One wish from Mrs. Chineze Ajoku, the mother of the 27-year-old woman killed by a container-laden trailer in Lagos recently, is for the state government to rid roads in the city of deadly trucks and reckless drivers.
Even though there is nothing Mrs. Chineze Ajoku can do to bring back her daughter, Chidinma Ajoku, who was crushed to death by a container-laden truck, she is determined to see that the authorities do not only phase out or regulate movement of trucks, trailers and tankers on Lagos roads, but that the driver of the truck which killed her daughter is fished out for prosecution.
Chidinma Ajoku, 27 and graduate of Babcock University, Ogun State, and her colleague, Chima Nnaekpe, both staff of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) were killed in Lagos on July 26, 2020. They had closed from work on the same date and were on their way home when the unexpected occurred.
A 20-feet container fell off a moving truck at Ilasamaja Bus stop, inward Mile 2, along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos; landing on a commuter bus. The two colleagues unfortunately lost their lives to the incident while others passengers managed to jump out of the bus with varying degrees of injuries. The mangled bodies of the victims were later removed after the container was lifted. Those at the scene of the accident said the container fell off the truck on the commercial bus while discharging passengers.
The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) described the accident as 'an avoidable one'. Its spokesperson, Nosa Okunbor, said six passengers were rescued and given medical attention, while two died on the spot.
"The accident occurred due to collision of a truck with registration number SGM 715 XA loaded with a 20-feet container when it rammed into a commercial bus stationed at Ilasamaja bus stop under bridge while it was discharging some of its passengers," he said, adding that "insistence on right of way by driver of the truck laden with another one, led to the unfortunate incident, where the said truck with registration number SGM 715 XA, rammed into the commercial bus."
Okunbor said the case was handed over to the Ilasa Police Division, while the rescued passengers were transported to Isolo General Hospital by officers from the division.
Investigation revealed that immediately the accident occurred, the driver of the truck disappeared. Even though the truck was towed to the police station, many believe that from experience, that is where the case would end.
But the distraught mother of Chidinma, Mrs. Ajoku, is calling on the Lagos State Government and the state police command to arrest the truck driver and get justice for the deceased. She also confirmed that the police have not been able to trace or arrest the driver.
Narrating her ordeal, she said: "That Sunday, I waited and waited the whole night up till 2 a.m. waiting for her to come back from work. I was calling her aunty where she was staying in Surulere. Both of us did not sleep till it was 6 a.m. when a colleague called and told me that she was involved in an accident and they are at Isolo General Hospital," she said.
The bereaved mother said when they got to the hospital, her daughter was not among the patients taken to Isolo but they were referred to Yaba General Hospital where her daughter and her colleague were found at the morgue. "This is getting too much. These containers keep killing people and nobody talks," she said.
Mrs. Ajoku described her daughter as someone with a promising future but life was snuffed out of her by a reckless truck driver.
"Everybody in this Lagos, whether you have a car or enter a bus or drive your own car, all of us, our lives are in danger. Because we encounter all these containers every day and they are very reckless."
She called for support from Nigerians to put an end to the loss of lives caused by truck drivers.
Like every other incident, the Lagos Police Spokesperson, Bala Elkana, said the police are investigating the accident. He made a mockery of the case when he disclosed that the trailer which was currently in their custody has no registration number on it at the time of the accident.
"The trailer that fell on the bus and killed these persons is impounded in our police station, not that the trailer is gone, only the driver that escaped. Whoever is the owner must definitely come around, but unfortunately, there is no registration number on it. But we are also trying to find out which particular company owns the trailer and get the driver arrested.
"It is not that nothing is done, it is not true. Maybe they (victim's family) are talking to another division. Police responded when it happened and took injured persons together with other emergency responders to the hospital," he said.
The question begging for answer is with the driver of the truck on the run and the address and contact provided for the registration of the vehicle fake, can the owner of the container be charge for the negligence, according to current laws?
While the dust raised by Chidinma and Chima's death was yet to settle, a yet-to-be-identified woman again last Friday lost her life when a tanker crashed around the Nigerian Army Signal Barracks in the Mile 2 area of Lagos. The tanker driver was said to be conveying 55,000 litres of petrol to a destination in the state when he rammed into a pothole around 12.30a.m and lost control of the vehicle in the process. It was learnt that the tanker fell to the ground and trapped the female victim.
The Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the driver and his assistant fled from the scene of the crash, adding that the impact of the accident killed the female victim.
For too long in Lagos, trucks, trailers and tankers have killed hundreds of peoples with no consequences to their drivers and owners. Each time an accident occurs, while the driver would disappear, the vehicle would be taken to the police station where it would be sometimes for two or more weeks only to be released to the owners after money would have exchange hands.
Not only are these vehicles in terribly bad conditions and shapes, they are hardly registered with the relevant agencies. These vehicles dot Lagos roads and are seen on a daily basis. Rather than apprehend them, FRSC, VIO, LASTMA and the police allow them run dangerously on the roads and go after cars.
Most times, not only are these trucks, trailers and tankers overloaded, they are not registered, every physical part; from the tyres to the bodies are terribly worn out or insured.
When a tanker conveying fuel exploded at the Otedola Bridge in 2018, destroying 55 vehicles comprising 32 SUVs, 18 cars, seven buses, three trucks and one tricycle, many Lagosians had thought that the end had come for reckless truck, trailer and tanker drivers and owners in the city. For those who thought the level of destruction would compel the state government to properly audit these killer-vehicles on the roads were disappointed when till date no one has been prosecuted.
Not even the stark revelations by the state government that the vehicle with registration number NSR 888 YQ and registered in Kano was not registered to carry fuel how much more 33,000 litres compelled the government to intensify prosecution to serve as a deterrent to others.
In all of these, many are wondering where is the state traffic law which prohibits or restricts the movement of trucks, trailers and tankers in the city.
"You are still asking about the law which prohibits or restricts the movement of trucks, trailers and tankers in the city? Of course, it is gathering dust on the shelf in offices of those in charge of its implementation while they are busy looking the other way," said Muyiwa Akindele, an Ilasa resident.
This is why many observers are taking the promise by the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), to ensure that the driver and owner of a truck, Chidinma and Chima died in will be prosecuted, with a pinch of salt.
Onigbanjo, who was accompanied on the visit by some top officials from the state's Ministry of Justice told the deceased's mother, Mrs. Ajoku that the state governor feels her pain and was doing everything to ensure that the family gets justice.
He said, "At the Lagos State Executive Council Meeting, we've discussed the issue and the governor was so upset. This is happening too many times and we will use this incident to ensure that going forward, the law will deal adequately with all those responsible.
"The governor is a parent and most of us in the Exco are also parents. It's a parent's worst nightmare to lose a child and we must commend the remarkable courage you have displayed. But know that we are not unconcerned, we will ensure that the people who are responsible face the full wrath of the law." he stated.
Onigbanjo also disclosed that the state has resolved to amend the law to ensure that in a case where a container is not latched and it falls off and injures anyone or damages any property, both the owner of the container responsible in addition to the owner of the truck and the truck driver are held liable.
"We will brief you on every stage of the matter from arrest to prosecution and I will personally handle the prosecution to show you how seriously we take the matter. Your daughter will not die in vain," the attorney-general said.
Like Mrs. Ajoku responded: "Let them know that there are laws in Lagos because if we don't use one person as a scapegoat, other people will feel they can do what they like. I am glad that what I want is what is being done."
The days ahead would show if Onigbanjo's visit and promises are not just one of those political visits and talks that end up with no result in the state when incidents like this occur.