City Voice Newspaper

Rotimi Bello: The gory Lokoja explosion is one tanker accident too many

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By Rotimi Bello

The recent tanker accident that claimed people’s lives in Lokoja and many others elsewhere are all avoidable if our leaders are very serious about the job we employed them to do for us. Nigeria is not the only place in the world where petroleum haulage is been done. It is done all over the globe with precautionary measures against the risks of accidents.

I am upset that hundreds of people died in perilous circumstances – stemming from our collective dereliction, but this ought not to be. Tanker accidents are becoming rampant and common occurrences on our highways. In many instances, it claims the lives of innocent people who had nothing to do with the petroleum haulage business.

Anybody could fall victim to this incident, as thousands of people have lost their lives to the cold hand of the dead. Some victims are burnt beyond recognition while those who sustain tacit or grave injuries live to nurture the pain uncompensated and uncared for by the government, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), and the insurance body. Many motorists too lost their cars without due compensation, and some people lost their houses and businesses without restitution. The only people that get compensation at the end of the accident are always the truck owners and fuel owners by their insurance company.

An umpteenth time when this accident happens, the police and firefighter will be drawn to rescue this situation, while the families of the dead buried their dead, the government concerned often makes pronouncement with a promise to find a lasting solution to the issue-the promise they hardly remember to fulfill. In most cases, when the noise generated by the incident fizzle out, we return to the status quo and life continues as if nothing ever happened to us. Nobody will ever open discussion on the issue, even the people saddled with the responsibilities of managing the vehicular movement on the highway, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Vehicle Insurance Officer (VIO), or any authorized bodies at all. What a Country!

In the last twenty years, tanker accidents have claimed hundreds if not thousands of lives across the country. It was widely reported that on the 5th November 2000; a terrible tanker explosion happened in Ibadan along Ife road which claimed more than 200 lives with many more left injured. Another one happened at Ibadan, Ojoo intersection a few years ago when the tanker lost control and rammed into the nearby shops and buildings, the ensuing explosion and inferno killed many people including one of my relatives (Mama Silifa).

The adjoining houses in that junction were all burnt into ashes. On June 21, 2019, 4 people were killed in an explosion that involved a tanker in Lagos. A terrible tanker accident happened at the Julius Berger area of Lagos that involved many vehicles and lots of innocent victims. On July 11th, 2019, more than 50 people died and 101 injured at Ahumbe village in Benue State as a result of another tanker accident. On July 22, 2020, an incident that involved tankers with a full load Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) killed more than 10 people and burnt a lot of cars in Delta State. Now the Lokoja tanker explosion of 23rd September killed unknown numbers of people most especially children who were burnt inside their school bus beyond recognition. A family was wipe out living only one survivor.

These are but just a few recollected tanker accidents cases out of the multitude that happens across the country almost on daily basis. How long are we going to continue with these avoidable incidents claiming to be our destiny by all and sundry in this part of the world? Our fuel chain supply and tanker fleet management need to be holistically reviewed.

By this I mean our oil and fuel supply chain security should be upgraded to minimize accident ratio on our rugged road. The safety compliance report assessment should be objectively conducted and enforced. Another issue is the hours of service that tankers can move and distance they can cover with the highly inflammable product they convey.

Governments at all levels need to take a sociological analysis of incessant tankers accidents that claim people’s lives across the board. The Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) has not been taking seriously by the vehicle and petroleum regulator. Some of the fuel tankers body have corroded beyond basic requirement, thus any slight bang on the tanker is always accompanied by a sudden outburst of magnificent proportion. In most cases, brake failure often contributes to these terrible accidents that are becoming synonymous with our clime. If not a tanker accident, it could be a pipeline explosion or gas station explosion.

What is the work of all these regulatory agencies? I presume somebody somewhere is not doing what he/she is being paid to do or what he is elected, appointed, or hired to do.
Another issue of great importance that the government needs to take note of is driver behaviour. Most of these truck drivers are addicted to drinking excessive alcohol believing that without intoxicant they cannot handle the steering. Thus, I suggest that behavioural scientists should be commissioned to study the drivers’ behaviour to proffer lasting solutions to this hydra-headed social problem.

As a country, we need a comprehensive policy formation and implementation of tanker haulage across the country. A policy that will reduce tanker road accidents; improve timely delivery auspiciously, and improve driving habits of tankers driver to avoid unwarranted accidents that often claim innocent people’s lives.
Rotimi S. Bello wrote this piece from Abuja and could be reached via rotimibello_69@yahoo.com

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