I had left church at about 1230 with other people to visit a family who had christened their child earlier in the day. It was a familiar route. Suddenly we saw vehicles doing a u-turn on one side of the motorway. I made for the nearest exit point which was about 30 metres away to take another route that took us through 7-UP to Agidigbin and under the bridge to Ojodu.
We eventually made the visit, saw the blissfully beautiful baby and after the usual pleasantries made our way back through the back gate of Omole Phase 2 Estate placing us on CMD road, which is parallel to the Lagos Ibadan expressway, then I saw what can only be expressed as a carnage by a bridge along the expressway not too far from a Mobil petrol station. A damaged car was precariously delivered on the bulwark, next to it was a burnt out trailer, several other rumpled and burnt vehicles. I also saw police officers in riot gear, three fire trucks and a sea of onlookers who had climbed the bridge. It was difficult to see everything that had happened because there were so many onlookers. Traffic was heavy and completely stalled.
By late evening when I was finally able to catch the news on television, 20 people had died including all the passengers in a bus, many of whom were roasted alive. The paper the next morning made the number of the dead to be 40.
The accident was allegedly caused by the driver of the trailer who lost control and rammed into other vehicles. Why were so many vehicles involved, apparently police had mounted a road-block to extort money from drivers of commercial vehicles and harass other drivers, as was customary of them, only that this was a sloping section of the road. Survivors of the accident and eye witnesses all agreed on this point. It was the checkpoint that made the vehicles to slow down in turn causing the accident.
There are many issues raised by this unfortunate accident:
1. Why police checkpoints on motorways?
2. The location of this particular checkpoint throws up the issue of our inability to think. If you are going to have a checkpoint why have it at a stretch where the road descends into a slope knowing fully well that we also do not have thinking drivers.
3. Why is it that no one is able to stop the police practice of extorting money from drivers, commercial or otherwise?
4. The Lagos State police chief came on television the day after the incident, and in impeccable English denied the claim that there was a police checkpoint at that stretch of the road and therefore the accident could not have been caused by the police. His argument was that if the accident was caused by a police checkpoint, some police officers would have died in the inferno. In other words, because no police officers died in the inferno, there was no police checkpoint and therefore it couldn’t have been caused by the police. QED
5. Why was it difficult for the police or FRSC to direct traffic through other routes rather than allow traffic to mount up for hours on the only route that leads out of Lagos to the rest of Nigeria? Again, our inability to think ruined several peoples’ day. No doubt, that traffic did not move for hours.
6. The saddest part is that 24 hours after, no newspaper is calling for the Inspector General of Police, to be sacked, or the FRSC chief, tasked with preserving safety on our roads to go. The President has not yet spoken about the loss of up to 40 of its citizen in an inferno that happened in the nation’s commercial capital. Imagine 40 Americans roasted in a road accident in Washington DC and no word or visit from Barack Obama!
7. Barely 24 hours after the incident, Ibrahim Babangida and Abubakar Atiku declared their intentions to run for President in 2011. Not a word from either of them about the incident, and they believe they are qualified to preside over this country!
I just read the Presidents’ comment about the accident on his Facebook page. This was in reaction to postings by Nigerians on his page. Apparently he was in Gabon with Ali Bongo for two days to celebrate the country’s 50th independence anniversary.
What a President! What a nation we have!
Why do I feel Nigeria leaders be charged with neglicide – the violent and systematic destruction of hundreds of thousands of people through road accidents, lack of medical care, inadequate security and poor sanitation as a result of the deliberate and callous neglect of government.
By Gbenga Badejo