Thursday, 6 June, 2013 began like an ordinary day, but ended up tragic for a manager at SLOK, a phone retail shop with head office in Ikeja, Lagos, southwest Nigeria.
He was on his way to work. He was some metres to his office when suddenly the driver of a truck carrying a container lost control. The container fell on the man simply identified as Rasheed, instantly crushing him to death.
It was learnt that the truck driver lost control of his articulated vehicle while trying to evade a motorcycle rider that was being chased on the expressway by some policemen. He ended up killing Rasheed, destroying a meat van and killing one of the occupants in the van.
Within that same week, the driver of a container-laden truck marked GGE 974 XC which was on its way from Lagos lost control while it was descending the slope close to the Toll Gate end of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
It was reported that the truck’s brakes failed while descending and as it was trying to avoid a pothole that has divided the road into two, the container fell off and crushed a bread seller.
Eye-witnesses said the bread seller’s head was crushed beyond recognition.
Realising the gravity of the incident, the driver was said to have immediately jumped down from the truck and bolted, but he was caught by those around the scene and handed over to the police, according to sources.
According to the Ota, Ogun State Zonal Commander of TRACE, the Ogun State road traffic maintenance agency, Adekunle Ajibade, “the accident as I see it, was caused when the brakes of the truck failed.
It could have been averted if the driver was not speeding, knowing full well that the road is very bad. I want to implore road users to always take things easy because life has no duplicate.”
But it was obvious that the container fell off easily from the truck because it was not latched. “If the driver or the owner of the container had fastened it to the truck, it would not fly off to cause this tragedy. It would have stayed stuck to the body of the truck,” Kudirat Adewole, a trader around the Toll Gate area said.
Though lamentable, it is very common to see articulated trucks bearing containers that are not latched to the truck’s bed while leaving Lagos State or coming into Ogun State, thus posing a great danger to motorists, commuters and residents of the state.
Many times, residents have cried out to government over the menace posed by those trucks, but as has become common with the way the country is run, it is either those with the powers of arrest and prosecution get influenced or the drivers of the trucks just stubbornly refuse to obey the state’s Traffic Law.
The law stipulates the period, majorly at night, for such articulated vehicles to move within the state. According to the law, with the exemption of tankers, articulated vehicles should not be seen between 6am and 9pm daily.
Violators, according to the law, would have their vehicles impounded in addition to a fine of N50, 000 or six months imprisonment. This was only partially observed within the first two weeks after the law was passed.
Then the drivers returned to the status quo. They now drive while the law enforcement agents like the police and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, look the other way even though Governor Babatunde Fashola had, when assenting to the bill, appealed that all law enforcement agents should assist to make the law effective.
For example, in November, 2012, months after the law was passed by the State House of Assembly, about three people were reportedly killed when a truck carrying a 40-foot container hit a pothole and the container fell on a Mazda car on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
Not too long ago, some commuters waiting for buses at Otto-Wharf Bus Stop along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, were unlucky when a container fell on them, killing three persons and injuring others.
It was learnt that the incident happened when the driver of the truck with registration number XG 616 UWN, on high speed, attempted to overtake a vehicle at the bus stop. Also was the case of an empty container which flew off a truck that veered off the expressway in Ijesha, along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, landing on some commuters at Ijesha Bus Stop.
The victims were crushed beyond recognition with the female among them cut into two. That same week, around Ojota area of the state, a container fell on a jeep with registration number DW 206 LSD, killing the driver.
“The condition of the roads in the state is poor. This we know, but the recklessness of some of these drivers is a major contributing factor to the spate of accidents caused by these unlatched containers.
“We are daily at the mercy of the truck drivers who always think you are supposed to jump off the road with your car when they are approaching.
I am always scared because they threaten you, hurl insults at you, and in most cases, we know how they reek,” Mrs. Chineye Eze, a car owner in Lagos said.
Prior to the passing of the Road Traffic Law of the state, Ipoola Omisore of the Lagos State House of Assembly had called the attention of his colleagues to the plight of motorists in the hands of truck drivers, especially the ones with unlatched containers.
More than once, the House had moved a motion calling on the state government as well as security agencies in the state to take steps to stem the tide.
Some residents have complained that apart from effectively stopping motorcyclists from plying major roads in the state, the law has been silent on several other areas, especially on the restriction of movement of trucks at certain periods.
Bisi Yusuf, Chairman, Lagos Assembly Committee on Transportation, Commerce and Industry, described the situation as very bad, adding that the State House of Assembly had decided to address the tragedies caused by such recklessness in the Traffic Law after studying many incidents.
“The restriction was supposed to be from 6am to 7pm, but the public asked that we extend it since 7pm is a peak period when workers are on the road. So we extended it to 9pm.
“But because we worship money in this country, the owners of the trucks do not consider the safety of the people,” he said adding that since the House had passed the law, it is now left for the executive arm to implement it.
He wondered why Nigerians would not obey laws without the presence of the government and law enforcement agents.
“These inhuman practices must stop henceforth. “As the Chairman of the Committee in charge of Transportation, Commerce and Industry, I will ensure I notify the State Commissioner of this unwholesome behaviour on behalf of the Speaker of the House.”
He said if the truck drivers move at night and the containers fall, there would likely be minimal impact, adding that since they have decided to draw the wrath of the government, sanction would be meted out to those who flout the law.
Muyiwa Jimoh, an activist and lawmaker at the Lagos Assembly, said until Nigerians begin to re-examine their way of life, things would continue to degenerate. “I don’t know why some human beings do not feel for others just because they want to pass through the shortcut.
We do not live like human beings sometimes,” he said, recalling that an executive member of the Apapa-Iganmu local council was killed in one of such incidents when a container fell on his car, a Mercedes-Benz.
He said though he was not celebrating the western world, such disobedience would not happen abroad.
He also reminded Nigerians that accumulation of wealth is endless and that one could be swallowed by the desire of wanting to amass wealth.
He also called on the enforcement agencies in the state to step up their game in the implementation of the law while maintaining that many of the officers need constant training so as to understand better ways to handle human beings.