LAGOS, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA) – Nigeria has grappled with an alarming surge in tanker accidents in 2023 so far, raising serious concerns about public safety, environmental damage, and economic consequences.
From January to October 2023, there has been a notable increase in tanker accidents, primarily concentrated in the western regions of Nigeria, with the majority of cases recorded in Lagos State.
Just last week, Lagos State witnessed at least three tanker accidents, while another fuel tanker ignited on 18 October in the Olowotedo section of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Fewer incidents have been reported in Plateau, Edo, Kogi, and Niger States during this period.
These accidents across Nigeria, have resulted in injuries, death to dozens of persons. On 19 October, a car-tanker collision claimed the life of one person, attributed to overspeeding and inadequate cautionary signage.
24 March, 2023 marked a grim day with four fatalities in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State.
Additionally, no fewer than five individuals lost their lives on the Sapele-Benin road, a teenage hawker was tragically crushed to death in the Berger Area of Lagos, and another teenage girl suffered a similar fate in Minna, Niger State.
Safety experts, including Professor Yemi Oke, have empathized in an interview, that these accidents and explosions are indicative of a poorly managed energy sector.
“The explosions are elements of the badly managed energy sector. Tanker explosions would continue to happen because instead of channeling a proper structure to make effective distribution of petroleum products, they are put on the road.
“Most of the tankers are badly maintained. Some of them have not gone through overhaul maintenance or service and these tankers keep plying long distances.
“Most roads in Nigeria are bad and if their highly inflammable contents, it will spill and have a fire explosion. Bad enough, we do not have a remarkable insurance coverage system in Nigeria, and innocent Nigerians, homes, and offices are badly affected,” Prof Oke, lamented.
Commenting on this trend, spokesperson for the State Fire Service, Amodu Shakiru, in an interview with Punch Metro on 18 October, expressed bewilderment at vehicle owners’ failure to ensure the tankers’ roadworthiness and hire competent drivers, despite transporting products worth millions of naira.
“The vehicle you want to place on the road must be fit for purpose. These tankers and trailers are traveling far and wide from their bases and terminals in Lagos. They travel far and wide up to the North. We’ve been engaging their various unions, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, and especially the Petroleum Tanker Drivers Association; we have always been engaging them,” Shakiru noted.
Offering his perspective and recommendation on the recent events in an interview with Voiceofnaija.ng, Mr Clomon Oludiasi, a Lagos State Traffic Management (LASTMA) officer in the Iyana Iba area, attributed the recurring tanker falls to poor road conditions and driver negligence.
“Firstly, these accidents occur due to substandard road conditions. After road improvements were made in Iyana Iba, accidents in this area significantly decreased.
“Additionally, many of these tanker drivers are exhausted and prone to falling asleep while driving. After their shifts, some resort to alcohol consumption before resuming their duties.
“Most drivers are also unfamiliar with safety precautions to prevent such accidents, emphasizing the need for orientation. Truck owners should consider implementing shift schedules to prevent driver overwork, thereby requiring additional personnel for driving duties,” Oludiasi suggested.
Recent statements by the Minister of Works, David Umahi, highlights financial constraints as the cause of the Federal Government’s inability to fund ongoing federal road projects.
In a statement during his visit to Oyo State, Umahi made a crucial admission that the Federal Government of Nigeria cannot refund money spent on Federal Roads by State Governments at this time due to economic constraints.
“The economy right now will not permit any commitment by the Federal Government.
”However, records of such road projects done by the states would be kept and could be revisited when the economy improves,” he said.
These financial constraints faced by the Federal Government, has resulted in numerous abandoned road projects across Nigeria, further deteriorating road conditions that contribute to accidents, including tanker incidents.
This inability of the Federal Government to allocate sufficient funds for federal road projects raises critical questions about the prioritization of road infrastructure. Neglecting these vital aspects of public infrastructure imperils the safety of Nigerian citizens.
The escalating number of tanker accidents in Nigeria is a pressing concern that warrants immediate attention. It is essential for the Federal Government, transportation companies, and relevant stakeholders to collaborate on effective measures.
Lagos State Fire Service and the Federal Road Safety Corps have however, initiated dialogues with stakeholders in the petroleum industry to address the growing trend of tanker accidents and spillage on the roads.