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Another avoidable tragedy – The Nation

By The Citizen
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Last Sunday was another sad and bleak one for Ekiti State and Nigeria as a whole. It was a day that the country lost six medical doctors in a fatal accident on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway. There were 13 occupants of the 18-seater vehicle, including the driver who, incidentally, also lost his life.

The doctors were among the Ekiti State delegates to the 56th Annual General Conference/Annual Delegates Meeting of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) holding in Sokoto. Those who died - Dr Alex Akinyele, Dr Tunde Aladesanmi, Dr O.J Taiwo, Dr Ogunseye, J.B, Dr Olajide, O. and Dr Atolani Adeniyi  - were from the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti, the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti as well as the state's health management board, respectively.

Interestingly, the accident reportedly occurred around the spot where the former Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Mr James Ocholi, as well as his wife and son died in a road accident on March 6. Again, just as in the Ocholi case, the bus conveying the doctors to Sokoto was said to have had a burst tyre. But a burst tyre can only lead to this kind of tragedy if the vehicle is on high speed. The implication of all this is that the relevant authorities did nothing to ameliorate that failed spot and other damaged parts of the road between Mr James Ocholi's fatal accident and that of the six deceased doctors as well as their driver.

It is a notorious and perennially lamented fact that inter-state highways across the country are in terrible shape. Most of them have become veritable death traps. It is only when prominent  persons are involved in fatal accidents that the news makes the headlines. Thus, the incidence of loss of lives on our deplorable roads nationwide is most likely grossly underreported.

A strange and curious twist to the tragedy is the protest and strike by workers of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti (FETHI), who put the blame for the death of their colleagues on the institution's chief medical director, Dr Lawrence Ayodele. The aggrieved workers claim that at least 42 members of staff have died during Dr Ayodele's tenure and this they believe is as a result of rituals he allegedly carries out on the institution's premises, with the aim of getting his tenure in office renewed. Vehemently denying this allegation, the FETHI spokesman, Mr Adeboyejo Adekunle, said 'Some people are against the CMD's second term. They are disgruntled elements and they are the ones behind all these'.

It is a pity that this gruesome tragedy is being politicised in such a cynical manner that shows little respect for the memory of the dead. While we understand and identify with the deep grief of FETHI's workers, we urge them to make claims that lie within the realm of reason and empirical verifiability. The allegation that rituals carried out by the CMD or his agents are responsible for the fatal accident seems far-fetched and is impossible to prove since such claims are essentially metaphysical. For us, there are practical steps that must be immediately taken to stem the rate of fatal accidents and avoidable tragedies on the Abuja-Kaduna Road.

We call on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to immediately fix the dangerous portions of the road and all other such death traps on highways across the country. It is also incumbent on the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to engage in more aggressive public enlightenment campaigns to sensitise the public to dangerous portions of roads as well as stem the tide of over-speeding on the highways. We commiserate with the families of victims of what is another avoidable tragedy and pray that God grant them strength in this dark hour.