The Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA), Ondo State, had been overburdened by auto accidents in the university community. Stakeholders in the community explained to James Sowole why all hands must be on deck to avert future occurrence
A major feature when approaching entrance of higher institutiions in Nigeria, that are sited along highways, are speed breakers of different shapes and sizes. Initially, speed breakers, are usually erected at both ends of the road few metres to the main entrance, but more are added as concentration of students increases around the school areas as many of them, live in private hostels, built around such areas.
The speed breakers are erected to force motorists to drive at a very slow speed, to allow pedestrians comprising students, staff and other members of the public to gain access into the school premises through the main gate, while driving or walking.
These speed breakers are responsible for traffic congestions spanning for as long as 100 metres on daily basis as one approaches school from both end of the highway, depending on the time of the day and events, being hosted by the institution.
In some cases however, the erection of the speed breakers, do not presupposes total absence of auto accident near schools’ gates due to the topography and wideness of the road when motorists are approaching the school areas. Another cause of the accidents, which in number of cases result in fatality, is the nature of existing structures like markets and commercial properties, around the school areas.
These two reasons on a number of times, are responsible for auto mishaps, involving articulated trucks at Akungba Akoko Community, which hosts the Ondo State-owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA), in Akoko South West Local Government. Whenever there is an accident, reactions from students’ community, in most cases, always lead to closure of schools and consequent disruption of academic calendar.
In the last five months, the university town, has recorded no fewer than three accidents involving articulated trucks and which had claimed almost 20 lives including that of students of AAUA.
On December 11, 2020, two trucks collided and went up in flames in front of the AAUA main entrance killing two persons, while the latest one happened on January 23, 2021, opposite the school gate, few days after the students resumed for examination, following a long break occasioned by COVID-19 and strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Prior to the two accidents, the driver of a rice- laden truck on October 30, 2020, lost control and rammed into the market at Ibaka area of the university town, killing about nine persons while several others, were injured just as properties worth millions of naira , were destroyed.
The January 23, 2021, accident that killed many people, including some AAUA students, happened in similar manner as the driver of a trailer, labelled Dangote Cement, coming from Obajana in Kogi State and descending the notorious Okerigbo Hill from Ikare end of the road, lost control due to break failure and rammed into shops opposite the school.
According to the Ondo State Sector Command of the Federal Road Safety Corps and the state command of the Nigeria Police, no fewer than nine persons including some students, lost their lives while several people were injured in the accident. However, it was gathered that the death toll increased later.
In the latest accident , it was a pathetic moment for the AAUA community, the Akungba Akoko community and the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident, particularly the students who just resumed for academic activities, after several months of staying at home.
The most pathetic part of the incident was the case of Ogini family, which lost four members to the crash; Kelvin Ogini, a graduate of Public Administration of the institution, who operated a small cyber café opposite the school to make ends meet, his brother and sister Ayokunke and Oluwaseun respectively, who were still students of the university, were reportedly crushed to death by the ill-fated cement-laden truck.
Kelvin’s siblings were said to have joined him in the shop, on the fateful day to assist him before they were crushed to death on the spot by the truck. It was gathered that the mother of the three siblings, collapsed and died immediately, she heard of the incident.
Apart from Ogini’s siblings, a former Student Union President of the university, Adesomoju Samuel popularly known as ‘Sampraise’ was another victim. Adesomoju, was identified at the hospital morgue by his colleagues.
The death of Adesomoju, who hailed from Okitipupa in Okitipupa Local Government Area of the state. Sampraise, as popularly called by his fellow students, was a 500 level students of Faculty of Law, who ought to have completed his studies, but for the long break caused by COVID-19 and ASUU strike.
Sequel to the recurring accidents with its attendant consequences, many stakeholders have been calling on both the federal and the state governments to find a lasting solution to the sloppy Okerigbo Hill, that often led to break failures, when trailers are descending and which was the main cause of accidents involving articulated trucks in the university town.
Being a traditional community, some people were however, of the opinion that some evil spirits were dwelling in the areas which needed to be appeased.
In line with their beliefs, some old women of the community engaged in traditional acts of spiritual cleansing of the community against evil spirits and bad luck. The aged women therefore, trooped out in their numbers holding brooms and chanting songs of ‘enough is enough’ .The women who earlier converged on the Palace of Alale of Akungba, went straight to the hilly part of the community sweeping away diabolical spirits believed to be the cause of the continuous predicament. Some traditionalists, also approached the palace for permission to appease the gods of the land for spiritual cleansing.
