NAN Some female voters at a polling unit in Bauchi caused a stir when each of them kissed her ballot paper and shouted “Sai Baba” before casting her vote. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the drama, involving four women, occurred at the veterinary polling unit of Dawaki Ward in Bauchi metropolis. Their…
Wherever you choose to turn, they scarily stare you in the face. They are everywhere displaying their arrogance annoyingly. They aim at you, and you dare them not.
They threaten, they cajole and they cow. They carelessly believe they can do and undo, at least on the road. The fear of truck drivers is the beginning of wisdom on Lagos roads. That has been the pathetic lot of residents in recent times.
These trailers, trucks, tankers or articulated vehicles as you prefer to call them are the pains on our fragile necks. They are the cross Lagos and its inhabitants carry every second of their lives.
It is not a laughing matter, particularly in the worst-hit areas of the state. And the unfortunate axis are Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Apapa, Eko Bridge, Ijora, Costain, Orile-Iganmu, Mile 12, Maza-Maza, Kirikiri, Old Ojoo Road, Navy Town, Iyana-Iba, LASU and Okokomaiko. Life is not complete in these areas without the heavy presence of articulated trucks.
For motorists and cyclists in these areas, there is no viable alternative. They live with them, endure them and groan in complete approval. They have come to terms with them and their irritations.
When a truck driver stops in the middle of a Lagos road, you dare not question him. Not even traffic wardens have the audacity! It is that bad and hopeless.
Lagos truck drivers determine traffic direction. They choose conveniently where they want gridlock at a particular time and how heavy it should be. You cannot query them. Again, law enforcement agents have come to recognize them as such.
We, whose lives “fortunately” revolve around these “no-go areas,” have given up all hope. We have seen governments and their officials threatening these queer drivers several times over. We have even lost count. Yet, they have remained the deviants they are, unyielding.
These truck drivers have become a law onto themselves. They drive with ultimate recklessness and park indiscriminately on the road. With mindless impunity, they ignore those whose ox is gored, bruised or injured. Other motorists are at their mercy and have become their prey.
With this inhuman attitude, they held sway on the Lagos roads until a week ago, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. That was when the unexpected but highly desirous reprieve came our way. Just like that, almost on a platter of gold.
From the blues, the military and the Lagos State Government slammed a 48-hour ultimatum on the trucks and their drivers to vacate the roads. No specific penalty was stated. But the military promised to visit deviants “with the full weight of the law.”
How did this happen? They called it a stakeholders’ parley. The Nigerian Navy had patiently watched the tanker drivers play their pranks all this time. Its personnel had equally on several occasions experienced the antics of these articulated vehicle drivers. Obviously, they got fed up.
So? The Navy convened a meeting. Truck owners, tank farm owners and members of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) were summoned.
They were to unbundle the truck drivers’ menace. It was presided over by Rear Admiral Slyvanus Abbah, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command. Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Mr. Taiwo Olufemi, represented the state government.
They went into a serious session, digging deep. All said and done, Olufemi warned that the Apapa Port “was built for only 30 million metric tons of cargo, but today it carries 80 million metric tons.” Interpretation: Dangers are imminent.
Apart from the environmental hazards, the parking of the trucks indiscriminately on the roads and bridges poses more security challenges. Abbah took the meeting by storm. He was graphical in his explanation:
“In a situation of national emergency, the reaction time for the military could be slowed. For instance, to move troops from Navy Town in Kirikiri to Apapa, which should ordinarily take 25 minutes may take up to two hours due to the heavy traffic caused by trucks who spend days waiting to load fuel.”
Then the verdict: “Henceforth, no tanker will be allowed to park on any bridge in Lagos or even block vehicular movement.” Abbah wondered why container bearing trucks ignored several holding bays created for them by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
NUPENG urged the Federal Government to ensure that the refineries work at full capacity: “If this is done, no tanker will be coming to load petroleum products in Lagos.”
All the same, these enfante terrible truck drivers were given 48 hours to leave Lagos roads and bridges alone. Sincerely, very many Lagosians had serious doubts about the ability to effect the order.
Don’t blame them. Lagos is a city of trailers. And they are available in all manner of shapes, moulds and shades. You have the wicked, weird and wild. They are never in short supply.
Besides, Lagosians had seen similar orders in the past violated with ease. They did not even spare Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and governors. Their instructions were violently flouted by tanker drivers. And nothing, practically nothing, came out of it.
So, Lagosians concluded this new order couldn’t have been significantly different in any way from the ones before it.
Thank God, they goofed and erred. Dramatically, a change occurred on Monday night of all nights. A typical Monday night after close of work at Mile 2, Lagos, is usually hell on earth. But this particular Monday night, March 12, 2018, was unlike others. It was a brand new Monday night like never before.
You could see vehicles racing, enjoying the smooth ride. That was the good result of the military order on the owners and drivers of articulated vehicles. We earnestly pray and hope that this status quo remains for our utmost good.
I can’t remember the last time heavens granted us such grace. It was a Monday night not to be easily forgotten. No trailers, no trucks, no tankers. It was like a clean shave. The ever-busy Mile 2 was virtually free of articulated vehicles.
They were nowhere to be found. I nearly stopped in the middle of the road to ask: Where are the kings of the road? I realized nobody would risk responding. I gave up the queer thought and moved on.