From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
•Angry residents beg govt to relocate refuse dumps
By Tessy Igomu
It was a most tragic death, one that brought shock to many minds.
A day before the last local government election in Lagos, news filtered in about the tragic death of Shakiru Alabi Balogun, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chairmanship aspirant for the Igando/Ikotun Local Council Development Area. By the time it was finally confirmed, many were overwhelmed with grief. Balogun was reportedly killed, alongside three others, by a refuse truck that ran into his Toyota 4 Runner Sports Utility Vehicle at Okofilling Bus Stop, along the LASU-Iba Road.
According to eyewitnesses, the truck had just offloaded refuse at one of the dumpsites and was about making a turn when it experienced break failure and crossed the road median to face vehicles in the opposite direction. The impact of the head on collision, it was gathered, was deafening and caught the occupants of the vehicle unawares.
For angry and pained residents of Lanre community, the area where the accident took place, the death of the APC aspirant was an addition to the litany of those who have been killed or maimed and vehicles damaged at the sport. For these people, they have lost count of the number of those cut in their prime, adding that accidents at the spot had become a norm.
Residents of the area told Daily Sun that those responsible for these frequent carnages are private-sector participant (PSP) compact trucks under the supervision of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). According to the residents, these trucks could be aptly described as harbingers of death and destruction, and they are permanently parked on the road. The presence of the trucks, the residents noted, constitutes great danger to motorists and residents, just as the drivers have scant regard for human lives.
The trucks occupy the road all day, while waiting their turns to empty tonnes of garbage into the two landfill sites, Solous two and three, located on the stretch.
The two-lane road, which has become a swarm of PSP trucks of various shapes and sizes, has been reduced to a lane for other vehicles to manoeuvre through. Daily, motorists groan in the intractable gridlock they cause, in what has become a routine traffic chaos.
The dumpsites, which occupy 7.8 and five hectares of land, became active in July 2006 and 2008, respectivel. The residents noted that their presence has become a source of serious concern. Aside having to deal with the stench emanating from them, they lamented that constantly seeing people killed in a most agonising way had become quite traumatic.
Farinloye Bidemi, a businessman, said the itinerant PSP truck drivers usually take over the road from dawn till dusk, causing a monstrous gridlock that makes commuting a living hell in the axis. He lamented that the trucks block entrances to residential homes, streets and business places and are always ready to engage in brawls once asked to look for alternative parking spaces.
Several road users and residents lamented that some days could be a nightmare as they could be trapped for hours while waiting for the PSP trucks to clear out of the way.
“Some of the drivers can just park in the middle of the road and walk away. They usually take over entrances to streets overnight, parking indiscriminately. This is why, most times, people lose their lives. Because of the good nature of the road, most drivers don’t expect to meet such types of obstruction. Sometimes, they will just suddenly reverse into the road or make a sudden turn. We have lost count of the number of persons that have died because of the recklessness displayed by PSP truck drivers.
Another businessman, Chikere Obioma, said his concern was the rickety state of the trucks. He maintained that most of the trucks do not go for routine checks, stressing that it was one likely factor responsible for the frequent break failures usually experienced by the vehicles.
“In this area, you hardly see any of these trucks in good condition. They break down easily, even while on duty. And once that happens, you can be sure that other road users are in trouble. What oozes out of the truck is also always unpalatable,” he lamented.
According to the residents, several appeals have been made to the Lagos State government to either have the dumpsites relocated or have a parking lot or waiting bay constructed for them.
They maintained that it was the duty of the state government to ensure safety, adding that the high rate of carnage experienced on the LASU-Iba Road should be reduced to the barest minimum.
Funsho Abiodun, a cleric, decried the situation and called on the authorities to find a lasting solution to the menace caused by the trucks. He wondered whether the Lagos State government was waiting for more lives to be lost before taking punitive action against the truck drivers and their owners.
Ola Folashade, the general manager, Material Recovery, West Africa Energy, a private firm managing the dump sites, described the accident that claimed the life of the APC aspirant as unfortunate.
Recalling the events that led to the incident, she corroborated reports that the truck had developed a break failure, adding that it was while trying to make a turn by the Igando General hospital that the collision happened.
She informed that her organisation, which took over the running of the dumpsites in April, 2017, met the place in a terrible state but immediately commenced an upgrade to ensure efficiency, part of which was putting in place plans to get the PSP trucks off the LASU-Iba Road.
Afolashade assured that by the end of August, the dumps would be relocated, adding that repair works were on-going on roads inside the Solous Two, Okofili dumpsite.
“I am assuring you that no truck will be on the road to cause more harm to Lagos residents. Work on the dumpsite slowed down because of the downpour that was experienced in Lagos. It was unusual. We will put in place stiff measures that will act as deterrent for any driver that chooses to park indiscriminately from then,” she said.