might be smuggled into the country through the borders. They are of various sizes and types. They have marks indicating their sizes. Of course, you will know that they are fairly used, although they are still new.
“When they come in just like you have seen these ones (pointing at the tyres being offloaded), we buy them off the importers if the price is right.”
At Martins’ shop in Surulere, columns of used tyres stood, rising above eight feet high. They were arranged according to their sizes. Some were quite clean while some looked bruised, battered and relatively bald.
Martin said: “Once we come in, we display the tyres for the customers to buy. Our customers are mainly commercial transport vehicle operators; private vehicle owners also patronise us. They are people who have no money to buy new tyres.”
A dangerous habit
A vulcaniser in Lagos, Isa Jimoh, said there was always a clear difference between a new tyre and a used one. He admitted that most of the used tyres streaming into the country were expired, noting that the users were not even aware of that fact. He said ignorance on the part of the users held grave danger for the vehicle owners, their passengers and other road users.
“Nowadays, all tyres come with expiry dates. From its date of manufacture, the lifespan of every tyre is four years. This is a fact many do not know. It is always there. What that means is that when a tyre is expired, it is dangerous to continue using it. The driver might be cruising down the road and suddenly, the tyre bursts. Now, you can guess what might happen next.”
On how to identify bad, used tyres, Jimo said they were always weak and rough. “Their tread might be worn, though not necessarily bald.
“But tyres might be expired even when they have not been used at all. They could be brought in and dumped at a warehouse by an importer where it might expire. When they are eventually brought into the market, they might be new all right, but they are gone. Even when you park your car, its tyres can expire without you knowing it; yet they might remain new.”
Jimoh explained how to identify used tyres. “Naturally some used tyres look twisted at their edges. Some are often bent on one side. Sometimes, this happens because when the traders want to accommodate as many tyres as possible, they stuff some into others. When a tyre is so deformed, it is dangerous. While it is in motion, it might begin to shake the wheels. An inexperienced driver might not know what is happening. He will be thinking it is one of those things that often happen with a vehicle until the driver experiences a burst.
“When a tyre is expired, its surface area might just peel off. You see the tread area going off and the peel hitting the mud protector area of the vehicle while it is in motion.
“Some tyres might still look good, yet they are swollen or cracked. They might not be giving any problem when they are being fixed but that does not rule out that it is a potential source of danger.
“In fact, when a tyre is expired, it might still be looking good. But it is not a matter of what you are seeing. Some of them have their expiry dates written by their sides.
“If, for instance, a tyre was manufactured in 2012, it means that it would expire in 2016. Therefore, it is a risk to go on using it beyond 2016,” he cautioned.
He advised vehicle owners to always seek the help of vulcanisers anytime they wanted to buy tyres if they were in doubt, insisting that, that would help them get the right products that would in turn deliver real value.
“Those selling tokunbo or new tyres can sell any type of tyre to their customers. All they want is their profit. But this is a big problem. That is why I often insist on buying tyres for customers.”
Killed by tired tyres
Accidents due to tyre blowouts are rampant on Nigerian highways. Last March, for instance, Minister of State for Labour, Mr. James Ocholi, his wife and others were killed in a road crash due to a burst tyre and speeding, the Corps Marshal of the FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi revealed. It was, however, unclear if the tyre of the Lexus SUV they were travelling in was expired.
But an official of FRSC, Assistant Corps Marshall, Victor C. Nwokolo, confirmed in April that the six medical doctors, working in Ekiti State and their driver died because the tyres of the vehicle conveying them had expired. He said it was manufactured in the year 2008. The victims, who were going to Sokoto to attend the annual conference of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) were killed when their vehicle had a tyre blowout.
Another official of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) blamed some importers of tyres for the rising number of new, yet bad tyres in the market, saying poor handling of the product was contributory to the problem.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he told Daily Sun: “The most visibly affected and dangerous part of the tyre is the head with round metal wires. The head of the tyre is supposed to have an airtight seal between the tyre and the rim. Where this fails, air will escape from the tyre and this could lead to explosion, leading to possible loss of control and accidents.
“Importers often pay for one container which they later stuff with tyres that ordinarily would fill up three to four containers. They sell these tyres and make more profits while endangering lives. Through this, they deny government of revenue by shipping tyres meant for three or four containers assumed into one.
“Tyres contain metallic parts that when twisted or squeezed, they become compromised and damaged internally, even if they are new. The average tyre user may not know when it is compromised.”
Know your tyres
Over the years, the FRSC has been fighting to dissuade motorists from using tokunbo tyres. At a recent forum for instance, the sector commander in Imo State, Mr. Peter Kibo, advised motorists on the dangers of the practice.
Speaking on the theme ‘Know Your Tyre,’ he noted: “A tokunbo tyre user will buy 16 of this type in four years. It is safer to use a brand new tyre than tokunbo tyres.
“Every tyre has its gauge. It is written on the tyres. If a tyre has a pressure gauge of 60 and you pump it with 51 or vice versa, it is not to the advantage of the car and the driver. That makes the car to be unbalanced. It can cause an unexpected disaster.”
