•Govt, stakeholders look at menace, proffer solutions


By Cosmas Omegoh and Steve Agbota


Every now and then in Lagos State, unlatched containers laden with goods come off articulated trucks and crash to the ground. They land on individuals going about their businesses, causing fatalities – injuring, maiming – and in some instances, crushing them to death.

Sometimes also the said containers crash onto other vehicles. What is left of them is more like crushed egg shell. The occupants of the vehicles are compressed to death right inside their vehicles. Sympathisers who rush to their rescue end up watching endlessly, helplessly. They are unable to retrieve the remains of the victims from the wreckage unless they have axes and allied tolls.

At the moment, various stakeholders have been speaking on why container accidents happen the way they do. Both the Lagos State government and some other agencies have been pointing at factors they say are responsible for the numerous tragedies and proffering solutions to end them. 


Areas of the city most affected  

Indeed, Ojuelegba area of Lagos is notorious for container accidents that kill and injure the residents. This happens often.

Containers always fall off the bridge and land on unsuspecting persons, oftentimes killing them instantly. All the wailing and reportage that follow do not stop another incident from happening with  time.

Mile 2 area of the city and the entire stretch of Apapa-Oshodi expressway, as well as the Mile 2- Badagry expressway and other areas near the wharf are also zones of falling containers.

Not long ago at Mile by Durbar junction, for instance, a container fell off a truck, and crushed a commercial motorcyclist to death. The cyclist’s passenger, a lady, was knocked down. One of her legs was crushed and trapped by the container. Both laid on the ground presenting a bizarre spectacle.

An eye witness said that the distressed lady watched and wailed endlessly as her blood streamed down the road in rivulets. She kept agonising, and calling for help to free her leg from the massive container. But the help she kept calling for never came as everyone who arrived at the scene was weeping in utter resignation. That happened as time ticked away and death for her kept drawing closer.

Why containers fall  

The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho identified some of the major causes of container accidents in the city.

According to him, they include “overloading and poor maintenance of containers (vehicles), reckless driving and speeding by container truck drivers, poor road infrastructure and lack of adequate drainage systems.” 

He also added “inadequate enforcement of traffic regulations.”

 Some stakeholders blame the Lagos State government, enforcement agencies as well as the Nigerian Ports Plc and hoodlums in Lagos for container accident menace being witnessed across the city.  

An articulated truck driver alleged that the safety standards for trucks loading containers had been dropped due to government’s attitude and extortion of drivers by enforcement agencies saddled with ensuring safety standards.  

Our correspondent learnt that other factors responsible for container accidents are bad roads, drivers’ recklessness, and non-road worthy trucks with incomplete hooks, among others.

It was also learnt that the average age of  trucks carrying containers in the country is 40 years. And most of them are in terrible conditions.  

The National President of Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA), Mr Adeyinka Aroyewun, blamed bad roads, poorly-maintained vehicles, for the incidents, contending that people had imbibed bad attitudes that see hoodlums dragging the wheels with truck drivers while the vehicles are in motion. 

“Vehicles are parked, loading passengers at unauthorised places; this usually causes accidents.

 “We will blame the government for not enforcing traffic rules and ensuring that roads are in good condition,” he said. 

He wondered why vehicles were issued road worthy certificates, and heavy duty trucks permits and all sort of tests were claimed to have been conducted before issuing these certificates, yet there were not done.

He maintained that the government should be blamed for issuing certificates for vehicles that are not road worthy.

“They (government) don’t check anything. Let the Lagos State government come out to tell us the inspection point where heavy-duty trucks were inspected before they were issued road-worthiness certificates. 

“Let them come out and say this; let them come out and say where. They have not been conducting any check, yet they have been collecting money. It has been revenue generation and that is why we are experiencing all of these,” he lamented.

He also blamed the Nigerian Ports Plc and the terminal operators for always loading truck that don’t have fixed locks.

“NPA too will collect money from us claiming that they are conducting checks on vehicles that are port worthy. They have been collecting this money doing nothing, extorting us over the past years.

“These are the areas they have to look into in order to address the issue of containers falling off the trucks,” he advised. 

He also blamed his members, saying: “Some of our members are also culpable, and we are looking in that direction to put certain measures in place so that we can fortify whatever government is doing to control the rate of accident.” 

The Administration Secretary, Association of Maritime Truck Owners of Nigeria (AMATO), Mohammed Sani, equally blamed some of the stakeholders in the maritime transport chain: the government, truckers and law-enforcement agencies and terminal operators for dropping the safety bar.

“Let me start from the government. All over the road, you will not see area boys forcefully collecting money from truck drivers, dragging the wheels with them.

“There was a case that happened at Trade fair sometime ago; the hoodlums were dragging wheels with the driver, who now lost control and killed three people, including a policeman. Nobody was prosecuted. 

