Articulated vehicle crashes AND preventive measure: High expectation on Sanwo Olu


Ranmilowo Ojalumo

The rate of tanker and other articulated vehicles crashes in Lagos metropolis in past few years has been of serious concern to many Nigerians, especially Lagosians and stakeholders in the haulage sector and one of the notable crashes that Lagosians cannot forget easily is the notorious Otedola Bridge tanker crash.

It’s About 14 months after the disastrous tanker crash at Otedola Bridge axis of Berger, along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, where about 12 people were confirmed deadand about 67 vehicles got burnt, articulated vehicle crashes has not stopped in Lagos State. As of press time, the most recent articulated vehicle crash was a truck loaded with 45 tons of cement, owned by Dangote Group of Company veered off the road and crushed a BRT bus at Ikorodu area of the state.

Although only three people were reported death, about 67 other occupants of the vehicles were reported to have sustained various serious series of injuries. Reports have it that the driver lost control of the truck owning to break failure.

Lagosians and stakeholders in the haulage sector are currently looking forward to seeing the new governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu putting drastic measures in place that will prevent articulated vehicle crashes in the state. The state of some of the articulated vehicles plying the roads in the state is another big concern to all road users, which has questioned the role of VIO in the state when large number the vehicles are not road worthy, sad enough, most of the articulated vehicle crashes in the state is attributed to break failure and rickety state of the vehicles.

Apart from the Otedola Bridge tankers crash that happened at about 5:30 pm on Thursday 28th June, 2018 and the recent Dangote truck-BRT crashes, there have been several other articulated vehicle crashes in Lagos State and few of the crashes are still very fresh in Lagosians memory.

For instance, in the last four years, that is between 2015 till September, 2019; there has always been constant fatal accident at Ojuelegba Bridge, along Western Avenue in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos State; where trucks will fall off the bridge and land on vehicles and pedestrians, killing many people; this development has made many people to christened the Bridge as the “bridge of death” and this is in view of the frequency of trucks falling off the bridge killing many people.

In the last four years, there is no year that Ojuelegba Bridge hadn’t recorded articulated vehicle crash. In 2019 alone, not less than three heavy duty vehicles have crashed on the bridge even though the year has not ended. The last one, as of press time, happened in May, 2019. Although there was no casualty, it caused serious gridlock that lasted for over seven hours before the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA) could evacuate the truck with the fully loaded container.

 In the evening of Tuesday 19th June, 2018, a flatbed truck laden with plywood and finished boards tilted on top of Ojuelegba bridge and fell on three commercial buses and a Toyota Corolla Camry, killing about three people and another two injured.  Also, in May, 2017; a containerized truck slipped back and fell on a Sienna bus; thank God no life was lost because all the occupants of the car have rushed out before the truck fell on the vehicle. Similarly, on 4th January, 2016; a truck, loaded with goods, fell on one side of the Ojuelegba Bridge; causing crack to some part of the bridge, luckily no casualty was recorded as the truck did not fall off the bridge, which would have killed people under the bridge.

In December, 2015; about four houses and five vehicles were razed when a fuel tanker belonging to Forte Oil fell off the Ojuelegba Bridge, spilling its content and bursting into flames. On Wednesday, September 2, 2015; a fully-loaded 40-foot container-laden truck skidded off the same bridge and landed on three vehicles- a black Toyota sports utility vehicle, a black Toyota Corolla and a white Nissan Sunny saloon car and also damage a tricycle. Not less than three people were killed and many injured.

 As of the time of filling this report, movement around the axis, especially under the bridge is done with fear, and this is because no one knows when the next truck would fall off the bridge again.

Suffice is to say that truck crashes is not restricted to only Ojuelegba and Otedola bridge. On July 25th, 2019, a containerized truck fell at Iponri Bridge, inward Alaka bus stop. No casualty was recorded in the crash, yet it caused serious gridlock that lasted for several hours. The situation at Lagos- Badagry Express Road and the notorious Apapa -Oshodi Express Road is even a different worst story entirely, owing to the dead state of the roads.  

Immediately after the truck crash at Ojuelegba Bridge on Tuesday 19th June 2018, the Lagos State government led by the immediate past governor, Akinwunmi Ambode gave an order that no truck should go through the bridge anymore. Instead, the government gave an order that every truck should go through under the bridge. Some officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) were positioned at the Barracks bus stop and by the foot of the bridge to ensure that no articulated vehicles climb the bridge. But three days after the accident, status quo returned, as trucks return to their normal road-the bridge. Unfortunately, about a week later, another serious crash happened at Otedola Bridge. 

