Lagos and indeed Nigeria were on Wednesday January 8 rudely awakened to the news of yet another tanker accident along the busy Berger Suya Junction, Apapa, Lagos with the almost inevitable accompanying explosion and the attendant loss of lives and property. According to Road Safety officials, the casualty figure ranged between 10 and 18 but survivors of the inferno who live within the precincts of the accident scene insist that the casualty figure is higher than officially released casualty figures.
While this is not the first time a truck would have an accident, spilling its contents, causing extensive destruction of lives and property, sadly we may not have had the last of it. History is replete with similar occurrences of such mishaps.
In July 2012, over 90 lives were lost in Okobie , Rivers State when a petrol tanker, while trying to avoid collision with other vehicles, veered off the road into a ditch, spilling its contents and exploding into a huge inferno minutes later.
In November 2000, a fuel-laden tanker whose driver was on top speed rammed into a number of vehicles in a traffic jam in an Ibadan suburb, exploding into a huge fireball few minutes later leaving about 100 persons burnt beyond recognition.
Barely 6 months ago, a fuel-laden truck exploded along the ever-busy Benin-Ore road, killing more than 70 persons and destroying scores of vehicles.
It is a pity that it is perhaps only in Nigeria that trucks are still used to transport petroleum products across its vast expanse as in better organised climes, petroleum products are transported via properly maintained underground pipelines. While it is obvious that corruption in the form of economic saboteurs who serially vandalize pipelines has played a large part in hampering the proper maintenance of oil installations around the country, the challenge of petroleum distribution has also not been helped by the impotence of the serial turn around maintenance exercises (TAMs) by NNPC, its farcical nature seconded only in its hilarity by the deplorable state of road network in the country.
Of particular mention is the stretch of road around the Apapa- Wharf axis which despite lame efforts at being fixed has remained largely un-motorable. It is no secret therefore that majority of the accidents that have occurred on that road have been due to the bad state of the road.
The literacy levels of the drivers of these trucks are questionable as most of the men that make up the rank of truck drivers in Nigeria are both illiterate in letters and road signs and etiquette. Before embarking on trips to discharge petroleum products, these drivers are known to take different stimulants like Marijuana, Alcoholic beverages and the like thereby inhibiting their power of reasoning.
While we hope that between the times this article is posted and when you will get to read it, there wouldn’t be another tragedy (that is how dire the situation is), the heap of analysis on this latest tragedy will continue to grow. As the public wrings its hands over another avoidable tragedy, it is important to look long and hard at the road behavior of these truck drivers who have become veritable merchants of fiery death for an unfortunate many and ask ourselves:
HOW DO WE FIX THIS TANKER FIRE PROBLEMS ONCE AND FOR ALL?