Govt, motorists, residents alarmed as Lagos records 300 tanker accidents in one year

•We’ll deal with reckless truck operators —Govt

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is talking tough but nothing seems to have changed about the traffic situation in Lagos State. DAYO AYEYEMI, in this report, brings into focus a problem that is giving all stakeholders a sleepless night.

The fact that Lagos is the former capital of the most populous black nation of the world, host to the country’s most vibrant ports and headquarters of most financial institutions makes it an attractive city for most Nigerians.

Despite these alluring qualities, most residents and motorists are groaning over the serious traffic jam in different parts of the metropolis.Their situation is further aggravated by the incessant truck accidents with attendant loss of lives and valuables on major highways, especially on Ojota-Oworonshoki-Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Ikorodu-Ojuelegba-Funsho Williams Road and Apapa-Wharf Road.

Records show that about 3,000 tanker drivers besiege the state daily to get imported fuel and frequent occurrence of tanker accidents in the metropolis has made movement from one point to the other across the state an arduous task for the residents.

For most people, it amounts to foolishness to journey from  home to the workplace on a daily basis without listening to a dedicated radio or check Google Map for the  traffic situation in the metropolis.


Our plights -Residents

Lamenting, Mr Oluwole Ajayi, an insurance broker, said his journey from home to his workplace in Lekki on February 17, 2021 was truncated by a fuel tanker that broke down on the service lane at Alakija on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway. According to him, traffic built up to the extent  that there was no movement on both sides of the highway for about 30 minutes.

He said on a social media platform: “This is what we face daily on the mainland. Only God knows when I will get to Lekki today” and then appealed to the concerned authorities to come to the aid of the residents and motorists.

Also, on February 18, 2021, the entire Ikorodu Road and the adjoining streets were blocked  as two tankers collided on Ojuelegba Bridge, leading to a prolonged  traffic jam. The situation saw motorists stuck for about three hours.

Another resident, Alex Bolaji, recalled an incident involving a faulty trailer that blocked TOS Benson Road, along Ikorodu General Hospital, and caused a serious traffic situation there.

Mr Olusola Aladenika, a resident of Mowe who works in Lagos, argued that the rate at which truck and tanker accidents occur between Ojota and Mowe on the expressway had been alarming. He said hardly would a week go by without a truck  breaking down or involving in an accident on the expressway.

Another Lagosian who lives in Ogba, Paul Odusanya, identified reckless driving by tanker drivers as a major cause of accidents and prolonged traffic jams on Lagos routes. He recalled how he spent a whole night on Otedola Bridge in February 2020 due to a petrol  tanker explosion.

A motorist who did not want to be named said he lost his Toyota Camry car to a tanker explosion on Otedola Bridge in 2018.

A transportation expert, Patrick Adenusi, disclosed that 250,000 vehicles are caught in “avoidable” Lagos traffic daily. According to him, if each of the vehicles expends N1,000 on extra fuel above what should have been spent on the journey, that would amount to N250 million being daily wasted.


LASEMA’s concern

Raising the alarm about frequent tanker accidents and associated gridlocks, the Lagos State  Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, disclosed  that no fewer than  300 fuel tanker accidents were recorded in the state in 2020.

Disclosing this at the Road Traffic Accident Simulation exercise held at the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Cappa Base in Oshodi, Lagos, Bamgbose-Martins stated that between December 2020 and now, LASEMA had responded to 114 major emergencies, saving lives and billions of naira worth of properties. He said that LASEMA, as the coordinating agency for emergencies, coordinated and supported all agencies in all emergency responses but also acted as a responder during major incidents that were beyond the capacity of primary responders.

Bamgbose-Martins  said: “In 2020, we had over 300 tanker accidents. Between December and now, LASEMA has responded to 114 major emergencies, saving lives and billions of naira worth of properties. While some were accidental, others could have been avoided with better awareness.”

According to the  commissioner, these incidents have not only affected the state as a whole but they have also caused families and businesses to experience  losses. He stated that nevertheless, the state had to be prepared to respond quickly to emergencies. He claimed that LASEMA and its sister agencies had lived up to expectation by preventing loss of lives and mitigating the effect of disasters with their professional handling of such events.

Bamgbose-Martins said the simulation exercise, the first in 2021, was meant to prepare the  agencies for better disaster management and stimulate responders for events that require their expertise.

He said: “The lives and property of all Lagosians are dear to this administration. It therefore becomes imperative that our agencies get all the support they require in the dispensation of their duties. In the course of mitigating disasters for the state, our agencies have done well. They have been effective and have also collaborated with other agencies at both the federal and state levels in saving lives and property.”


tankerGovt duty-bound to protect lives –Dr Sanwo-Olu

Wife of the state governor, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, said that every government is duty-bound to protect the lives of its people and their properties from disasters. She said that as a government agency solely responsible for disaster management in Lagos State, LASEMA’s simulation exercise was meant to increase its readiness to fulfill its mandate.

