ON Tuesday, June 19, a truck driver heading towards the Fadeyi end of the Ojuelegba bridge in Lagos State lost control of the vehicle, causing the container he was conveying to detach from it and land with devastating impact on motorists and pedestrians under the bridge. Three passengers in a commercial bus crushed by the impact of the container were killed instantly, while others sustained injuries. Indeed, but for the spirited efforts of passers-by who rescued those trapped under the debris, the tragedy would have been more severe. The pictures of the wreckage were gruesome. The June 19 episode was reportedly the second such accident this year alone.
Sadly, incidences of container-laden trucks crushing people to death on or underneath the Ojuelegba bridge are becoming rather routine. Not many Nigerians would have forgotten the tragedy that occurred in September 2015 when a container-laden truck skidded off the bridge and landed on a black Toyota sports utility vehicle underneath the bridge, claiming three lives, or the sad incident of December 2015 when four houses and five vehicles were razed after a fuel tanker fell off the bridge, spilled its content and burst into flames. The ensuing inferno rendered scores of people homeless and caused car owners anguish.
To all intents and purposes, the Ojuelegba container tragedies speak to the all too familiar problem of governance failure. It is indeed disheartening that in spite of the outcry that greeted previous incidents, the Lagos State government is yet to find a solution to the menace of container-laden trucks in Ojuelegba. The container accidents cause irreparable damage: lives are shattered, often irreparably, but the trucks and their owners are allowed to continue their imperial sway on the bridge. Worse still, the accidents, saddening as they have been, are perhaps to be expected. This is because trucks are parked permanently on the bridge, making movement difficult for those conveying containers. And the containers are not even hooked to them because the drivers don’t want their trucks to go down with the containers in case there is a fall. To worsen matters, the roads are not good.
It would be futile to pretend that those in government, whether at the state or federal level, are not aware that in developed climes such as the United States, no one sees open containers because such containers are inserted into trucks. Indeed, most people are not even aware that a container is being transported via the trucks. This is the case in the advanced countries not because the political leadership in those climes are from another planet but simply because they care for the people they govern and, what is more, the rule of law forces them to conform to the people’s expectations or get kicked out. Conversely, in this clime, it is yet to be demonstrated that the government values people’s lives sufficiently enough to be concerned with curbing avoidable tragedies.
To be sure, the country needs to review the construction and use of bridges. Trucks would not be overloaded if there were checks in place. Bridges should also have railings at all times. On no account must they be used as trailer parks.For instance, because of the trucks parked on the Ojuelegba bridge, residents of the area often find it difficult to get out of their homes in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos State. This problem needs to be urgently addressed if the menace of container accidents is to end. Besides, the alleged connivance of personnel of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) with recalcitrant truck drivers needs to be addressed. If bribe-taking law-enforcement personnel are fished out and punished accordingly, those minded to toe a similar path would have a rethink. Ultimately, though, the government has to show that it intends to uphold the laws of the land, whether on traffic management or on other issues.