The neglect of safety rules on Lagos roads resulting in regular accidents involving trailers and tankers with loss of precious lives is raising fresh concerns among motorists and passengers.
Just on January 29, 2023, nine passengers, including two children were killed after a container-laden truck fell on a passenger bus at the notorious Ojuelegba Bridge in Surulere, Lagos.
According to close industry watchers, these container accidents can be attributed to regulatory lapses and poor enforcement of minimum safety standards for trucks by the officers of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Nigerian Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Lagos State Government, and its traffic managers- Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA).
Due to regulatory lapses, container-carrying trucks that are not supposed to exit the port without hooking the container properly on the truck are seen moving freely on Lagos roads.
Giving an insight into truck operations at the port, a source close to one of the terminals in Apapa Port, who does not want his name mentioned, said the NPA and Lagos State traffic management team have policies on minimum safety standards for trucks. He blamed poor implementation of minimum standards for the persistent upturning of containers on Lagos roads.
According to him, a port-bound truck must be roadworthy, has a proper hook for fastening containers to the truck, and the container must be properly latched before it can exit the port.
“We have trucks falling and upturning along the port corridor because Nigeria as a country is very good at making policies, but shallow in enforcement. Most of these trucks you see along Apapa corridor are not road-worthy and those truckers usually bribe their way in and out the ports,” the source explained.
He said that truckers hardly comply with the rules and the standard due to corruption, adding that the Lagos State traffic managers are also to blame for failing to enforce truck standards.
He further said that security operatives such as LASTMA and police officers compromise standards by focusing on extorting truckers rather than enforcing safety standards.
Citing an example, the source said there was a Lagos State traffic regulation that bans the movement of trucks during the daytime but such is not being implemented at the moment.
“The essence of these rules is for the safety of lives and property. We have cases of trucks loaded with petrol, diesel and kerosene running into houses and marketplaces, setting houses ablaze, lives being lost, and properties being damaged. All because we are not compliant with the regulations, the laws are there but the system is bastardised due to corruption,” he added.
On his part, Remi Ogungbemi, chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), told BusinessDay that the persistent fallen of containers from the Ojuelegba Bridge in Lagos had become something of great concern because it involves loss of lives and properties, thus the need to enforce safety by the government.
While confirming that there is an existing Minimum Safety Standards put in place by the NPA, the Nigerian Shippers Council, and Lagos State Government for trucks to follow, Ogungbemi said there is no sincerity in the implementation of the safety standards on trucks.
According to him, the authorities responsible for enforcing safety are more interested in extorting truckers by using punitive measures and extreme penalties rather than corrective measures to ensure enforcement.
He, however, said that there are different factors that are responsible for truck accidents on bridges, including the human element where truckers drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
He also said that there is also an environmental factor which is the poor condition of the road and maltreatment of truck drivers by street urchins and hoodlums who attack truckers for refusing to give them money.
“There should be a barrier on the Ojuolegba Bridge to restrict trucks from climbing the bridge because that bridge is sloppy, which makes trucks with heavy goods lose balance once they climb the bridge. The Lagos State Government also needs to make the Ojuelegba under bridge motorable by removing commercial bus drivers that use the under as parks as well as hawkers selling goods on the road,” Ogungbemi explained.
Confirming that some truck drivers do not latch containers before leaving the port, Ogungbemi said that when containers fall and the truck still stands, it means that the container was not properly hooked on the truck but if both upturns together, it means the container was properly hooked.
Afolabi Olawale, the general secretary of Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), speaking on why trucks, particularly petroleum tankers do not move in the night, said the drivers are more prone to attack by criminal elements. Olawale also said that a tanker accident in the night is more devastating as rescue operations are often hampered. He also cited bad roads in Nigeria as the reason why truckers would prefer driving in the day.
Kayode Opeifa, a member of the governing board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, who spoke recently during a forum in Abuja, blamed most of the tanker and truck accidents in Nigeria on the bad condition of Nigerian roads. According to him, the way roads are constructed in Nigeria without proper road signs, is wrong.
Citing the United States and the United Kingdom as examples, Opeifa said that road construction in developed countries is the responsibility of the ministry of transportation, unlike Nigeria where roads are built by the ministry of works.
He said that the Otedola and Dorman Long Bridges in Lagos where trailers bend immediately after climbing the bridges are not properly built, which has led to a series of accidents along those routes.
Abdullahi Inuwa, a trucker said that many truck drivers are reluctant to hook their containers due to the deplorable state of the roads in the country.
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According to him, truck drivers unlatch their containers to save their lives because when a container is hooked to the truck when an accident occurs on bad roads both the container and the truck will upturn together but if the container is left unhooked, only the container will fall.
He said truckers do that out of fear of the deplorable state of the roads and most drivers want to ensure their safety by unhooking so that the head of the truck does not upturn alongside the container.
Meanwhile, the Mohammed Bello-Koko management of the NPA has vowed to fully enforce the minimum safety standards for trucks in all the Nigerian ports, particularly in Lagos where needless accidents are becoming commonplace.
According to a tweet from its official Twitter handle @nigerianports, the ports authority said it will in partnership with the Lagos State Government and Federal Road Safety Corps fully enforce minimum safety standards for trucks and impose stiffer penalties on drivers and truck owners to forestall a reoccurrence of accidents.
The NPA boss said that such will serve as deterrence to those who operate in breach of the safety rules. It however planned to engage with terminal operators, truck owners, and off-dock workers at various locations to streamline the activities of trucks and reiterate zero tolerance for violation of the minimum safety standards for trucks.