According to Dr Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State is susceptible to high incidence of disasters and emergencies such as flooding, fire, road traffic accidents, pipeline vandalism and explosions. She said that in recent times, residents had been confronted with a lot of road traffic incidents. These unfortunate occurrences, Dr Sanwo-Olu said, did not only destroy homes and livelihoods but they also left the environment blighted and jeopardised the society and the economy of the state.

“It is, therefore, the responsibility of a caring government to engage in active Disaster Risk Reduction efforts by aligning the skill set and competencies of its staff and stakeholders to build the capacity of Lagosians from the grassroots level up, through the establishment of Local Emergency Management Committees, LEMCs, in the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas in the state,” the wife of the governor said.

The Director-General of LASEMA, Dr Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the simulation exercise was meant to test the capability of the agency to respond to disasters or crisis situations.


A litany of accidents

On June 28, 2018, no fewer than 12 persons died and 54 vehicles burnt when a fuel-laden tanker exploded on the Otedola Bridge end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The truck reportedly spilled its content before catching fire.

On October 12, 2019, a tanker with 45,000 litres of petrol fell on the same bridge, pouring its contents and causing long hours of traffic jam.

On June 22, 2020, four people were killed and several other injured when a tanker exploded in Lagos, while another tanker accident got 11 people injured on Oworonshoki route.

On November 7, 2020, an explosion occurred on the highway at Kara Bridge at Berger Bus Stop, killing two persons, with about 20 vehicles destroyed in the inferno. A car dealer, Mr Adekunle Adeyemo, who had operated for more than eight years along the corridor, lost 14 cars to the incident.

On January 7, 2021, a fuel tanker fire caused traffic congestion in the Papa Ajao area of Lagos.

The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has also become notorious for tanker explosions in recent times without any significant effort to prevent recurrences by the authorities.


FRSC statistics

According to statistics from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigeria lost N9.8 billion to tanker accidents in 2018.

However, it was stated that there was slight improvement in the truck accidents recorded in 2018 when compared to 2017 and 2016.

“Numbers of truck crashes in 2016, 2017 and 2018 were 282, 240 and 196 respectively. Lives lost to accidents cannot be measured in monetary terms,” a report from the FRSC said.

In 2019, the report said that 199 accidents were recorded with economic value worth N9.6 billion.

Efforts to get the response of the Lagos State Sector commander of the FRSC were unsuccessful. However, a former sector commander, Mr Hyginus Umeje, once attributed the crisis to ongoing problems in the oil sector and lack of enough provisions for parking lots for tankers by the oil depot operators in Apapa and Tin Can Island areas.

The problems, he said caused the tanker drivers to park their vehicles along the roads, causing accidents, traffic pollution and other crises.

He also cited the bad condition of the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, failure to develop and use railways and waterways as other causes of the persistent gridlock.

The FRSC bigwig disclosed that the corps had started its “Operation Zero Tolerance for Road Crash” and consequently directed its officers and men to concentrate on critical traffic areas in the state. Those critical traffic areas included Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Mile 2-Badagry Expressway and Lekki-Epe Expressway, which often have heavy traffic congestions because of the high number of motorists plying the roads. He warned drivers against overspeeding, phoning while driving, overloading and driving after drinking.


Truck owners

In a recent interview, Alhaji Abdullah Inuwa Mohammed of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) said the association had, on many occasions, enlightened tanker drivers on road safety. He said members with old trucks had depots where safety measures about driving were taught.

Mohammed attributed indiscriminate parking by commercial buses on the expressway as one of the factors responsible for tanker accidents. He called for measures towards reducing tanker accidents on the highways.

The Ogere branch secretary of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW),  Tijani Ahmed, stated that truck drivers’ major challenge on the expressway was inadequate parking space,l. He claimed that private parks along the axis were not well-maintained.


We’ll name and shame -Govt

The Lagos State government has, however, vowed to name and shame any maritime stakeholder, irrespective of status, who disregards the new e-call-up system/intervention put in place to ensure a gridlock-free movement at Apapa.

The state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, promised that recalcitrant stakeholders would be brought to public court as the state would no longer condone the recklessness and non-chalance being exhibited by truck operators in the state.

He said the current state of Apapa and the port access roads was the beginning of a lasting solution to the incessant gridlock being experienced by motorists who ply the corridors frequently, stressing that the state was not out of the woods as dubious entities profiting from the gridlock would revolt and fight back. He gave the assurance that the state was prepared to engage them.

The governor disclosed that the delay witnessed by the citizenry in tackling the gridlock was due to background inquiries made with various maritime stakeholders on the causes of the incessant gridlock at Apapa. He urged all logistic companies to collaborate with the state government and consolidate on the progress made at unlocking the Apapa gridlock

On how to improve vehicular movement in the metropolis, the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde, stated that the support of the governor had birthed six major junction/roundabout improvement projects which have been completed. He said that Allen Avenue Roundabout, Maryland Junction and Ikotun Roundabout were already in use.

”Since the completion of these junction/roundabout improvement projects, we have noticed significant improvement in traffic management along these corridors. Commuters’ travel time is saved, while the usual traffic gridlocks have reduced considerably,” Oladeinde noted.


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