Many Nigerians, especially Lagosians blamed the former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the state government for his inability to be proactive in curtailing truck crashes in the state and as well put necessary measure in place to control the activities of articulated vehicles in the state.

The Ambode led administration rolled out several rules to control the movement of articulated vehicles immediately after the Otedola Bridge crash. The state government pronounced restriction on the route that articulated vehicles must ply across the state. The then State’s Commissioner for Transportation, Mr Ladi Lawanson, said “as an immediate response to the truck crashes, fuel tankers are hereby directed to ply the designated trailer route, that is, Apapa-Oworonshoki Expressway via Ogudu to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway”.

The state government also mandated all articulated trucks coming into Lagos to obtain the Ministry of Transportation’s Road Worthiness Certificate at any of the designated centres within 30 days which started counting from July 1st, 2018. The government added that barrier will be installed on bridges to prevent articulated vehicle from plying it.

The former administration added that government, in partnership with all the stakeholders, would set up joint-enforcement of the operating laws, while barriers would be installed on bridges in Lagos to prevent articulated trucks, and the bridges will include Ojuelegba, Mobolaji Bank Anthony, Ekodeso, Abule-Egba, Lekki-Ajah, among others.

One year has passed since the Otedola Bridge crash, up till May, 2019 when Ambode handed over to the incumbent governor Sanwo-Olu, none of the promises and restrictions made in July 2018 was enforced.

Lagosians are now calling on the incumbent governor to be proactive by putting drastic measures in place that will prevent crashes in the state, especially articulated vehicles.

A Lagos based business man who identified himself as Ezekiel, while speaking at a conference in Lagos recently said the new governor of Lagos State have no excuse not to be proactive and put necessary measure in place to avert articulated vehicle crashes in the state. He urge the government to put in place measures that will disallow rickety vehicles on the road, especially the ones that are not road worthy.

He said “the incident at Otedola Bridge in 2018 is still very fresh in our memory. It was after the event that the former governor and his cabinet members were running helter skelter, pronouncing unrealistic rules and regulation which I considered as medicine after death. Unfortunately till the governor left, nothing happened. It shows lack of seriousness”.

“The incumbent Governor, Mr. Sanwo-Olu must not wait for disaster to happen before he does something, he needs to be proactive and put preventive measure in place to avoidable crashes in the state. Every truck should be mandated to go for test on a regular basis”, Ezekiel said. 

Also speaking at a transporters forum in Lagos recently, a vehicle dealer who is also a Lagos resident, Uche Richard slammed the immediate past governor of Lagos State for his inability to enforce any safety measure that will control the excesses of articulated vehicles in the state. He however called on the new governor to reject any bribe from any quarter and put measure in place that will avert any disastrous crash in the state.

He said “Sanwo-Olu must not wait till another accident happens before taking action like his predecessor. All the trucks plying Lagos road must be road worthy, they should be mandated to go for roadworthiness test may be every three month to know the state of the break and every other component”.  

The Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, in his reaction to the constant crashes at Ojuelegba Bridge said Ojuelegba Bridge is bending; hence it is not suitable for fully loaded trucks.  Ogungbemi noted that Western Avenue is not created for trucks from the beginning; adding that Apapa- Oshodi Express Road was created for trucks and tankers from the beginning but because Tin Can- Mile 2 axis of the road is not passable, the heavy duty vehicles have no option than to be plying Western Avenue. The AMATO Chairman therefore urged the government to fix the Tin-Can Oshodi Express road to allow trucks to be plying the road.

“I must say that the bridge is not properly designed and if it is properly designed, it is not designed for tankers or any articulated vehicles, especially for tankers, truck carrying containers and other heavy goods. This is why I want to use this medium to appeal to the Federal and the Lagos State Government to fix the Tin-Can- Oshodi Express Road. If the road is fixed, Lagos State Government can say no more truck in Western Avenue but currently, that axis is impassible, otherwise, trucks have no business plying Ojuelegba Bridge regularly as we have it now”.

While stating that fixing the Tin-Can Mile 2 Road is the permanent solution to the constant crashes on Ojuelegba Bridge, Ogungbemi urge the Lagos State government to work with the federal government to expand the infrastructure in the state.

