Nigeria: Our roads are getting deadlier!

I remember returning from a wedding in Ibadan 2 weekends ago, there was a broken down truck (lorry) in the middle of the road and another smaller car which seemed to have driven straight into the truck. You could see blood on the air bag and the front and side of the small vehicle was terribly crushed – my conclusion was that the car was travelling at night and of course didn’t see the broken down truck, so kept driving until…. That day I noticed tens of oil tankers travelling and I asked my brother who was driving why there were so many tankers on the road. I kept lamenting about how it all appeared unsafe. His reply? Our refineries are not working so fuel has to be transported to various parts of Nigeria. Really? Never really thought of the safety effect of our failed refineries until that day.

I also remember some time last year – I was returning from church, my sister was driving. We got on the bridge near Alaka in Surulere. Within seconds we found ourselves so close to the edge of the bridge, inches away from a truck threatening to crush us. I just kept screaming my sister’s name like she was gonna save me. I guess it was a natural reaction since she was the one driving. Ever since that day, I try as much as possible to avoid the bridge and take the road below. Yesterday, 2nd September 2015, I realised that it doesn’t matter whether I am on the bridge or not, as anything can happen even in my bedroom if decide to stay in there and never come out. I have come to accept that we are not safe in Nigeria. We possibly won’t be for years to come.

Yesterday 2nd September, a container and its flat belt fell off that same bridge I took months ago and crushed and flattened an SUV – I am not sure how many occupants were in the car but it is certain that no one made it out of the SUV alive (I don’t do graphic images but images from this accident are all over the internet). Nigerians like gossip, rumour and bad news it seems. Many have said the occupants of the SUV were a couple and their kids, some said a couple but how on earth do they know that when the jeep was flattend and efforts were still being made to lift the container?! The same road I take when returning from church is where this terrible accident happened. I am too weak to even say thank God it wasn’t me. As my mother will say, if it isn’t you, then who should it be?! Am I selfish to feel some kind of relief that it wasn’t me and I made it home alive yesterday? Am I selfish to wish I never saw the photos since it has caused me sleepless night (actually awake and started writing this post some minutes past 4am)? I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. All I have been thinking about is the many accidents my loved ones and I have managed to escape.

Some months back, my sister came home with her car booth crushed in. What happened? A truck (lorry) behind her had ran into the back of her car due to failed brakes. This accident happened on this same deadly Ojuelegba bridge. She came back with severe neck pain and had to go for a scan. Nothing was wrong but she had to deal with the pain for days. She also had to use her own money to repair the car. The truck driver just begged and begged until he could beg no more. At the end of the day, her health and finances were affected and he and his company walked free. Since that day, I learnt to drive away from trucks. Once I sight one through my rear view mirror, I switch lanes as soon as I can. I don’t want any stories.

Now just last week, my little cousin was being driven somewhere by his dad’s driver and all of a sudden, the driver looked at his side mirror and noticed a truck coming at full speed. He realised the truck was in trouble – possibly failed brakes. He quickly changed lanes and all of a sudden the truck ran into another car and caused several cars to be involved in a messy accident. My little cousin and the driver were so shocked but were full of thanks to God. I too was full of thanks to God when I heard about it.

The list is endless but for how long do we continue to live like this as nation? It is worrying! It is sad. I hear trucks are banned from using any overhead bridge but I find many of them on our bridges and roads and no one is doing anything about it. The government appears to be staying silent over this matter. So there is a law and no one bothers to obey? This reminds me of an argument I had recently concerning the Health and Safety Bill all Safety professionals are waiting for in Nigeria. Somehow, they believe it will change things, miracles will begin to happen at our workplaces and our employers will have no choice but to comply. Really?! Somehow, I believe it won’t make any difference until corruption is wiped out. Corruption is the order of the day in Nigeria especially among our Police and many others I fear to mention 😉 . Having the bill is good but I hope people don’t get carried away with having it. For the sake of this country I will try to be positive that the Bill will make a difference because seeing the way things are going we need a way out! Fast!

Have you noticed that most trucks carrying containers fail to latch them onto the flat belt? I see this all the time and I give them plenty of space. But what do you do when you are on ground level and the truck on the bridge above loses control and stability? How careful can one really be? To many it is luck. To many it is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wrong place at the wrong time? I don’t believe in that. What’s so wrong about the place and time? When did a route one takes everyday at a certain time become the wrong place? Why should it be wrong?! The truck is the one in the wrong place not the SUV or any other person caught up in this. The SUV and its occupants possibly take this route everyday and at that same time so what’s all this talk about being in the wrong place at wrong time?

All I can say is may any dead occupants of the SUV and those whose lives were cut short by this Rest In Peace. As for their families, friends and loved ones, what can I possibly say? I am hurt. I am upset but I know it doesn’t come close to how you are feeling but I do hope and pray that some day you will laugh again never to know such pain and grief ever again. Bisous.