UNENDING CARNAGE IN IBAFO
•The scene of a recent fire disaster on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in Ibafo
It's one town that can't be missed along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Ibafo, a community in Obafemi Owode Local Government area of Ogun State, holds all the promises of a burgeoning town likely to burst at its seams, with religious camps, estates and industries daily springing up in the area like flowers blossoming in spring. Yet amidst this welcoming milieu are bloodthirsty monsters in the form of articulated trucks that bare their fangs from time to time, causing unnecessary deaths.
A week after the latest carnage in Ibafo, many people are openly lampooning the present governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, for the many infrastructural ills plaguing Ibafo and other parts of the state.
They insist that most of the accidents on the highway would have been prevented if the state government had evicted the tanker drivers from the place.
Indeed, the picture Ibafo readily conjures in the minds of road users is that of a dangerous death spot occupied by articulated trucks and their recalcitrant drivers. Aside Ibafo, areas like Ogere and Mowe within the axis are also most accident-prone, as they have been converted to parking bays for trucks.
Over time, one major fear that has continue to gnaw at the minds of road users about the unsightly parking lot is the catastrophe that would unfold if a spark snowballs into a major fire disaster in the area.
Only last week, Ibafo was in the news again when a tanker exploded, causing a fire that claimed two lives and led to an indescribable gridlock that lasted hours on both sides of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
This latest disaster is just one of the numerous accidents and deaths caused by these articulated trucks that line the Ibafo end of the Lagos-Ibadan road like landmines.
According to statistics provided by the Federal Road Safety Commission, Ogere Unit, which operation covers areas like Sapade, Ogunmakin Fidiwo, Onigari, Isara and others, road accidents involving articulated vehicles in the areas, from 2007 till date, have claimed not less than 75 lives while 333 were injured.
Like a museum crowded with prized artefacts, Ibafo Police Station parades the wreckage of vehicles that once belonged to unfortunate victims who met their untimely death while plying the route. One of such carcasses that can't be easily wished away is that of a red Toyota car with a school box and bloodstained uniform that belonged to a student of Navy Secondary School, Abeokuta.
On March 20, 2008, the owner of the car, Mr. Ademola Akintayo, a senior officer at the Federal Pay Office, Abeokuta, had set out for Lagos to spend the Easter Holiday with his son, whom he picked from the Navy Secondary School, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
They never made it to their destination, as Akintayo's car ran into a truck that had been parked at Ibafo.
That same week, another unfortunate victim was killed by an articulated truck parked on the same spot.
In the same 2008, seven people died on the spot when a bus carrying 18 passengers ran into an abandoned tanker near Ibafo.
These unfortunate accidents will pale into insignificance in the face of the one that happened in September 2010, when a multiple accident caused by a truck claimed the lives of over 40 people. A most disheartening sight then was the charred remains of a two-month-old girl burnt in the inferno.
Weeks later, another deadly collision involving a petrol tanker trying to access the highway from Ibafo killed another six people a shouting distance from the previous accident scene. A few months later, a newly wedded couple also had their honeymoon cut short when their car ran into a petrol tanker that was trying to pull over by the illegal trailer park in Ibafo.
These sad scenarios, many concerned road users and residents of Ibafo believe, will always be replicated as long as the relevant authorities continue to exhibit a nonchalant attitude towards the issue of indiscriminate parking of trucks along the expressway.
The issue of indiscriminate parking of petroleum products tankers and other articulated vehicles along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has been a long debate. But it has defiled all solutions. In as much as there is no functional park, those meant to maintain law and order on the road have been accused of actually aiding the chaos that reigns in the place.
Daily Sun was informed that tanker drivers usually park along the road to sell petrol to black marketers. The drives are also said to pay regular fees to agents of the Ogun State government.
Relocating the itinerant driver and their trucks was one of the terms of the agreement when the Federal Government approved the concession of the expressway to Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited at a cost of N89, 533,688,879.84 in 2009.
Nearly two years after the agreement was signed, not even the palliative work promised by the concessionaire to start on the 105km road has commenced.
It took a threat by the Federal Government for Bi-Courtney to put up some puny signs of activity in December 2010.
Chairman of the company, Dr. Wale Babalakin, had disclosed that the design of the expressway, which included the construction of a trailer park at Ibafo, and full reconstruction of the existing carriageways and construction of additional lanes to the two carriageways, had been competed and handed over to the relevant authorities for final approval.
Babalakin also promised that upon completion of the road, Nigerians would be provided with a user-friendly road constructed under strict international standard. But even now, absolutely no work is on-going on the road.
Many people in Ibafo contend that as long as lip service is paid to issues that affect the masses and promises only fulfilled on the pages of the newspapers and on television screens, especially by Gbenga Daniel's administration and by Bi-Courtney the carnage on the highway will continue.
According to many in Ibafo, Mowe, Magboro and other parts of the state, the government of Otunba Gbenga Daniel in Ogun State is nothing more than an eight-year harvest of agony and pains.
'I can't wait till that man finally leaves by the end of this month,' David Alabi, an estate surveyor, told Daily Sun. 'One can only pray and hope that the new governor will have the interest of the masses at heart.'