By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Olasunkanmi Akoni and Monsuru Olowoopejo
Barely three days after nine persons were burnt to death and 54 vehicles razed in a petrol tanker explosion at Otedola Bridge, inward Ojodu Berger, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Lagos State government, yesterday, issued a-30 day ultimatum to all operators of articulated vehicles to obtain the Ministry of Transportation’s road worthiness Certificate or face sanction.
This came as Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, demanded for more discipline of the highways, lamenting that with little caution and extra care, the accident would have been avoided.
The 30-day ultimatum was issued by Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson, at a briefing alongside Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental relations, Mr. Oluseye Oladejo and Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, in Alausa, Ikeja.
The briefing was attended by as NUPENG, Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, National Association of Transport Operators, NATO, Container Truck Owners Association of Nigeria, among others.
Lawanson also directed that tankers should restrict their movement within the state to designated routes, along Apapa-Oworonshoki Expressway via Ogudu to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The commissioner stressed that articulated trucks coming into the state must henceforth obtain the road worthiness certificate , informing that new centres along Lagos -Ibadan Expressway would be established to cope with the expected demand for the service.
Aside the articulated trucks, he disclosed that “between April 1, 2017 and May, 2018, a total of 178,267 vehicles were tested. Not less than 121,286 were certified road worthy and 104,850 failed.”
Ill fated truck not designed for fuel transportation
While revealing investigation conducted at the accident scene, Lawanson lamented that the truck, manufactured in 1999 in United State was not designed for transportation of fuel but for drilling exercise, saying “Investigations conducted so far by the Lagos State Government indicate that the truck, NSR 888 YC, was registered at Nasarawa Local Government, Kano State and has changed ownership 13 times since purchase. This truck was designed as a 14,959kg (approximately 15 ton) drilling rig with low bed, but it was converted in Nigeria from a drilling rig to fuel tank carrier to carry 30 tonnes. “From this preliminary investigation, the truck should not have been loaded to the weight of 30 tonnes, which is twice its pulling capacity.”
He added that, :”The Lagos State Government is exploring alternative modes of transportation of petroleum products to separate passenger traffic from cargo movements within the metropolis in the interest of public safety and orders.”
Reacting to the explosion, NLC and NUPENG, sympathized with victims and their relations, urging discipline on the nation’s highways.
NLC in a statement by its President, Ayuba Wabba, said: The magnitude of loss of lives and destruction of property is awesome. We express our heart-felt condolences to the victims and families of the deceased. We hold the view that it was an avoidable accident, given the circumstances.
“We call for higher driver-education and more strict enforcement of traffic rules and regulations, especially with regard to parking of vehicles with inflammables. We also note with concern, the reckless culture of driving in Lagos in spite of the great effort by the state government to ensure a culture of sanity on the roads. If these were observed, we would not have been thrown into this level of grief or mourning. “Once again, our hearts go to the victims and their families. We similarly urge the Lagos State Government not to relent in ensuring that utmost discipline is maintained not only on its roads but on all our roads.”
On its part, NUPENG in a statement by its President, Prince Williams Akpreha,, said “We are using this medium to share in the pains of the families of the deceased, the injured in the hospitals receiving treatments and other victims who lost their properties as a result of the fire accident. It is really an unfortunate and avoidable incident. “NUPENG is using this opportunity to appreciate Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigeria Police (for providing security), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS) and other paramilitary operatives for their prompt response in rescuing the victims and for putting the situation under control.”