By Kenneth Jukpor
In recent times, it has become saddening that the nation records one fatal casualty after another with tanker and truck drivers. The norm had been casualties on Nigerian roads as a result of over-loading, over-speeding, carrying of unsecured containers, lane indiscipline, using rickety vehicles, driving with worn-out tyres and lacking safety equipment, among other traffic offences.
However, the trend is changing with two truck drivers dead in the last two weeks as a result of stress connected to the mad traffic gridlock at the Lagos port access roads and adjoining roads.
This problem can’t be attributed to the drivers’ penchant for violating traffic rules and regulations is alarming or their attitude to vehicle maintenance but the drivers have been victims of a failed port and transport system; an evil termed, ‘port system collapse’ by the Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF).
When we see trucks on the highways in unending queues for days, we hardly realize that the immobile state of these truck mean that the drivers and their assistants popularly known as ‘motor-boys’ remain on the road for days and sometimes weeks. They are exposed to the cold at night; mosquitoes and at the mercy of hoodlums and thieves. These truckers aren’t only robbed and molested by thieves; they are also beaten up and frustrated by security agents regulating traffic along the port access roads.
While we may see the carcasses of countless tankers, trucks and articulated vehicles that remind us of the abuse to which fire disasters and other accidents may have caused; no one sees the pains inflicted by the loss of lives of drivers, albeit the families of the deceased.
Only two weeks after an unnamed truck driver was found dead in his truck while moving an empty container at Tin Can Second Gate; another tragedy struck on Friday last week as a truck driver, Mr. Olaegbe Joshua died his truck on Friday last week, after dropping an empty container at Tin Can Island Port.
In both cases the deceased complained about illness the previous day. While the former incident also recorded merciless beating by officers of the Nigerian Navy, the latter managed to survive the difficulty in returning his empty container before dying the following day.
These categories of people have been maimed for their arrogance and non-challance, addiction to alcohol, drugs and substance, but what kind of behavior should be expected of regular human beings deprived of adequate rest, proper food and water for days or weeks?
Who should be maimed for the system collapse at the ports? Should these truck drivers be allowed to die incessantly for the absence of truck parks and empty container conundrum at the ports? Aren’t these deaths sufficient to expedite the developments of truck parks by the Lagos State Government and Federal Government? How else could the burden of truck drivers be explained to the relevant authorities and key players in the industry who should be resolving the traffic chaos?