By Bayo Fasuwon
Roads are meant to save time, lives, connect people and places. Essentially, roads are created to promote and ensure the prosperity of people and places. In the past, roads became the first sign of development in any given area. Thus, trade routes, stop over communities and connecting towns have developed over the years and have been transformed into cities. Places like Port Harcourt, Zungeru, Ibadan, and Ikare cannot isolate the existence of roads to their development and existence. In fact, even in communities, the cost of lands has been determined by their proximity to the roads. It is quite unfortunate that what ought to develop many areas in Nigeria have become an albatross, and the source of woes. Many towns and villages have counted several losses of good men and women who had lost their lives to the existence of roads in their communities. On many occasions there have been altercations between community youths and truck drivers.
When communities rejoice over the construction of new roads and the rehabilitation of existing ones, many know that the joy would be short-lived. This is due to the fact that in few weeks, the roads would have developed gorges and pot holes created by the tyres of the heavy trucks that seeks to enjoy the ‘development projects’. Often times, communities have resulted to the construction of illegal damaging speed breakers of their roads to prevent accidents, only to have such creating more havoc. Trucks have in any times than one caused accidents due to these speed breakers. For others, metal barricades have been erected to prevent the passage of lorries, but these are sometimes forcibly removed by angry drivers or opened by rent seeking youths for the trucks to continue their damaging journeys.
Truck drivers and their heavy vehicles have become problems on Nigeria roads, and have been responsible for many tales of woes. The Dangote trucks for example have in more cases been responsible for the death of many locals as they transit from one end of the country to the other. Other trucks owned by influential Nigerians have also killed several in connecting towns and villages as they transit from the North to the South and vice versa. The people of Iwaro Oka and Akungba have been thrown to several days of mourning as trucks have laid waste properties, and human lives. Still fresh in the memory of the Akungba people and the Adekunle Ajasin University was the death of many students and shop owners when a cement-laden truck turned many shops to rubbles and buried people under its burden of death. This incident happened some weeks after a truck overburdened with its load of rice killed about sixteen people along the same route.
Government had responded by shutting the main Campus gates, and the community at a time had erected barricades (which have been turned to toll gates)’ but these have not prevented the calamities. In fact, workers of the university agonise over the community routes they have been diverted to access their place of work, while the trucks that caused the diversion have not been restrained. Last week, workers of the university, and the people of the community have lost countless hours as trucks either break down, or are involved in accidents between Akungba and Ikare.
Tensions are already brewing along that route that may develop into crises. In the first instance, there are altercations between Akungba and Ikare youths over who controls the ‘toll gate’ that extorts money from truck drivers. If care is not taken, this illegal venture may trigger community clashes between the two neighbours in no few days.
This would affect travelers from the East, and the North; businesses in the area; schools and of course the Adekunle Ajasin University. In addition to this, another ethnic crisis may also occur as J5 drivers from the North have been involved in reckless driving along that route, and have caused accidents in the process. Truck Drivers from that geo-political, some who cannot communicate even in pidgin language have had issues on the same route, hence something concrete needs be done urgently.
There are many reasons alluded to the crises of the Akungba-Ikare road. First is the fact that it is the only motorable route that connects Owo, Akungba and Ikare. Therefore, the road is always busy with vehicles trying to connect the East and Northern parts of the country through this axis, and too narrow for the quantum of vehicles. Added to this is the gradient of the road. The Okerigbo hill is too high for trucks to climb, and descending it also creates a heavy burden on the brakes of heavy vehicles. While it is heartwarming that the Ondo State government has put pen to paper on levelling the hill, the task would be heart-rending except an alternate motorable route is created before the commencement of the project.
Added to this is the need to expand the road, and most importantly dualise it. This would solve the problems of street trading along the dangerous routes in Akungba.
Secondly, it has been observed that Trucks plying this route are more often than not overburdened. Often times, they are twice loaded beyond their capacities, capabilities and expertise of the drivers. Their accelerating capabilities are therefore reduced and the gravitational pull affects their traction, weakening their propelling capabilities and brakes. The resultant action is loss of control, road blocking and life-threatening accidents. However, the major cause of Truck brouhaha along this route is the dilapidated Ido-Ani, Isua and Ipele roads that boast of gorges, and gaping holes which make it totally unpassable for the trucks.
Normally, that should have been the natural routes for heavy trucks connecting the south from the north. A purposeful reconstruction of that road for truck users would in no small way reduce the volume of trucks plying the Akungba-Ikare roads, thereby reducing the occurrence of this sad narratives. It must also be emphasized that roads must be constructed with the fore knowledge that such would be used by heavy trucks, thereby elongating the life spans of such roads.
While hands are on deck to ensure the execution of these strategies, motorists plying this route are advised to be patient, and careful as they transit. The FRSC have often complained that motorists are often recalcitrant, uncooperative, impatient and insulting when efforts are being made to clear the roads and direct vehicles in orderly manner. We all need to realise that life has no duplicate, and some scars and wounds are everlasting. The gods are not the cause of the gridlock or accidents, we are.