In swift succession, containers attached to trucks are wreaking havoc across Lagos. A tragic accident on Sunday on the Ojuelegba Interchange in which a 20-foot container fell on a commercial bus was replicated in near-similar incidents the next day on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The Ojuelegba accident was the most catastrophic as it consumed nine lives, including two children. These accidents serve as a brutal reminder of the complete breakdown of law enforcement in Lagos State.
Many Lagos residents spent the last Sunday of January in mourning when news of the incident hit the airwaves. In broad daylight, the container on the wobbly truck fell on a minibus, crushing it. Only one passenger was rescued; the rest died violently. The spell of tragedy was duplicated the following day, also involving containerised lorries.
A day after, another truck crashed in Iyana-Ipaja on Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway. It choked movement for hours. A few hours later, the accident was reproduced at Kara Bridge on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The ensuing gridlock took hours to clear. On Wednesday, another 20-foot container on a truck crushed a commercial bus in Oshodi, injuring the driver.
Unfortunately, all the accidents were avoidable. In Ojuelegba, the container fell as the truck struggled to ascend the interchange. In the first place, the Lagos State Government should have banned these trucks from all the bridges in the state, as it did by erecting barriers at the foot of the interchanges in Ikeja. Belatedly, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu legislated the ban on Monday. It should be enforced on all the interchanges in Lagos.
Motorists in Lagos dread driving alongside, in front or behind articulated vehicles because of this menace. Most of the truckshave faulty components, worn tyres, damaged front/rear lights; their drivers navigate the highways recklessly. This is a recipe for disaster.
Despite the presence of security/safety agents, especially the police, Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority and vehicle inspection officers, these trucks go scot-free. Rather, the state agents concentrate on private cars, extorting their owners at will. This is the main cause of these calamities on Lagos roads.
In fairness though, Lagos State has first world traffic statutes. One of them banned convoys from using sirens; another suspended the operation of commercial motorcycles on bridges and expressways, and in the night. These are pragmatic laws. The enforcement is where the problem lies. From the tenure of Akinwumi Ambode in 2015 to that of the incumbent, enforcement has been in the breach. The result is bedlam on the state’s highways, where VIPs deploy sirens with impunity. Many of the convoys face oncoming traffic with no consequences.
The chaos on the streets of Nigeria’s commercial capital of 20 million plus population is worsened by the compromises of the state government to rein in the excesses of commercial bus drivers, and now tricycle riders. In Lagos, some union members are regulating the transport unions. This is self-contradictory. Across the state, danfo drivers obstruct the traffic at bus stops. Union members collect dues on the road. The outcome is gridlock everywhere. Oshodi, which was cleared under Babatunde Fashola, has been hijacked by commercial drivers again, with the government looking the other way. For a state with ambitions of a smart megacity, this is a dangerous drawback
Some of the previous container tragedies underline the breakdown of law and order on Lagos highways. In December, the driver of a commercial bus was killed, and several others injured after a truck carrying two 20-foot containers fell on three vehicles at Cele Bus-Stop on Oshodi/Apapa Expressway. In May 2022, a man was crushed to death by a 40-foot container, which tumbled from a truck at Costain Interchange.
In a gruesome incident in August 2020, eight commuters perished, including two employees of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria on their way home from work when a 20-foot container detached off a moving truck and fell on the bus they were travelling in on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. One of the FAAN employees, Chidinma Ajoku, 27, had just gained admission to study for her master’s degree overseas.
These ghastly accidents might continue. In 2020, the Lagos State Government Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order on Apapa Ports Access Roads admitted that most of the trucks plying the Lagos ports do not meet the minimum standard. “Due to the lack of regulation of truckers and truck ownership, most trucks are second hand and unserviceable,” a member of the task force said.
This puts the mayhem in proper perspective.Sanwo-Olu – like Ambode that preceded him – is not firm. Or he just lacks the political will to enforce the law. That is bad.Poor law enforcement is partly why Nigeria experiences a high rate of road accidents. In January, the Minister of Works and Housing, Fashola, raised the alarm that in over a thousand plus road crashes in October 2022, 449 lives were lost, and 2,708 people injured.
Conversely, law enforcement is real elsewhere, as seen in the sanctions imposed on former British prime minister Boris Johnson and the incumbent, Rishi Sunak. Although he offered “full apology” for attending his own surprise birthday party in violation of the COVID-19 lockdown rules in June 2020, Johnson was fined £50 by the police. In January, Lancashire police gave Sunaka fixed fine, which attracts between £100 and £500, for not wearing a seatbelt while filming a social media video at the back of a moving car. That is a decent society, which Nigerian leaders should emulate.
Therefore, Sanwo-Olu should not spare lawbreakers on the road again. He should reinstate the firm enforcement witnessed under Fashola. With the proper implementation of the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation roadworthiness policy, shabby trucks should be taken off the road. The governor should understand that law enforcement is a 24-hour undertaking, especially in a city like Lagos.