At about 4.45pm on Saturday, May 27, 2019, a 33-year old Folashade Arogundade, an officer of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), was crushed to death by a truck along the road close to the Area B Police Station in Apapa, Lagos.
Arogundade, who was deployed to Apapa to ensure the evacuation of articulated trucks from the road in line with the Presidential order of restoring sanity and orderliness in the area, was hit by a truck on reverse gear unawares.
BDSUNDAY learnt that the driver of the truck took to his heels after the rear side of the vehicle knocked down the lady and the back tyres crushed her to death.
Mahmud Hassan, public relations officer of LASTMA, who confirmed the incident, said Arogundade was killed while performing her duty of implementing the Federal Government’s directive of getting rid of articulated vehicles in Apapa.
Hearing the tragic story of Arogundade, who lost her life on active duty, reminded me of several uncountable tragic incidents that have occurred in Apapa environment since the problem of traffic congestion started in the nation’s port city since 2012/ 2013.
On Mar 24, 2019, a truck killed a woman, named Amaka Iheme, who was reported to have been trekking to church. It was said that the woman was crushed by a “callous” driver at Abati Barracks area of Ojuelegba, Surulere.
Apapa, home to the nation’s two busiest economic gateways, Apapa and Tin-Can Island Seaports, handles over 75 percent of import cargoes coming into the country and about 90 percent of all the export cargo going out of the country.
Apart from of the non-oil import and export cargoes, Apapa area also houses majority of the oil tank farms and jetties located in this part of the country, where most of the nation’s imported refined petroleum products including premium motor spirit (PMS), automated gas oil (AGO), Jet A1 and others are brought into the country.
This was one of the reasons roads and bridges leading to the Apapa environment are usually chaotic, resulting in the reoccurring gridlocks on the Apapa roads.
As a result, motorists who ply their trade in Apapa and residents now suffer long travel time following the long stretch of traffic congestion bedeviling the area due to impediments created by presence of reckless parking of petroleum tankers, empty container-carrying trucks and other articulated vehicles used in hauling import and export cargoes.
Alarmingly, virtually all the roads, streets, bridges and under bridges in Lagos, especially those that have connection with Apapa metropolis, have been turned into parks for heavy duty vehicles.
The most affected roads include Apapa-Oshodi Expressway (Cele to Mile 2 axis); Awodi Ora and Wilmer roads in Ajegunle; Kirikiri; Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Orile Igamu; Second Rainbow down to Apple Junction; Ago Palace Way; Ojuelegba down to Ikorodu road; Ijora and Eko Bridge.
Given the development, people residing in areas like Festac, Iyana-Oba, Satellite Town, Ajegunle, Apapa, Surulere and many other suburban areas in Lagos not only lose long man-hour while going to their offices, market places or returning home after the day’s job, but many end up losing their lives while in transit amid these heavy duty vehicles.
Due to the gridlock, a journey that ought to take about 1 hour or less, now takes 3 to 4 hours while many now find it increasingly difficult to drive their vehicles to their offices due to impediments created by the presence of these trucks. Therefore, many commuters prefer to ride on bike, popularly known as ‘okada’ in order to gain easy access into the port city.
The menace has not only put the integrity of the affected roads and bridges in question, but has also succeeded in escalating the transportation cost for commuters.
At a point, riding on okada into Apapa became a saving grace to many; it has also become a transport to early grave for hundreds of people as many lose their lives in transit on a regular basis. The saddest part of the Apapa problem was the manner in which commuters, motorists and port users lose their lives, belongings and properties on this axis almost on a daily basis due to the chaotic situation on the Apapa roads.
On March 1, 2017, one Segun Agbolade, a journalist lost his life as he was knocked down and killed by a truck, around the Trinity area on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
Agbolade, popularly known as Effisy, was reportedly riding on a motorcycle on his way out of Apapa when the accident that claimed his life occurred.
On the same Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, a 23-year old young Njideka Uwa (not real name), who relocated to Lagos from the Eastern part of the country to seek a white collar job, after she finished her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), lost her life to truck accident.
Njideka, who reports said, was the first graduate in her family, left her parents in the village and moved to Lagos to enable her secure a job that would give her the opportunity to help her poor parents, who were into petty trading in her village in Imo State.
She died mid-2018 after she was knocked down by a moving truck while riding on okada around Wilmer axis of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. The truck climbed her two legs as she fell off the okada and she slept into coma for two days. Njideka died two days later in one of the hospitals in the popular Ajegunle.
Last month, a woman who boarded a commercial bus after close of work at Tincan, lost her life after a trailer hit the side she was sitting inside the bus. She died at the spot.
In December 2018, a male media practitioner, his family and mother in-law cheated death by a whisker when a trailer coming behind them lost brake and rammed into a commercial bus which in turn hit the young man’s vehicle.
BDSUNDAY gathered that the journalist was returning from Ajegunle and on descending the short portion of the rehabilitated Ijora Bridge going towards Funso Williams’ Avenue, a trailer had a brake failure and rammed into three okada riders, hit a commercial bus, had his car bashed and waged itself with the machines (okadas). It was gathered that some of the okada riders and their passengers lost their lives that night. The journalist only had his Toyota Camry car seriously damaged.
