Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The Government of Anambra State at some point last year placed a ban on articulated vehicles especially petrol tankers plying roads within the state during day time due to incessant calamities and catastrophic consequences such category of vehicles brought upon the state whenever such vehicles had misfortunes. The extent to which the order was implemented left much to be desired because vehicles bearing petroleum products blatantly continued to ply roads within Anambra day and night unabated.
However petrol tanker explosions have ascended a level where the government and the citizenry must seek proactive measures to remedy the situation. Only last year, petrol tanker explosion claimed the lives of a mother and her child during an inferno that razed Ochanja market. The massive fire outbreak which destroyed the said market, was caused by a petrol tanker that lost its brakes and fell into a gutter at Upper Iweka Onitsha and the contents began to spill leading to an explosion that resulted in the disaster at Ochanja market. Though the Governor of Anambra state, Chief Willie Obiano, had long compensated those affected by the hell fire, the memories remain indelible in the minds of the victims.
Thereafter another tanker explosion occurred at Omagba area of Onitsha where goods and vehicles were destroyed again. The misfortune was also attributed to brake failure. Another explosion occurred at Amawbia near the fire service substation which recorded another monumental damage in the state. There was yet another tanker explosion at Immigration junction Awka which also left sad memories, including a few others last year.
This year, there was another tanker explosion at Upper Iweka axis of Onitsha. Though, this one was not caused by brake failure but by mechanical fault which ignited the explosion. Most pathetic was the explosion that occurred at a welder’s workshop at Amawbia by-pass Awka axis that burnt the welder to death. It was said that the ill-fated welder was working on a petrol tanker with some remnants in it. It was said that the welder didn’t know the vehicle had an opening where the contents leaked and the lightening from his machines caused the explosion which sent him on early grave and left three other persons in critical conditions.
On 20th January this year, another disaster involving a petrol tanker was reported by the Federal Road Safety Commission. It was a multiple fatal accident involving a 911 truck, a Honda SUV and the petrol tanker at Abba junction Enugu-Onitsha highway. The petrol tanker whose content was leaking profusely as a result of the crash was in a critical state even though the men of the Anambra State Fire Service were said to be on standby to avert possible explosion. Although one person was trapped dead in one of the vehicles, there was no fire outbreak.
Indeed Anambra needs fervent prayers as well as a viable correctional approach to redeem herself from these misfortunes because it all amounts to huge unquantifiable economic loss to the people and government of the state. Now, the sight of a petrol tanker anywhere across the state sends cold shivers down the spine of individuals due to the calamities associated with such vehicles. Articulated vehicles have become monsters to citizens of Anambra state. It’s time the state government rose to the situation and uphold its constitutional mandate of protecting lives and property of the people from incessant tanker failures. While it is pertinent that the state seeks the face of God in curbing the menace and nightmares caused by tanker drivers, stakeholders have equally advocated the dire need to have specialised tankers such that even when there is a crash, the contents will not spill and there will be no explosions.
To this end, Engr. Ignatius Anyanwu, the Operations Controller Department of Petroleum Resources Awka office, highlighted some critical factors that could make a vehicle fail. Some of these factors include bad roads, driving without certification, over-speeding, wrongful over-taking, to mention a few. Anyanwu however advised investors in the petroleum sector to procure the new customised tankers for their drivers. The tankers, according to him, are specially designed such that the products will not spill when an accident occurs and it will also prevent explosions. He said petroleum marketers must subscribe to the new tankers to prevent disasters from occurring now and then.
The Federal Road Safety Commission also lent credence to the efficacy of the special petrol tankers. The commission noted that the new technology, if completely embraced by players In the petroleum industry, fuel tanker explosions will be eliminated totally. Although the sector commander of the commission in Anambra state Mr. Andrew Ayodele Kumapayi, expressed concern about the incessant falling of petrol tankers and articulated vehicles in the state, the FRSC boss stated that the commission had to initiate a tripartite strategy to combat the menace. These strategies, according to him, were stakeholders’ collaboration, sensitisation and enforcement. Kumapayi further explained that most crashes were caused by human errors on the roads. To curb petrol tanker disasters, the Federal Road Safety Commission suggested the replacement of the old tankers with the new specialised tankers designed to save lives and to guard against explosions even when contents spill during an accident. The Anambra FRSC boss however disclosed that apart from the introduction of specially designed petrol tankers, the commission also issues Professional Drivers License to drivers. Though he mentioned certain conditions for the issuance of the aforementioned license to include at least six years of driving experience, individual must not be less than 26 years of age, must present authentic medical fitness report and must be a registered member of a transport union. Cognizant of the fact that the Anambra State Government has set up an investigation committee to determine the remote and immediate causes of petrol tanker failures in the state, he was emphatic that if the specialised tankers were embraced totally by petroleum marketers, explosions and disasters associated with tankers would be forgotten in the dustbin of history.
On the other hand, Mr. Emeka Ejide, a concerned citizen of the state noted that although it is practically impossible for the state government to restrict the movement of certain category of vehicles just because of the phobic impressions such vehicles create in the minds of the citizenry, he queried whether accidents involving such vehicles were as a result of bad roads or plying the roads at a particular time of the day. Ejide maintained that accidents caused by petrol tankers and other articulated vehicles were purely lack of maintenance culture on the part of the drivers. According to him, only the Vehicle Inspection Officers, the Federal Road Safety Commission and Unions in the petroleum industry can successfully combat the menace of articulated vehicles. Ejide advised that petrol tanker drivers must attend refresher courses to update their knowledge of road safety, stressing that driving a petrol tanker is not the same as driving a lorry loaded with yam.
He said government must insist on renewal of license for tanker drivers every six months and vehicle inspection officers must ascertain the condition of the truck before it leaves the loading bay. To curb petrol tanker explosions as well as calamities associated with articulated vehicles, Ejide recommended that government must empower the vehicle inspection unit to do their jobs effectively. Secondly, government must also engage unions in the petroleum industry to pay more attention to their drivers and conditions of the vehicles used in conveying petroleum products from one destination to another. That government should compel tanker drivers through a legislation to comply with its directives on adequate licensing and special certification of certain categories of transport to operate in the state. It is therefore expected that the measures propounded here-in and a host of other measures will go a long way to curb the menace of petrol tanker explosions as well as misfortunes from other heavy duty trucks plying Anambra roads.