Falling Containers: The Emerging Killer with Haulage Masks
The sight of a container laden truck leaving the ports and hitting the streets could mean different things to different people. Just like the age- long African adage,” one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
To an importer who has had sleepless nights to ensure his goods are cleared from the ports, its celebration when the truck hits the roads, while to a follower of the recent trend, trucks carrying containers have become the ‘hired killers ‘ in the neighbourhood especially around heavy commercial states such as Lagos. Heavy traffic usually trails the cases of fallen containers in Lagos.
So worrisome is the fact that some of the trucks carrying these heavy containers are usually old, bad tyres and puffing out black combustion emissions. This is not to talk of the speed at which they meander the roads, climb bridges and dodge potholes with careless abandon as if the containers are plastics. The Nigerian Shippers Council had complained to truck owners under the umbrella of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) to do something about their trucks plying the ports which according to the council is a source of delay in cargo delivery. The issue of containers not properly latched was part of the complaints which up till now has not been effected.
Most of the trucks seen on the roads do not latch their containers properly despite the presence of highway security agents on the roads. These leave many to wonder why this is so and also query the credibility of these agencies in ensuring compliance to haulage rules.
One of the most recent incidences that has let all hell loose is the painful death of 12 undergraduates of the Olabisi Onabanjo University who lost their lives when an unlatched container fell on their Lagos bound bus, killing all occupants of the bus except a lone survivor. Reports revealed that the 12 undergraduates lost their lives in the process.
The Students Union Government ,OOU represented by its Public Relations Officer, Damilola Adelesi had described the incidence as a deliberate act of murder and questioned the credibility of agencies responsible for such offences.
Several other accidents have been caused by fallen containers in the city of Lagos which many have attributed its causes as majorly by bad roads which makes the containers bounce when they hit pot holes or deep trenches unnoticed.
These road induced deaths have placed Nigeria on a negative record list in Africa. This is evident from a report by the World Health Organisation which states that deaths from road accidents were the major causes of violent deaths in Nigeria.
While the country keeps counting human losses from deadly Boko Haram attacks in the troubled regions, the commercial and non violent areas have seen road accidents cut dreams of young Nigerians, while the old die unfulfilled .
According to a United Nations Road Safety Report in 2011, Nigeria ranks second among 193 worst countries in the list. This record is despite huge budgetary expenditures on roads constructions and maintenance.
Many have also argued that incompetency and stubbornness by drivers and other road users contribute largely to these accidents especially in the Ago Iwoye incidence where the driver was said to have been driving against traffic. So many of these drivers beat traffic rules and get applause from the passengers on board .In most cases, passengers force drivers to overspeed stating that they need to meet some appointments and deadlines.
On the issue of bad roads which is also a major factor, many accusing fingers have gone to failed administrations who during campaigns mount the campaign stages with laudable manifestos which included among others good roads. The reverse becomes the case at the assumption of office .This trend has left many tales on the lips of many road users as the congestion have forced many off the roads and caused traffic at the airports.
Since the establishment of VIO in 1980, in response to the 1980 International Treaty in the Harmonisation of Highways Legislations in the Economic Community of West African States, there have been high scores and low scores on the performance of this agency.
In the recent past, the sight of a VIO vehicle sent defaulting vehicles scampering to safety and looking for escape roots. This was due to the zero tolerance approach of the body. But nowadays, road worthiness can be achieved not by the state of the vehicle but by the bribery power of the defaulter.
According to Chigozie Chikere, a Chartered Member of the Institute of Logistics & Transport (CILT) Nigeria
“The Government is busy with taxing and fining motorists legally and illegally through the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), Transport Unions and hordes of touts known as area boys. At Tin can Island First Gate, the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police, Nigerian Ports Authority Security and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria concentrate on bribes which they demand with impunity from every truck that enters the ports and end up creating illegal queues that makes the road impassable on a daily basis. No one bothers about the road worthiness of the trucks though the Lagos State VIO claims they do routine checks .Yet there are multiple cases of unlatched containers”
Experts say the pride of Nigeria on the global map has been distorted with the current cases of road induced accidents.
While the country sits back with fingers crossed to watch the new administration of President Buhari get busy with ‘changing’ Nigeria, optimists are hopeful that the state of roads in Nigeria would have a place in the budgetary discourse and also create machinery that would monitor road projects till completion to avert these incessant cases of untimely deaths.
By Francis Ogwo