Containers Fall: Time To Enforce The Law
It is highly appalling and pathetic how the country continues to lose her citizens in callous road mishaps on daily basis. Most disturbing is the fact that majority of these road accidents are highly avoidable if, and only if, the appropriate authorities had been proactive and willing to enforce the relevant traffic rules without fear or favour.
Last week, the media was dominated by shocking images of a 40ft fully loaded container which fell off at the ever-busy Ojuelagba fly over bridge crushing three occupants of a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) in the process, while a driver of another vehicle barely escaped death by a whisker. From different accounts of this sad event, one thing remains abundantly evident; both the driver of the articulated lorry and the state traffic management officials acted without due diligence.
A particular eye witness, according to media reports, allegedly made efforts to stop the lorry from using the bridge at material time without success. Curiously, officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LATSMA) were also reported to have dissuaded this patriotic Nigerian, even when it was overtly obvious that the driver of the ill fated truck was violating the traffic rules and heading for danger.
Surprisingly, the Ojuelagba tragedy was not the first time the state would be recording such a tragic incident in the recent past. As a matter of fact, just January this year, a young woman and her son were crushed to death after an unhooked container fell on them at the Ketu bus-stop. Lagos incidence is also not the only one in the country. We can't forget in a hurry the Anambra debacle few weeks ago where an entire family was wiped out when an unlatched container fell on a bus they were traveling on. Countless o
number of these misfortunes occur every now and then in virtually all the major cities in the country. Authorities appear to be as hopeless as the victims of these sad events in terms of addressing it.
Interestingly, there are explicit rules and regulations on how these articulated trucks should operate. What baffles one then is how various states have continued to allow the menace to fester amidst these existing regulations. For instance, the Lagos State Traffic Law, 2012, places a restriction on articulated trucks on the road from 6.00pm - 9.00pm . For avoidance of doubt, Section 2 (1) of the said law states clearly that "Save as may be prescribed by the Commissioner by Regulation, no trailer other than petrol tankers and long vehicles used in conveying passengers, shall enter into or travel within the metropolis of Lagos between the hours of 6.00am-9.00pm",. Subsection (2) further prescribes a fine of N50,000 or a term of imprisonment for 6 months or both upon conviction of the said offence.
Sadly, this law appears largely a dead wood as far as its enforcement and implementation are concerned. The state is yet to prosecute a single offender of this law. Yet the truck drivers continue to violate the law on daily basis with impunity. If the Lagos State government had deployed similar zeal it adopted in enforcing the sections that deal with motorcycle and tricycles restrictions from selectd areas in the metropolis in chekmating these trucks, many lives would have been saved in the process. One does not want to believe that the law was merely targeted only at the Okada operators in the state. It is absolutely sad that the state government has refused to enforce the law in spite of deadly activities of these truck drivers in the state.
This also brings to the front burner, the issue of the nation's over reliance on road transportation in total neglect of other means of transportation. In modern times as this, heavy and sensitive goods are no longer frequently conveyed by road. Such other transportation systems as water, tube and railway are fast becoming preferred and safer means of coveying human and goods. However, this should be a long term solution to this conundrum. The short term solution rests on the enforcement of the existing laws and regulations. For instance, the rule that every articulated trucks carrying goods must be properly latched before taking off should be implemented and enforced to the letter. There is also a need to train the personnel of various traffic outfits in the state for an effective enforcement of the law.
It is also important that the driver and owner of the ill fated truck be made to answer for their callous negligence. The families of this unfortunate mishap and other road users in the state need to be reassured by the Lagos State authorities that no pin will be left unturned in bringing the culprits to the long arm of the law, while hoping it restores sanity on the roads. Thankfully, the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has issued directive to relevant authorities to begin to implement the laws henceforth . However, Nigerians and Lagos residents are waiting anxiously to see how this will play out in the days to come, even as it is sincerely hope that this will not just be one of those grandstandings by the government.
Okoro Gabriel, Esq. Lagos