“Not long ago too, hoodlums at Mile 2 were dragged the wheels with a tanker driver in order to extort them; two tankers fell, killing three people.

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“What measure did Lagos State government take? They did not do anything. All these hoodlums here and there are constituting menace, jeopardising safety of truckers and other road users and pedestrians as well,” he said. 

He also revealed that the enforcement agencies were not doing their work, but rather were after money. 

“The enforcement agencies are to make sure your container hooks are complete, the headlights are working, the brakes and everything are complete and ensure that your truck has road-worthy certificate. “But unfortunately, their focus is to collect money on the roads; they allow the trucks to pass.  

“The same thing happens at the terminals and at NPA, they have their own safety departments; they will allow containers with incomplete hooks access to the ports to carry loads and kill people. They allow rickety trucks that are not road worthy to access the ports.  

“The truckers too are to blame. Why are they having this reckless attitude towards safety? Why are they having poor attitude towards truck maintenance? You will see trucks moving with incomplete headlamp, worn-out tyres and so on – drivers driving without driver’s license – drivers taking alcohol while driving.

“So I blame all the stakeholders; everybody is culpable. Let everybody sit up. Let all of us be on the same page to overcome this menace because truckers alone cannot handle it.

“If the enforcement architecture is not calibrated by the government, there is no way we can get it right.  All these safety measures will be compromised. We will keep on having truck accidents on the road,” he explained.


Measure to mitigate accidents

Commisioner Omotosho assured that “the Lagos State government was addressing the issues through strengthening enforcement of traffic laws and regulations and implementing measures to improve road infrastructure and drainage systems.”

He disclosed that the present administration was “conducting public awareness campaigns to educate drivers and residents and collaborating with stakeholders in the transportation sector to improve safety standards.”

According to him, the government was also trying to “enhance emergency response systems to quickly respond to accidents.”

He further assured that “the government is committed to ensuring the safety of lives and property in Lagos, and we will continue to work tirelessly to prevent such accidents and minimise their impact.”

Sani on his part, called for the removal of hoodlums whom he said were in the habit of removing trucks’ battery while in motion, and tampering with truck brakes. 

He expressed sadness with enforcement agencies attacking truckers, and shattering windscreens just because the drivers refused to give them money.

According to him, “sometimes, they will beat the drivers, deflate their tyres and one sees all sorts of atrocities on the road.”

He charged all stakeholders to “address this issue; all hands must be on desk; let the enforcement agencies play their role. Terminal operators should play their roles too; NPA should play their own roles, while the truckers and everybody should play theirs. That is when we will have the safety of lives and property on our highways.”  

He called on the FRSC, LASTMA and VIS to start to sensitise truck members on the need to abide by safety precaution measures to prevent the rate at which containers were falling on the roads and to prevent other accidents.

The spokesperson for the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN),  

Dr Bolaji Akinola, admitted that at every point in time nationwide, NPA had set up standards for trucks that must enter the ports.

He encouraged NPA to ensure that it strengthened its safety standards for trucks entering the ports, while suggesting that NPA and FRSC were not working together to tighten the nozzle and ensure that only roadworthy trucks were allowed to ply the port access roads.


Lagos State police speak

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Police Command has opened up on what it has been doing to forestall accidents involving container-bearing trucks.

According to the command’s spokesman, Mr Benjamin Hundeyin, “we do a lot in arresting drivers and other motorists for negligence and prosecuting them; and this is work on progress.

“We are not relenting on this. Therefore, we advise motorists to always think safety when transporting their goods especially with heavy-duty trucks.”


The role of FRSC

Also speaking on the issue, the Lagos Sector Commander of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Babatunde Farinloye underscored the essence of transportation in the economy, stating how worried his agency had been each time there was a container fall from trucks.  

He enumerated various measures the FRSC had put in place to curtail such occurrences.

He lamented that most of the vehicles in the fleet of many transporters were aging. And as such, the owners were hard pressed to find replacement because of the downturn in the economy.

He noted that although the agency does not carry out vehicle inspection, it still manages to carry out such functions so that the worst from those vehicles would not be happening.

He raised the issue of approaches to curtailing the accidents by the various agencies operating at the ports, warning that failure to adhere to safety standards could jeopardise the life of road users.

He lamented that “the fine for unlatched containers still stands at N5,000 only which is not deterring enough,” but expressed the hope that magistrates will use their discretions to hand out penalties that could ginger vehicle operators to do the needful.

He added that “we have above all been doing advocacy, going to the churches and mosques to sensitise all and sundry on the need for every motorist to be conscious while on the wheels.”

It is his considered view that “all need to see the FRSC and other law-enforcement agencies as partners working to ensure the safety of all rather than as adversaries on the roads.”