About 12 months after the disastrous tanker crash and inferno that took lives and properties at the Otedola Bridge around Berger bus stop on the along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Lagosians and road users are eagerly waiting to see the preventive measures put in place by the Governor, Mr. BabajideSanwo-Olu, to prevent reoccurrence. Our correspondent, RANMILOWO OJALUMO, reports:
At exactly 5.30pm on that fateful day, June 28, 2018, a serious inferno erupted at the Otedola Bridge, near the popular Berger bus stop, along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway leaving in its trail a huge toll of destruction. About 12 people were confirmed dead and 67 vehicles got burnt.
Twelve months after the disaster, Lagosians in general and stakeholders in the haulage sector in particular are currently looking forward to seeing the new governor of the state, Mr. BabajideSanwo-Olu, putting up drastic measures in place that will prevent reoccurrence.
The rate at which tankers and other articulated vehicles crash in Lagos metropolis in the past few years has been of serious concern to many Lagosians and other stakeholders. Apart from the Otedola bridge incident, there have been several other trucks and articulated vehicle crashes in the state.
For instance, in the last four years there has always been constant fatal accident at Ojuelegba bridge along Western Avenue in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos State. Here, trucks will fall off the bridge on vehicles and pedestrians below, killing many people, a development that has made many to re-christen the bridge, the “bridge of death” and this is in view of the frequency of trucks falling off and killing many people.
In the last four years, there is no year the Ojuelegba bridge does not record truck crash. In 2019 alone, not less than three trucks have crashed on the bridge even though the year has not ended. The last one happened in May, 2019 but fortunately there were no casualties. It however it caused serious gridlock that lasted for over seven hours before the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA) could evacuate the truck with a fully loaded container.
In the evening of Tuesday June 19, 2018, a flatbed truck laden with plywood and finished boards tilted on top of the bridge and fell on three commercial buses and a Toyota Corolla Camry, killing about three people and another two injured. Also, in May, 2017; a containerized truck slipped back and fell on a Sienna bus; but happily no life was lost because all the occupants of the car had fled before the truck fell. Similarly, January 4, 2016, a truck, loaded with goods, fell on one side of the bridge causing cracks to some parts of the structure. Luckily this time, no casualty was recorded as the truck did not fall off.
In December, 2015, about four houses and five vehicles were razed when a fuel tanker belonging to Forte Oil fell off the Ojuelegba Bridge, spilling its content and bursting into flames. On Wednesday, September 2, 2015, a fully-loaded 40ft container-laden truck skidded off the same bridge and landed on three vehicles – a black Toyota Sports Utility Vehicle, a black Toyota Corolla and a white Nissan Sunny saloon car and also damaged a tricycle. Not less than three people were killed and many injured.
As at today, movement around the axis, especially under the bridge, is done with fear, and this is because no one knows when the next truck would fall off the bridge again.
Suffice is to say that truck crashes are not restricted to only Ojuelegba and Otedola bridges. On July 25, 2019, a containerized truck fell at Iponri Bridge, inward Alaka bus stop. No casualty was recorded in the crash, yet it caused serious gridlock that lasted for several hours. The situation at Lagos- Badagry Expressway and the notorious Apapa -Oshodi axis counterpart are even a different worst story entirely, owing to the deadly state of the roads.
Immediately after the June19, 2018 truck crash at Ojuelegba Bridge the Lagos State government led by the immediate past governor, AkinwunmiAmbode, gave an order that no truck should go through the bridge anymore. By that order, every truck should be passing under the bridge. Some officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) were positioned at the Barracks bus stop and at the foot of the bridge to ensure that no articulated vehicle climbed the bridge. But three days after the accident, status quo returned, as trucks returned to their normal route – the bridge. Unfortunately, a week later, another serious crash happened at same point.
Many Nigerians, especially Lagosians blamed the former Governor, AkinwunmiAmbode and the state government, for the inability to be proactive in curtailing truck crashes in the state and as well put necessary measures in place to control the activities of truckers.
In view of this, the state government rolled out several rules to control the movement of trucks immediately after the Otedola Bridge crash. The state government pronounced the routes that articulated vehicles must ply across the state. The then state Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. LadiLawanson, said “as an immediate response to the truck crashes, fuel tankers are hereby directed to ply the designated trailer route, that is, Apapa-Oworonshoki Expressway via Ogudu to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway”.
The state government also mandated all articulated trucks coming into Lagos to obtain the Ministry of Transportation’s Road Worthiness Certificate at any of the designated centres within 30 days which started counting from July 1, 2018. It added that barriers will be installed on bridges to prevent articulated vehicles from plying them.
The former administration added that government, in partnership with all the stakeholders, would set up joint-enforcement of the operating laws, while barriers would be installed on bridges in Lagos to prevent articulated trucks passing through them. Affected bridges included Ojuelegba, Mobolaji Bank Anthony, Ekodeso, Abule-Egba, Lekki-Ajah, among others.
