Last night, June 19, 2018, a menacing truck laden with timber, ascended the Ojuelegba bridge in mainland Lagos, swerved this way and that, lost its balance and titled.
Underneath were thousands of persons making the usual hurried commute from offices, markets and shops. Underneath were queues of honking cars and motorbikes in agonising traffic.
In a flash, the articulated truck emptied its contents onto the chaos below; as everyone yelled and screamed. Some got lucky and ran as fast as their legs could carry them. Others weren’t so lucky.
General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Adesina Tiamiyu, said three persons lost their lives from the mishap and two others were left critically injured.
It could have been worse.
“We got a call at about 8:25pm from the call system that a truck fell off the bridge in Ojuelegba, but when we got there, we discovered that a truck actually did not fall off the bridge. What fell off were the contents at the back of the truck which are mainly plywood.
“The truck was obviously overloaded and when it got to the bridge, it tilted and half the content fell off the bridge and landed on top of four other vehicles—three yellow danfo (commercial) buses and a Toyota Corolla car”, Tiamiyu told the press.
Yet Tuesday night’s accident wasn’t the first of its kind in Ojuelegba or in Lagos. In 2015, a tanker laden with petrol was ascending the same Ojuelegba bridge when it lost its balance and emptied all of its inflammable contents on the tarmac below. Four houses and five cars were burnt immediately, with scores left injured.
As I write, there’s a long line of articulated trucks permanently stationed on the Ojuelegba bridge all the way to Costain, Surulere and the Eko bridge—waiting to kill. These trucks awaiting their turns to lift containers from the ports, have been there for two years now because the government can’t provide an alternative parking lot pending when the Apapa road is re-opened. Every day, the bridges in Lagos are sagging and giving way because the government just doesn't understand that bridges aren't designed for static load. Lagos is always a disaster waiting to happen.
These articulated trucks are driven by rudderless drivers who believe it is their right to make life hellish for other motorists. They obstruct free flow of traffic, cuss and brawl; their breaths reeking of cheap alcohol. Every day in Lagos, there is an articulated truck making the rounds with an unlatched container and a badly behaved driver who looks like he’s been unleashed from the gates of hell to wreak havoc on the rest of mankind.
A year ago, an unstrapped articulated truck offloaded its container on a commercial bus in which a friend and other commuters were riding. Two persons lost their lives in the incident. My friend was only lucky to emerge alive. He was shaken and bruised. He’s psychologically shaken and bruised to this day. Lagos leaves hundreds of people psychologically scarred from incidents like this, daily.
There are several instances of articulated trucks ending lives in Lagos, one unstrapped container at a time, because we live in a lawless society where regulatory agencies of government would prefer to solicit bribes from drivers than ask them to strap their containers. Hundreds have lost their lives in hectic Lagos because government runs a city without a plan; because government has made no parking provisions for trailers and tankers.
Ojuelegba truck accident was avoidable. And yet the next Ojuelegba is only but days and meters away. It’s a vicious cycle in a city where trucks have been handed the license to kill.