“One of the things that will help to reduce crashes in the state is to expand and improve the road infrastructure. If for instance, the Apapa Oshodi-Oworonshoki Express Road is good, the trucks from the port or the tank farms have no reason to going through Western Avenue unless they want to discharge their content in the axis. The earlier the governor act, the better”, Ogungbemi said.  

Also speaking on trucks’ crashes in the state, the Managing Director, Transnet Haulage Services Limited, Alhaji Ahmed Barma charged the Lagos State government to stop a fire brigade and reactive approach to the problems. Instead, he charges the state government to be proactive in curtailing imminent disasters.

He said “the government has a lot to do just like transporters have a lot to do. Truck owners must ensure that their trucks are road worthy, the government on the other hand must ensure that the needful is done in terms of enforcement and putting the road in good condition”.

Also speaking on the development, the Chairman South West Zone of NARTO, Alhaji Ganiyu Salami stated that governor Sanwo-Olu has a lot to do. “As a matter of fact, people are expecting a lot from governor Sanwo-Olu. Don’t forget that Lagos is considered to be a mega city with large population, so the governor needs to do all he could to protect life and property in the state.

“Prevention is better than cure, so the government needs to put certain measures in place to prevent trucks crashes in the state. For instance, during Ambode’s administration, all the trucks at Western Avenue maintained one lane while other vehicles are allowed to use the other lanes to get to their destination. Governor Sanwo-Olu should try and sustain that”, Salami said.

Speaking further, the NARTO Zonal Chairman said “then the law enforcement agencies should have specific roles they play; but more importantly, the VIO should be restricted and mandated to check the road worthiness of not just trucks but every vehicle. This is very important because if they don’t do their job thoroughly, there will be more crashes in the state. Governor Sanwo-Olu needs to be proactive now to avert more crashes.

“The government needs to partner with motorists to educate drivers. The governor of Lagos should not see truckers as the enemy of the state but partners in progress that are contributing immensely to the growth of the nation’s economy”.  

Recalled that the State government under the administration of the immediate past governor, Ambode withdrawn VIO from the roads and applied technology, where cameras were mounted in strategic locations of various roads across the state. In an exclusive interview with Haulage & Logistics Magazine, the immediate past Director of VIO is Lagos, Engineer Hafiz A. G Toriola said “I must let you know that Lagos State has invested heavily on technology in line with the global standard. I can tell you categorically that whatever you see in Lagos is what you will see in developed countries. The state is trying to match up with the developed countries in what they are doing.

The deployed technology is known as Automatic Number Plate Recognition. According to Toriola, the camera will capture the number plate of vehicle, process it and present report if the vehicle’s paper is complete or not and according to Toriola, the paper includes road worthiness certificate among others.

He said “the camera captures vehicles and the particulars of those vehicles captured will be checked. Once the machine captured vehicles, it will check the database of those vehicles. From there it will show whether the vehicle has particulars in line with the law or not. The machine will tell the date and time the vehicle is captured. It will now cross check many element including road worthiness, insurance among others.

“If the vehicle doesn’t have road worthiness certificate, it will report it that the vehicle is being drive without road worthiness certificate. If it is insurance it will report, so also on every offence, depending on what the machine detect from its check. Some vehicles have multiple offences. After the whole thing, the report of the offence will be delivered to the offenders address with fine. It applies to every vehicle cars, trucks or buses. We have gone far on it.

Ambode’s adminiistartion also set up computerised vehicle testing centres in different locations across the state, where every vehicle owners are expected to carry out road worhtiness test on their vehicles. Although the deployment of technology and creation of vehicle test received commendation, the question however remains wether articulated vehicle owners are actually taking their vehicles to the centre for test. An aswer to this remains the fact that large number of articulated vehicles that are plying the roads are in rickety states, and many with obvious evidence that they never go for test.

As a matter of fact, most of the articulated vehicles crahses can be avoided if the vehicles go for roadwothiness test. This is because the computerised test according to Toriola will detect and display all the defects in the tested vehicles and once the defects is displayed, the officer will mandate the owners to fix the defect before certificate will be issued. Governor Sanwo-Olu therefore have big task before him. Like many lagosians are urging him, he needs to put measures in place to ensure that every articulated vehicle plying Lagos roads pass roadworhiness test on a regular basis with certifcate. The governor should also ensure that the VIO officers never compromise as the case usually be, where vehicle onwers will give officers stipends and collect roadworthiness certificate even when the vehiclehas not pass through any test.  

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