While educating motorists on what to look out for in their vehicles, an FRSC instructor, Julius Nnagbo, noted: “A tyre loses 20 per cent quality after two years of careful use and 30 per cent after three years.”
He maintained that every tyre comes with expiry date. “It comes in four digits, indicating the week and year of manufacture, like 0510. Sometimes, it comes with pre-alphabet letters like PHN0510.
“What that means is that the last two digits represent the year. If the numbers are 0510, it means that the tyre was manufactured in the first week in February, that is the fifth week of the year 2010.
“If the tyre is printed with only a three-digit number, it means that such tyre was manufactured before 2000 and should be replaced immediately as it is older than four years and could burst at anytime because it has expired, no matter how good looking it is.”
When Enugu honoured departed cleric
From Petrus Obi, Enugu
The second memorial symposium of Rev. Fr. Stan Anih, a doyen of ecumenism and philosopher, who conceptualised ecumenism in Nigeria, was held recently in Enugu.
It was a grand celebration for the departed icon described, as a most outstanding priestly teacher-educator.
The week-long celebration featured a solemn walk, football matches between female staff and female students, as well as male staff and male students of the Coal City University Campus, Enugu.
The event also featured cultural displays, lectures and remarks from dignitaries on the same man that introduced and pursued ecumenical and authentic education through diverse but synergised strategies. Many testified that he preached it in churches, taught it in the classroom, discussed it in the communities and personally exemplified it.
The week was signed off with a thanksgiving service that was preceded by an all-day cultural event at the Coal City campus.
Professor Charles Anikweze of the Faculty of Education, Nasarawa State University delivered a lecture at the symposium. He noted: “As an educator, Rev. Fr. Anih believed in and advocated critical thinking and meaningfulness, as inevitable precursor of comprehension and acquisition of truth and the principles of humanness in a plural society such as Nigeria where diversity in his conviction should be exploited as an asset rather than a liability.
“Incidentally, it is only individuals with ecumenical orientation that can navigate the rough waters of pluralism characterized by differentials in religious beliefs, economic endowment, ideological persuasions, political leanings, sociological inclinations, and cultural convictions.”
In the second anniversary lecture, “Ecumenism and African family values as a fulcrum to egalitarian society,” Prof. Anikweze defined ecumenism as a movement focused on promoting unity between and among different Christian churches and groups.
In a more liberal sense, however, he noted that ecumenism goes beyond the pursuit of church unity to include the guiding principles towards the achievement of a peaceful society for all men and women in a plural society with diverse ideas about life and living, and about relationship with God.
“In ecclesiastical usage and with reference to the church, ecumenism is interdenominational; sometimes by extension, interreligious; a movement promoting cooperation and better understanding among different religious groups or denominations.”
He posited that ecumenism, as preached by Fr. Anih, transcends bridging the gaps in the behaviours of adherents of the disparate conceptualisations of Christianity by various denominations to include even issues of interfaith accommodation, tolerance and cooperation.
For Anikweze, Fr. Anih’s mode of ecumenism could be described as a marriage of all disaggregated meanings of ecumenism. “His ways of dealing with people from divergent faith expressions was symbolic of what he advocated, not minding the aspersions and suspicions of his professional colleagues in cassock and surplice.
“Indeed Rev. Fr. Stan Anih preached the gospel of ecumenism in such a radical and innovative manner that popularised ecumenism in Nigeria so much so that it became a peculiar vision, an evangelism prosecuted with great enthusiasm, zeal and fervour, and an enterprise of a sort that led to the establishment of educational institutions at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
“To provide a better example for students, Fr. Anih instituted an innovation in students’ and staff association by what is known as Commensalism. Commensalism ordinarily implies a symbiotic association between unrelated organisms such that different species in the association enjoy food or other benefits from mutual association while remaining unharmed and unaffected socially or otherwise. “The organisms in our case refer to students from plural society (different social status, different academic levels, different gender, etc) relating on unsegregated platform with staffs that are equally wilfully indiscriminate. All share the same food and other refreshments on the same table on regular schedules as part of the college core value.”
He went on to state that Re. Fr. Anih was many things to many different individuals depending on the aspects of his creative imagineering and benevolence services that the individual had experienced.
“To articulate intellectuals, he was a priest that never demonised other religions; rather he saw their practice as a quest for good. He has been described as one who worked for the development of Igbo language. He wanted Igbo language to be among global languages. That is why he worked assiduously to produce an Igbo dictionary.”
Professor Anikweze noted that Professor Stan Chinedu Anih Foundation (PROFSCA) could not be faulted for appreciating and celebrating the memory of a man who, during his life, went about expending his resources for the good of mankind and erecting educational structures that would perpetually immortalise his name.
“My regret is that he did not live long enough to see the triumphal recognition of the Coal City University which he initiated.
“In view of the glorious life he lived and the legacies he bequeathed to mankind, the PROFSCA Foundation and indeed all lovers of good things should strive to sustain those legacies, particularly ecumenical tolerance and authentic education, to ensure that the name Rev. Fr. Stan Anih will never be extinguished from history,” Prof Anikweze noted.