If anyone has entertained doubts, up till now, about insecurity on the nation’s expressways, the recent brutal crushing of no fewer them 14 passengers to death at Kabba, along the Okene – Abuja expressway should bring out that fact in bold relief.
The passengers, with their different life stories, concerns and aspirations, were first victims of vicious armed robbers who made them lie flat on the expressway as they were robbed. An unsuspecting, on-coming articulated vehicle thereafter ran over them, killing 14 and injuring many more. Initial reports had earlier put the number of the dead at 50.
The different stories of the passengers that have been splashed across many national newspapers are touching. There is the story of the man who lost a wife and child who travelled to Owerri to see aged parents she had not seen for five years, and never returned to her husband and other children in Abuja. There is that of the pensioner called Pa Ezirim on the way to Abuja for a pensioners’ verification exercise, accompanied his son who just got married last year. The son died in the incident.
This is the third time that passengers are being crushed to death after being made to lie down on an expressway by armed robbers. The first incident reportedly occured in July 2009. In February, last year, many luxury bus passengers were again crushed by oncoming vehicles on Ore-Benin highway when they were forced to lie down by robbers who used them as human shields to stop other on-coming vehicles. These gory incidents have once again brought to the fore the dangers of travelling on our expressways for many years now, especially at night. Yet, night travelling is preferred by many Nigerians.
The dilapidation of many of the nation’s expressways has been a major cause of road accidents claiming lives of travellers. From the Apapa-Oshodi expressway to Ibadan- Lagos expressway, Shagamu-Ore-Benin, Owerri-Onitsha and the Kogi-Abuja route, poor state of roads has been contributing to road accidents, causing loss of lives and property.
Armed robbers who seize the opportunity of failed sections of these roads to attack innocent citizens have been having a field day, making travelling a nightmare. In spite of all efforts, potholes on expressways have become a veritable menace to road travel.
This situation is worsened by the soaring cost of air travel occasioned by the rise in price of aviation fuel. For some weeks now, the cost of a one-hour flight by air has skyrocketed from about N14, 000 last year to between N28,000 and N32,000 today, further taking air travel out of the reach of the average Nigerian.
Transportation by rail and water are not developed to support massive movement of the people. The net effect is that with only a limited number of Nigerians financially buoyant enough to afford air travel, the majority of the people have to travel by road whether they like it or not.
The challenge before the government, therefore, is to make road travel safe. The way to do this is to first make the roads motorable. Even if whole length of dilapidated expressways cannot be reconstructed, failed portions should be repaired immediately.
It is disgraceful that huge potholes remain unfilled for so long. In the case of the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, it took a major outcry to move the government to begin repair of the failed section around Rainbow Bus Stop.
Before the repairs began, vehicles, including articulated vehicles, had been falling into the deep hole in the centre of the road virtually every single day, for about ten days.
Again, growing insecurity makes our roads even more dangerous. Armed robbers often operate without hindrance on bad portions of expressways as happened in the latest incident.
There is also no provision for security on most of the expressways. There is neither lighting nor security patrols at night. As a matter of fact, many of the most vicious attacks on travellers happen in the night, when Nigerian policemen can hardly be found on patrols, even within cities and towns. Provision of good roads is one of the responsibilities of the government. To secure the people against human and physical “demons” on our roads, they need to be made motorable and secure.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), sometime ago, identified failed portions of expressways nationwide. The Federal Ministry of Works should fish out the document on this and effect repairs on them.
Safe and efficient transportation is critical to economic development. Easy movement of people and goods will boost business and social relations. The government has a responsibility to meet this basic social need in the interest of the people.
I sympathise with the families that lost loved ones in this incident. Improving the condition and security of our expressways is a must if Nigerians are to be saved from recurrence of such sad incidents in future. Let everything possible be done to keep “demons” off our expressways.
What the president is doing right now reminds me of that greedy proverbial hunter that killed an elephant but was scrambling to pick a snail on his way home. I was shell-shocked when I heard about that proposal. Roughly four months after the president got a mandate to serve the country for the next four years, it’s too early to start bothering anyone with six-year single term proposal. I think Mr. President should apologise to Nigerians and quickly send those advisers that sent him to go town with the proposal packing.
Ifeanyi O. Ifeanyichukwu
You should know that since the PDP came to power in 1999, it has had no agenda for the country, so, even if another person comes in 2015, he will not know what to do.
Please tell the president to focus on governance, not tenure elongation. He should not use diversionary tactics for his non-performance. Concerning Rotimi Amaechi, he was saying he can’t pay minimum wage, but he can buy private jet of about 8.7 billion for himself. So, you can see how selfish our so-called leaders are.
Tayo Tola Agbaje
Garki, Abuja 08056373583
The issue of six-years single tenure is a distraction. It is not necessary. Nigerians are yearning for good governance.
Gordon Nnorom, Abia State
Your piece on ghost workers and the national minimum wage refers. Your write ups which plead the cause of the common man are appreciated, not only by the people, but also their creator. Bravo, for one reaps what he/she sows.