Equally, Christian and Muslim faithfuls in the town held several sessions of prayers and fasting, with the belief that “the demons behind the rampant accidents”, would be curbed.
However, some people believed that it was the topography of the road and recklessness of the truck drivers and faulty condition of the trucks that usually caused the problem and there was a need for the government to redesign and reconstruct the road to save lives of the people.
One of the survivors of the fatal crash, who identified himself as Adekunle Ademola, explained that he survived the accident by a miracle . The 27-year-old business man explained that the trailer, which was descending the sloppy road from the Ikare end towards the university gate area with full speed after losing control, faced him and he managed to maneuver to the other lane.
In spite of crossing to the other side of the road, Ademola stated that the truck still crushed his jeep.
According to him, “some occupants in my vehicle, were removed from the wreckage after the windscreen was broken by sympathisers.”
He however, said he came out of the badly damaged vehicle unhurt.
Also, a pathetic story was narrated by 23-year-old Miss Anuoluwa Olorunfemi, who lost her mother, Mrs Caroline Olorunfemi to the accident. She said her late mother, who was a petty trader, narrowly escaped being a victim of the previous road crash in the area and in order to prevent being a victim in the future, she moved her stall away from the scene of the previous accident to a new place where she perceived would be safer, but it was at her new shop, that death came through the evil trailer. Bothered by the accident, the AAUA management, swung into action and took some temporary measures. The management in a circular, signed by the Acting Registrar, Mr. Opeoluwa Akinfemiwa, directed that the main gate should be closed with immediate effect advising staff and students to make use of the Sports Center gate, Guest House gate, Eastern gate and two small gates (i.e the one leading to the Works and Services Department and the one leading to the Student Union building).
As a mark of respect for the departed students, the examinations scheduled to start on January 24, 2021, was postponed.
Describing the accident as a tragedy to the host community, the management of the university and the Nigerian students at large, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Olugbenga Ige, said it was painful that some students were involved and sadly, they lost their lives for coming to school to learn and be educated.
“The last one that happened, we had to constitute a committee whose recommendations we have implemented. The committee recommended that roadside trading should be banned and the community market should be relocated and it was complied with.”
While proffering a lasting solution to the incessant trailer accident, Ige said the hilly route of the community, near the Institution should be stepped down. He also suggested that heavy-duty trucks should be barred from plying the route.
The much expected, however happened on January 24, 2021, sequel to the unabated students protest. The university was closed indefinitely and all students directed to vacate the school premises immediately, thus disrupting the 2019/2020 first semester examination. As part of measures to forestall further accident involving trailers, a truck barrier was erected across the narrow road few metres to the gate of the university to prevent a thorough fare of heavy trucks along the university gate.
One month after the accident, the first semester examination, would start today, January 23.
Speaking with THISDAY, the Public Relations Officer of the institution, Mr. Victor Oluwapelumi, said measures have been put in place to ensure a hitch free examination.
According to him, the main gate will remain closed as alternative entrances identified when the latest accident newly happened, would remain in use, adding that other pedestrian entrances have also been opened, to ensure easy access of students and staff into the school premises.
Akinpelumi disclosed that as part of measures to reduce students’ influx to the roadside markets, that are usually affected in case of accidents, the university has the intention of building a mammy market within the school premises.
He said the State Governor, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, had visited the sloppy side of the road with some persons suspected to be contractors, probably with the aim of reconstructing the portion of the road.
Meanwhile, the traditional ruler, the Alale of Akungba, Oba Isaac Ajimo, who expressed worry over the sad occurrence, confirmed several efforts of all sectors of the community in finding solution to the troubling situation, but the efforts were yet to yield any outcomes. He promised to engage the authorities and stakeholders on the matter in order to achieve the desired solution.
According to the monarch, “what is happening in Akungba is the ugly side of urbanisation without expansion. The heavy traffic inter- regional road from Lagos to Abuja that passes through the narrow road in our town and the hilly topography of our location, is mainly responsible for the incessant accidents.
“We have been engaging all stakeholders from the state government, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), university community, youths and other elements in the society and we won’t relent.”