The non-existence of alternative means of transportation of goods within the country is fast turning Nigeria into a thriving market for heavy duty trucks. Movement of locally manufactured products from the industrial cities to the hinterland, imported goods from the ports to the cities, agricultural products from the farms to the densely populated urban areas and circulation of petroleum products throughout the nation is mainly via the roads.
The natural consequence of this is that the road network is burdened with a heavy traffic of these heavy duty trucks, bearing down menacingly all across the highways. With no regard for traffic laws and no sense of caution, the dare devil drivers scare other road users off the road with relish. Their sheer weight ensures the inadequate road infrastructure is in a constant state of disrepair and the prevalent poor maintenance culture means there are constant breakdowns, further endangering the lives of other road users.
To embark on a journey on our highways is like an ill-advised foray into the tropical rain forest…. the heavy duty trucks, the aggressive wildlife whose territory you have wittingly invaded. You would do well to be alert and defensive as your safety and life would depend on little margins. It is a common sight to find evidently overloaded trucks, defiantly trudging on at a snail’s pace on the speed lane and daring other motorists to overtake them at their peril. The sight of trucks sprawled across the roads, no longer elicits shock but simply means all road users are confined to a single lane for that stretch and life goes on.
The recent tragic occurrence at Onitsha, where a truck laden with petrol lost control and rammed into a bus park, scorching about 69 people in the resulting inferno, is the height of it. The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) urgently needs to step up and check the menace presented by these heavy duty trucks. With doubtful road worthiness, most of them have become deathtraps, referred to in local parlance as “agba-ekpere chi” literarily translated as “riding and praying to God”. Do we have to gamble with lives, looking out for divine intervention, when steps can be taken to raise the safety standards on our roads?
This brings to mind a story I heard about a Pastor’s wise counsel to a committee tasked with organizing a program in his Church; “it would be foolhardy for you to be praying for a steady power supply for the program, when you can just stretch your faith and buy a generating set that can guarantee that.”
In essence, these are times for pragmatic action, not time to be seeking for God’s guidance. He has already given us wisdom to make the right decisions and avert all the waste. The relevant authorities must act now to bring sanity to our roads.
Today, I lend my voice to the call to stop these avoidable deaths by heavy duty trucks on Nigerian roads.
Here are some of the worrying images I captured with my phone on a recent trip along the Ore-Benin-Asaba Highway.