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Lagos moves against truck drivers as tanker explosion kills three

Stranded commuters at Berger bus stop yesterday

A Twitter user @8ightayewa yesterday compressed the frustrations of thousands of stranded Lagosians into a single tweet at 7:20 a.m.: “I entered night bus last night going to Abuja, departed around 10:00 p.m. from Maza maza, right now, I am still in Lagos! Lagos-Ibadan expressway is blocked. Sobs!”

That was the pain of many who were stranded yesterday in the massive traffic lockdown on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway corridor, which extended to Berger, Ikeja, and Gbadaga after a petrol tanker explosion that occurred on the night of Tuesday, along the Long bridge at about 7:30 p.m. the accident scene was not cleared until yesterday morning. The tanker explosion coupled with another accident at Magboro road diversion further worsened the congestion.

Since the early hours of yesterday, commuters had to face the logjam, disrupting socio-economic activities along the axis. The gridlock affected the resumption time of workers in both public and private sectors, while those who had early morning air flights to catch from Lagos missed their boarding times. Many pupils who couldn’t stand the congestion returned home as most television and radio morning talkshows missed some of their anchors and guests.

Meanwhile, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Ogun State command yesterday confirmed that Tuesday’s tanker explosion claimed three lives. The Sector Commander, Ogun State, Clement Oladele, told newsmen the victims were male adults: the truck driver, his motor boy and another passenger of the ill-fated truck.

He attributed the cause to what he described as a mechanical deficiency of the vehicle, suspected to have been caused by an electrical fault. Oladele said the while-coloured truck was driving outward Lagos when the incident occurred on the Long Bridge.

The situation impaired traffic and caused gridlock around the long bridge, which affected motorists especially those driving out of Lagos after closing from the day’s job.

Due to the time of the crash, which coincided with when workers were returning home, the axis was temporarily closed to prevent secondary fire affecting other motorists. Many were said to have arrived at their various destinations at about 2am due to diversion of traffic in the axis.

As early as 8:00 a.m. till about midday yesterday, commuters were seen struggling to board any available vehicles to their destination while those who couldn’t engage in the physical combat, remained stranded for hours or resorted to trekking long distances.
 
The few available commercial buses that maneuvered their ways to the Berger, Secretariat and Estate bus stop, took advantage of the situation by charging exorbitant fares, thereby leaving passengers with no option but to pay more than double the usual fares to different locations along the highway. 

Despite the high charges, many who managed to pay were still held down in traffic and the prevailing heat in the environment. A journey from Ojodu Berger to Mile 2 was hiked to N1,500, from N400.00. Transport fare from Berger to Oshodi/Toyota Bustop along Oshodi –Apapa Expressway increased from N200 to N1,000. A trip from the same bus stop to Alausa secretariat, Abiola Garden and Ketu was increased from N100 and N50 to N500, while Iyana Oworonshoki, Charlie Boy bus stop, and Gbagada were charged at the rate of N500 and N700 respectively away from the normal price of N200.

Some of the commuters who spoke to The Guardian urged the Federal and Lagos State governments to find a lasting solution to the menace of burning tankers on the road, which they noted has become almost an everyday occurrence on the highway.

A civil servant, Mrs. Titilayo, who was en-route to Alausa Secretariat, narrated her ordeal, saying she had waited at the Berger bus stop for more than an hour expecting vehicle with no show. “I got to the bus stop at 7:00 a.m., the only two buses that passed by initially said N400. I thought that was too much and waited awhile but unfortunately for me the ones that came later hiked theirs to N500. Because I was getting late, I just had to follow that one, but it wasn’t convenient for me.”

Another commuter, a mechanic, Kazeem Balogun, lamented: “I was forced to pay N1,000 to Oshodi from Berger instead of N200 or at most N300. Lagos has become too difficult to live in; you can’t easily get to your location with little cash or plan your movement as drivers always take advantage of any little situation or accident on the road to exploit residents.”

Speaking with one of road transport operators, identified as Waheed, he said the price hike was a means to make up for the lost hours in traffic. “I will advise our government to ensure that those tankers don’t disrupt movement on the expressway. They need to always act fast in an emergency situation because it will affect so many other things if actions are delayed.”

Meanwhile, the Lagos State government yesterday expressed its readiness to continue to engage relevant stakeholders in tackling the menace of truck and tanker accidents on the state’s highways as it urged the Vehicle Inspection Services (VIS) to step up its activities. In a statement signed by the Commissioner of Information, Gbenga Omotoso acknowledged the hardship caused by the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway by the Federal Government but frowned at the ‘crude’ attitude of some articulated vehicle drivers.

Omotoso added that the state would not tolerate the recklessness of truck drivers when transporting goods on the state’s roads. He said: “We will continue to encourage people to do business in Lagos, but we will not allow the lives of Lagosians and visitors to be put at risk. The Vehicle Inspection Services (VIS) is to step up its activities in the government’s bid to stop such accidents involving trucks and others.

“The government is also curious about the persistence of tanker accidents at the Berger end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the resultant gridlock that trails the incidents, spiralling through the entire Ikeja axis of the state traumatizing motorists and commuters.

“On Tuesday, two incidents, one involving a tanker that fell and exploded in flames on Kara Bridge on the outskirts of Lagos and the other involving a heavy-duty truck carrying farm products around Magboro, left motorists and commuters stranded on the Expressway till the early hours of Wednesday. The Government sympathises with Lagosians on the discomfort resulting from the attitude of careless and reckless drivers travelling from the outskirts into Lagos.

“We will continue to engage the Ogun State Government as well as Federal Government agencies to identify the cause of the recurring Lagos-Ibadan Expressway accidents and fashion out solutions. The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) has been mandated to continue its support for Ogun State and Federal Government traffic and emergency management agencies by providing evacuation expertise and equipment for quick removal of vehicles involved in crashes on the Expressway.”

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