One year after the Otedola Bridge incident, up till May 2019 when Ambode handed over to the incumbent governor, Sanwo-Olu, none of the promises and restrictions made in July 2018 was enforced. Lagosians are now calling on the incumbent governor to be proactive by putting drastic measures in place that would ensure that such a disastrous incident never repeats itself in the state.
While speaking at a conference in Lagos recently, Mr. Ezekiel Omotunbi, a business man who is also a Lagos resident, stated that the new governor has no excuse not to be proactive and put necessary measures in place to avert truck crashes in the state.
“The incident at Otedola Bridge in 2018 is still very fresh in our memory. It was after the event that the government was running helter skelter pronouncing unrealistic rules and regulations; unfortunately after few months, till the governor left, and even till now, nothing has happened. It shows lack of seriousness. Governor Sanwo-Olu must not wait for such disaster to happen before he does something, he needs to be proactive and put preventive measures in place”, Omotunbi said.
Also at a transporters’ forum in Lagos recently, a vehicle dealer who is also a Lagos resident who identified himself as Uche Richard, slammed the immediate past governor of Lagos State for his inability to enforce any safety measure that will control the excesses of truckers in the state. He however called on the new governor to reject any compromise from any quarter and put measures in place that will avert any disastrous crash in the state. “Sanwo-Olu must not wait till another accident happens before taking action like his predecessor”.
While speaking to The Powerful Pen on the Ojuelegba Bridge frequent truck crashes recently, the Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief RemiOgungbem,i pointed out that the structure is bent; hence it is not suitable for fully loaded trucks.
In his words, Ogungbemi noted that Western Avenue is not created for trucks from the beginning, adding that Apapa- Oshodi Expressway was created for trucks and tankers from the beginning but because Tin Can-Mile 2 axis of the road is not passable, the heavy duty vehicles have no option than to be plying the road.
The AMATO boss therefore urged the government to fix the Tin-Can-Oshodi Expressway to allow trucks to be plying the road.
“I must say that the bridge is not properly designed and if it is properly designed, it is not designed for tankers or any articulated vehicle, especially for tankers, trucks carrying containers and other heavy goods. This is why I want to use this medium to appeal to the Federal and the Lagos State governments to fix the Tin-Can-Oshodi Expressway. If the road is fixed, Lagos State Government can say no more truck on Western Avenue but currently, that axis is impassible, otherwise, trucks have no business plying Ojuelegba Bridge regularly as we have it now”.
While stating that fixing the Tin Can-Mile 2 Road is the permanent solution to the constant crashes on Ojuelegba Bridge, Ogungbemi urged the Lagos State government to work with the Federal Government to expand the infrastructure in the state.
“One of the things that will help to reduce crashes in the state is to expand and improve the road infrastructure in the state. If for instance the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway is good, the trucks from the port or the tank farms have no reason to go through Western Avenue unless they want to discharge their content on the axis. The earlier the governor acts fast, the better”, Ogungbemi said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Mr. Isiaka Kaka, has called on the state government not to see the truck owners as bad people that will be willing to let their vehicles, bought with several millions of naira, involve in accident. He called on the government to be proactive and put measures in place to prevent accidents and disasters in the state rather than being reactive with laws.
“The government needs to provide the needed enabling environment for truckers in the country like other countries of the world. There is nothing wrong about the state government rule that every truck should obtain MOT (Ministry of Transport) road worthiness certificate but the government should face the real issue and be realistic with any rule. Over two million trucks move in and out of Lagos every month. Certification is good but it is not realistic, not by giving just few days window to do so”, Kaka said.
Lending his voice, the Managing Director, Transnet Haulage Services Limited, Alhaji Ahmed Barma, charged the state government to stop a fire brigade and reactive approach to the problems. Instead, he urged it to be proactive in curtailing imminent disasters.
He said, “The government has a lot to do just like transporters have a lot to do. Truck owners must ensure that their trucks are road worthy, the government on the other hand must ensure that the needful is done in terms of enforcement and putting the road in good condition”.
Also speaking with The Powerful Pen on Phone recently, the Chairman SouthWest Zone of NARTO, AlhajiGaniyu Salami, pointed that Governor Sanwo-Olu has a lot to do. “As a matter of fact, people are expecting a lot from Governor Sanwo-Olu. Don’t forget that Lagos is considered to be a mega city with large population; so the governor needs to do all he could to protect life and property in the state.
“Prevention is better than cure, so the government needs to put certain measures in place to prevent truck crashes in the state. For instance, during Ambode’s administration, all the trucks at Western Avenue maintained one lane while other vehicles were allowed to use the other lanes to get to their destinations. Governor Sanwo-Olu should try and sustain that”, Salami said.
He adde, “then the law enforcement agencies should have specific roles they play; but more importantly, the VIO (Vehicle Inspection Officer) should be restricted and mandated to check the road worthiness of not just trucks but every vehicle. This is very important because if they don’t do their job thoroughly, there will be more crashes on the road. Governor Sanwo-Olu needs to be proactive now to avert more crashes.
“The government needs to partner with motorists to educate drivers. The governor of Lagos should not see truckers as the enemy of the state but partners in progress that are contributing immensely to the growth of the nation’s economy”.