Driving on the Apapa road is akin to the biblical expression of “Walking through the valley of shadow of death.” Due to the bad roads, the heavy-duty vehicles always move precariously and the containers they bear are prone to tilt as a result.
Drivers of smaller vehicles plying side by side with such tankers and trailers do so at a huge risk. Many of them have lost their lives a as a result of containers falling on them and crushing them in their vehicles.
Recall that on Tuesday May 7, 2019, a container fell off Ojuelegba Bridge in Lagos causing a terrible traffic gridlock around the area, which left many commuters almost sleeping on the road on that fateful Tuesday.
“When I was climbing the bridge, a bus overtook me and I had to stop. When I set out after the bus left, the gear dragged me back and the container turned and fell. It was not because of the brake,” the driver of the truck narrated after the accident.
Also on Friday April 5, 2019, a container-laden truck rolled back on Barracks-Ojuelegba Bridge in Lagos and damaged seven cars but no life was lost.
Adebayo Olusegun, head of operations of LASTMA in Surulere, said the accident occurred at about 7.25am and the trailer was not carrying a heavy load when it rolled down the bridge.
“We thank God that no life was lost and it usually happened that trucks rolled back on the bridge after climbing. This was not a break failure but seven cars were affected,’’ Olusegun said.
Michael Afolayan, a Corps member, who witnessed the accident, said, “If not for an Infinity SUV that blocked the trailer, it would have claimed many lives”.
BDSUNDAY findings show that Ojuelegba -Barracks Bridge has become notorious axis for truck-related accidents where many innocent Nigerians have lost their lives and valuables.
The road became a very important route for trucks accessing and departing Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports through Ijora-Wharf axis with laden-containers since 2015/2016 when the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway that was supposed to be the main entrance into Apapa environment became impassable due to the total collapse of some critical portions of the road.
Pundits believed that government and its authorities need to implement policies that ensure that trucks going into the city area with containers are properly hooked to avoid containers falling off the truck and killing passers-by.
Truck and trailer drivers, they say, ought to be mandated to take the service lane to avoid causing tragedy while trying to climb Ojuelegba-Barracks Bridge with heavy cargo.
For Afolayan, if such laws are put in place, government should also put in place stiff penalty for offenders to save lives and property.
Recall that on Tuesday evening June 20, 2018, two persons were reportedly killed when a truck loaded with boards and plywood tilted on the same Ojuelegba Bridge.
The report has it that another two other persons were also injured, according to Adesina Tiamiyu, of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA).
The truck tilted on top of Ojuelegba Bridge and fell on three commercial buses and a Toyota Corolla at 8 pm that Tuesday night.
Tiamiyu, who said that the truck was definitely overloaded, resulting in the accident, urged commercial bus drivers to stop parking indiscriminately under the bridges to enable free drive by other motorists.
Today, containers are like ‘the bees ravaging the city of Lagos’ all because of the government’s failure to properly manage empty containers and control their safe movement into the port.
In the 90s, the whole of Apapa port accommodates almost 60 percent of the trucks now on the highway as they were able to enter the port to offload the containers and park within the port premises pending when they get another job to do. The place where these trucks park in those days were called ‘holding bay’ that were inside the port.
“The littering of empty containers and tankers as well as the reckless killing of Nigerians on Lagos roads was due to the Federal Government’s failure to properly manage empty containers in our ports,” Jonathan Nicol, president, Shippers Association of Lagos State, said.
Nicol said the outrage started after port terminals were concessioned, without reserving holding-bay for truckers to park and the volume of cargo coming into the country increased without the authorities being able to manage the over flow.
He faulted the Federal Government concession model that ceded 100 percent of the port property to private operators.
Nicol, who disclosed that Nigeria has more empty containers in the terminals’ stacking areas than the laden containers, said that shipping lines are not retrieving their empty containers with the intention of turning Nigeria into a dumping ground.
Pundits believe that government supposed to have taken out at least 25 percent of its property to ensure presence in the port. However, there is need to give the shipping companies ultimatum to clear their containers off the ports.
Observers also identified lack of good road infrastructure as another major reason for the recurring gridlock problem in Apapa.
But excitingly, Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), has promised that the issue of infrastructure like the roads (Creek, Liverpool and Apapa-Oshodi Expressway) is being constructed.
“The moment this is done, most of the issues will go. We have the holding bay and trailer parks; they are going to be available. The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has already started with Lilypond Terminal for the trailers. This will mitigate the gridlock. We also have private parks,” Bello said.
According to him, “Shippers Council has identified about 54 trailer parks which will be put to use and once we have a combination of all this, we shall have sanity on the road.”
Bello appealed to the truckers and the drivers to be disciplined and follow procedures for sanity to be achieved on the road.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State government needs to consider the implementation of the Lagos State laws, which proposed night movement of trucks to reduce the risk and dangers, to human lives, of the movement of heavy duty vehicles.