The recent road accident involving the deaths and injury of school children along the Lagos Ajah-Epe Expressway is a failure of government, especially at the local and state level.
The driver of the Corner Stone school bus was said to have been speeding while trying to negotiate a bend, thereby running into vehicles coming at breakneck speed from the opposing lane.
Parents have lost their heirs; one woman lost the two children she had after waiting for years to conceive. Wait or no wait, they were her babies.
The Ajah-Epe Expressway is no stranger to accidents. Just two days after the school bus incident, a mangled saloon car was seen at the side of the road, along with a bus and another saloon in different states of ruin. The fate of its occupants are unknown. God help them if they were rushed to the chronically inept health facilities that line the corridor.
The government of Lagos State has failed the users of this expressway in many ways.
Actually the use of the word express is an oxymoron. Expresses exist out of town, where they link metropolis to metropolis, and are usually not located in heavily-populated areas.
The Epe Expressway was once an express. It no longer is. Many people now live on either side of the road. From the Ajah but stop to Epe, houses, businesses and churches line the aisle, with citizens, including small children, walking unguarded along the road.
When you then consider the speed at which drivers (who are still of the illusion that they are driving on an expressway) use, it is not hard to imagine why there are so many accidents.
The government and its relevant parastatals have not carried out any public awareness campaigns concerning the speed limits that should be obeyed on this road. Mobile accident units like those available on the Third Mainland Bridge are visibly absent. The road is being treated as a no man's land, when it is actually home to thousands of Lagos' nouveau riche.
Another major contributor to the incessant accidents is the large number of trailers and tankers that ply this route. They carry the materials for use in constructing the many buildings sprouting up in areas along the corridor. From Sangotedo to Awoyaya to Lakwe, the trailers and tankers zoom past, despite being heavily laden with materials. One tanker driver once confessed that after working back and forth, day and night, he gets so exhausted that he places a large rock on the accelerator, so that his leg can get some rest.
What time will this man have to awaken from his stupor to kick that rock out of the way when he is seconds away from a head-on collision with a bus filled with school children?
By now, the Fashola-led government of Lagos State should have threatened these trailer and tanker drivers with a ban from plying this route if they fail to comply with simple common sense safety measures when driving on this ‘express'.
The driver must be of a certain age, chosen as an indicator of maturity, must not drink alcohol, must be of even temper and must be able to drive!
On my way back from work the other night, our cab driver suddenly let out a loud yelp. A form had just whizzed past the front of the cab, which had been moving ‘expressly'.
We missed the man by a hair's breadth. He was wearing black and looked no different from the area around him. There are no street lights. Of course, this is not a Lekki-Epe problem alone, but it is a problem and it is costing lives. One may argue that the street lights can not be put up now, because the Hi-Tech construction workers are advancing the work towards the area and may eventually pull out any light poles when road expansion begins.
But, something must still be done before a large number of citizens for whom the road is being made die from invisibility related accidents.
Floodlights, reflectors and speed breakers and are some of many short-term interventions that may be used by the government to ensure that drivers can notice things and persons on the road. Encouraging people to wear brightly-coloured clothes when walking on the road shoulders at night is a public safety strategy which the locals must be made aware.
The construction of the road also needs to be hastened because of the importance of the proposed extra lanes where the vehicles turning into the other lanes can signal and wait without causing accidents and traffic.
It is interesting to note that when all the noise was on about the presidential elections, I held it close to my chest that the local and state government elections of the executive and the legislature were more important because they affect the daily lives of the citizenry much more than the government at the centre. And the argument that the road is a federal Road, and should not be part of the state's burden does not hold any water. Our lives are lives. Not federal or state lives.
Hi guys, this opinion of mine was published in the Next Newspapers print and online edition in May 15 2011. It didn't get much coverage because I only knew it had been published a week after. But I would like you to read this and tell me a few things. I have written and published no less than 7 opinion pieces since I began serious writing in 2010. I have always favoured the humorous, conversational style. I would like you to read this and offer your opinion not only on the content but also on the style and if you found it engaging. Gotta know if I should be publishing any more opinions.