The tragic petrol tanker explosion, which left 12 people dead and 54 vehicles burnt at the Otedola Bridge, along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, on June 28, has underscored the urgent need to overhaul the traffic management system in the emerging mega city. The tragic incident should make the authorities of the State Ministry of Transportation to wake up and evolve measures to avert such accident in future.
The present chaotic movement of petrol-bearing trucks on Lagos roads is bound to cause accidents. Reports revealed that the incident was caused by brake failure. Sadly, such incidents have become common in the state. Following the sad incident, the Lagos State government commenced investigation of the accident with a view to determining its causes and how to avoid it in future.
Preliminary findings, according to the Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Ladi Lawanson, attributed the tragedy to human error. The investigation also revealed that the ill-fated truck was originally designed as a 15-tonne drilling rig but was later re-configured to a 30-tonne fuel tanker.
The first question to ask is: how did all of these breaches beat the relevant agencies of government saddled with the responsibilities of monitoring such possible traffic infractions and preventing them? Perhaps those charged with such duties should provide an answer to the question. Road traffic laws are made for the good of the society and must be enforced to serve as deterrent to bad conduct.
Taking advantage of the aberration in our fuel distribution system, it is a fact that many of the tanker drivers observe traffic laws more in the breach. Their vehicles are mostly not road worthy. Using only the roads to haul highly inflammable product such as petrol is hazardous and should not be condoned in any civilised society. Imagine what would have happened if the accident had occurred in the densely populated Oshodi or Ikeja?
The preferred means of transportation of such highly combustible material is rail or water. Efforts to provide them should be accelerated and sustained for optimal result. In the past, Nigeria had many petroleum products depots linked with pipelines distributed all over the country, but the crass neglect of the infrastructure and the rabid corruption that crept into the sys- tem ensured their dilapidation.
Today, all petroleum products are conveyed through the roads alone to all parts of the country. The over-dependence on the road mode of transportation has compromised our roads and bridges.
The Otedola Bridge incident occurred at about 5.30 pm when vehicles clogged the roads with many people returning home from the day’s work. Was it the right time for such articulated vehicle bearing such inflammable material to be on the road? What about designated routes and times of the day for such haulage? While an attempt has been made to incorporate the former in the new regulations announced by the state government, the latter may be difficult to enforce.
For the foreseeable future, petroleum products would still be ferried through the roads. This is why we must concentrate on providing practical mitigations to the challenge and ensure that they are strictly enforced. Unfortunately, most of the drivers of fuel-laden trucks do not have driving licence and therefore are unfit for the tasking job. Many of them are also below the age of 30. Some of them take alcohol and banned substances while driving. These breaches of traffic regulations must be checked in order to prevent such road accidents in future. The owner of the truck and the driver should be arrested and prosecuted. We commiserate with the families of those who lost their loved ones in the inferno and wish the wounded speedy recovery.