As long as truck drivers continue to do what they like, they will continue to endanger lives

In one of those tragedies for which our country has become notorious, no fewer than nine persons were burnt to death with scores of others wounded last Thursday in Lagos when a truck loaded with petrol fell and spilled its content on the road. Following the accident, about 54 vehicles within the vicinity of the Otedola Bridge axis on Lagos-Ibadan expressway went up in flames. While we commiserate with the families of the deceased, we need to point out that this accident, like many of such before it, could have been avoided by simple common sense and inexpensive remedial interventions.

It is common knowledge that there are too many rickety vehicles on our roads. The tyres of several of them are worn out while some others are in a state of total disrepair and indeed, not road worthy. To worsen matters, the drivers of a good number of these trailers and tankers are often either drunk or half asleep behind the wheels.

If we are to stop the carnage on our roads, we must begin to hold critical stakeholders in the transport sector accountable. The authorities at both the states and the federal government must unearth the owners of such vehicles, name and shame them, ensure that compensations are paid to the victims, their families and the state/federal government, and prosecute them for criminal negligence and wilful damage to public property. Where it is established that such accidents may have occurred because of the bad state of our roads, which is often the case, the federal or state governments should also be held liable for criminal neglect by the victims. But above all, the authorities should begin to device a way of putting an end to such carnage on our roads.

Just recently on this page, we advocated ridding the nation’s expressways, especially the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, of the nuisance of ailing petrol tankers and trailers which park on some of the roads. Much as we appreciate the useful services rendered by the owners of these oil tankers and vehicles, we want to insist that they should render their services carefully and within the ambit of traffic rules and regulations in order not to endanger the lives of innocent citizens. But given the nature of the Otedola Bridge accident and the associated issues, there are things that critical stakeholders must do very quickly.

First, we urge the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) across the country to be more alive to their responsibilities by ensuring that unworthy petrol tankers, trailers and heavy-duty vehicles are barred from plying our expressways, especially during the day. It is indeed ironic that while many of the agencies that man our roads harass innocent motorists and road users, they turn a blind eye to the illegality and nuisance caused by worn-out oil tankers and heavy-duty trailers that threaten the lives of all road users.

As we have argued repeatedly, what is happening on most of our highways across the country is anathema to decency in road usage while this armada of trailers and petroleum tankers will be considered primitive in more civilised societies. Unfortunately, years of toeing the path of impropriety and poor infrastructure development and maintenance in the energy and other sectors are having their toll on other forms of business. That explains why we have tankers of all sorts on the roads every day with all the risks they pose to other motorists.

To compound the challenge, in the crowded field of reckless drivers in Nigeria, tanker drivers stand out. They go on strike at the least provocation. They block the roads anytime and anywhere without a care for other road users. Yet until the government checkmates the excesses of these drivers, and more importantly revive our rail systems and create a more orderly and cost effective means of lifting bulk cargo and petroleum products, we will continue to witness the kind of tragedy that last Thursday turned the Otedola Bridge and surroundings in Lagos into another hell on earth.

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We urge the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Vehicle Inspection Officers across the country to be more alive to their responsibilities by ensuring that unworthy petrol tankers, trailers and heavy-duty vehicles are barred from plying our expressways, especially during the day