Erring truck drivers should be prosecuted

Six months after a tanker truck loaded with petrol fell and spilled its content on the Otedola Bridge axis on Lagos-Ibadan expressway, bursting into flames and killing several motorists, a similar tragedy occurred in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State last week. The tanker, laden with Premium Motor Spirit, was heading outside the state capital when it suddenly lost balance towards the Federal Housing Estate along the Odukpani axis of the highway and fell off. Dozens were said to have rushed down to scoop the spilled product which later resulted in an explosion, leaving many burnt beyond recognition. The body count from that tragedy was still going on when another truck crashed into a market at Iworoko Ekiti, killing 15 people immediately with scores of others wounded.

While we commiserate with the families of the deceased in both Calabar and Ekiti, we need to point out that these tragedies could have been avoided by simple commonsense 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; some are in a state of disrepair and not road worthy just as their brakes are suspect. To worsen matters, the drivers of a good number of these trailers and tankers are most often either drunk or half asleep behind the wheels.

In recent times, we have advocated ridding the nation’s expressways, especially the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, of the nuisance of ailing petrol tankers. 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 the traffic rules and regulations in order not to endanger the lives of innocent citizens. But 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 road users. In addition, 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. To therefore stop such 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.

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