The bridge between the Lagos State Secretariat and Ojodu Berger area of Lagos, standing opposite the Otedola Estate, Omole Phase 11 on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, has become a notorious one. Popularly known as Otedola Bridge, it has become notorious for being a harbinger of tragedies. In and out of festive seasons, death and disasters lurk around the bridge.
No doubt, it is a busy channel for commuters and motorists entering Lagos virtually from all parts of Nigeria. The bridge has become an altar for perennial auto crashes and carnage.
There is hardly a week that passes without a major or minor accident recorded on the stretch of the bridge. Many lives have been claimed on this route. Varying degrees of injuries have been sustained and property worth millions of naira lost. Those who regularly ply the bridge have described the rate at which accidents occur there as frightening.
Oftentimes, travellers on this axis are left to contend with the gridlock occasioned by the accidents. They could spend as many as six to ten hours in the chaos.
Reckless driving, over speeding, operation of distressed articulated vehicles and overloaded trucks have been identified as some of the factors responsible for the recurring tragedies on the bridge.
Again, on November 30, a major disaster was averted, as a tanker fell on the bridge, spilled its content on the road and exploded.
The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) said the tanker with registration number KJA-900XR, which was loaded with 33, 000 litres of Premium Motor Spirit on the last day of November got burnt on the Otedola Bridge.
The Public Affairs Officer of LASEMA, Mr Nosa Okunbor, said in a statement that an investigation revealed that the tanker’s tyres bust while in motion.
“The tyres of the tanker caught fire due to continuous motion and led to an outbreak of fire due to heat generated by the motion. The fire has been extinguished. No casualty or injury was recorded.
“The Lagos State Fire Service, LASEMA and the Tiger Team were on ground to prevent the occurrence of a secondary accident, and frantic efforts were made to plug oil leaks,” Okunbor said.
The explosion posed grave danger to other road users as drivers were said to be making panic reverse. The situation was saved by the activities of different emergency response teams that swiftly swung into action to halt the spread of the fire.
Director-General of LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said his men were able to quickly put the situation under control and doused all tension. He added that the road was cordoned off for seamless rescue operations to be carried out, as well as to prevent possible outbreak of fire.
The recurring accidents on Otedola Bridge have become worrisome to many people who have keenly followed the unpalatable trend. To halt further disasters on the axis, concerned Nigerians have called on drivers, especially heavy duty vehicle drivers, not to throw caution to the wind while navigating the bridge.
Various stakeholders also want the relevant authorities to intensify their efforts in ensuring that traffic rules and regulations are strictly adhered to by both commercial and private drivers. They described most of the accidents on the highways as manmade and therefore avoidable.
Though it is almost 18 months since the tragedy struck, residents of Lagos and Ogun cannot forget in a hurry how a tanker explosion spread death and sorrow on the fateful day of Thursday, June 28, 2018. Dozens of vehicles were trapped and got burnt. The deafening sound caused many people to run helter-skelter in panic, as they initially couldn’t fathom what was amiss.
At the end, the death toll rose to 12. During the accident, at least nine people died on the spot, while others, who escaped with different degrees of injury, were immediately rushed to the hospital for treatment. However, three victims died few days after the incident.
The then Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, who stated that the death toll increased due to the level of burns suffered by the victims, informed that some of them sustained 90 per cent degree of burns during the explosions.
Idris said: “At the close of emergency operations, we recorded 10 deaths, including a minor, who were all burnt beyond recognition and seven injured. Seven patients were received at three of our hospitals – Accident and Emergency Centre at Toll gate, Trauma and Burns Centre in Gbagada and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, for prompt treatment.
“Regrettably, we lost one because he suffered 90 per cent degree of burns, increasing the number to 11. While still battling with the causalities figure, we were informed that two persons, who suffered burns, were rushed to a private hospital in the state. Of these persons, one died. And this increased the number of victims from the explosion to 12 persons,” he said.
Concerned Nigerians have called on security agencies to fully implement relevant laws, especially the state traffic laws, with a view to ensuring that the inner roads and highways were safe for commuters to ply without any danger.
Experts on road safety have repeatedly urged residents to always refrain from converging on the scene of any accident of such magnitude as that of the unfortunate tanker fire incident, saying that there could be secondary explosion which could lead to loss of lives.
Similarly, in October, a major disaster was averted as a truck fully loaded with 45, 000 litres of petrol fell on the bridge inward Berger area of Lagos.
The LASEMA boss said that the incident, which occurred on a Saturday morning, prompted the agency to activate its emergency responders. He said that the timely response prevented further disaster. He added that his men supervised the safe trans-loading of the content, revealing that the tanker could explode in the process if not professionally done.
A driver with a popular interstate motor park in Lagos, who plies the Lagos-Benin route, Mr Osemwingie Osakioya, told the reporter on the telephone that Otedola Bridge has become a monster to many drivers. He said that whenever he was travelling from Benin to Lagos, he would not consider his journey smooth yet until he has successfully passed the bridge.
“I think the government needs to station traffic officers on that spot. Some of my colleagues believe that there must be an evil or angry spirit that is always causing accidents on the bridge. But some drivers drive against the traffic, especially at night, so much that I would be wondering where they are going or coming from. A lot of nonsense is happening on that bridge, particularly whenever there is heavy traffic.
“I believe that when drivers are arrested and fined for breaching the rules, others will learn from their experiences. Many people have died due to one driver’s careless attitude. I believe nobody is bigger than the government if the security officers want to really do their work.
“There was a day last year that I spent three hours thirty minutes driving from Benin to the bridge, but with just about five minutes to arrive Lagos, the traffic held me there for another five hours because a truck collided with another truck. In most case, we would have to call our fellow drivers ahead so that they can give us situation reports,” Osakioya said.