Checking menace of tanker, trailer drivers

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THE instinct of most Nigerians would be to ban tankers and trailers from plying the nation’s roads. The menace they constitute on Nigerian roads is all too evident. We agree that they are avoidable evils on our roads. But, the rising voices aside, the solution to curing headaches, no matter their intensity, cannot be decapitation.

YET, something has to be done quickly if the country would not inherit another crisis that could be worse than the recurring ones. Nobody seems to care. Nobody seems to be listening. All the regulatory authorities seem to have thrown up their hands in despair.

WE suspect compromise is central to the laxities that are applied in dealing with the recklessness of the drivers. They seem to be aware that their road rages have the imprimatur of their owners, highly placed Nigerians who have no scruples about abusing their positions.

THEY are the masters of entitlements, from waivers to farming out of choice government businesses to them. Their contributions to the welfare of Nigerians are becoming more suspect by the day. What do they really contribute to Nigeria when it is even doubtful if they pay taxes that match investments that are ceded to them or destructions that some of their labour and industrial practices unleash on Nigerians?

OUR highways are under heavy punishments from the weights of trailers and tankers bearing different products across Nigeria. They are providing services, yes. But, the recklessness of the drivers and their aversion for all traffic laws are legendary. The situations are worsened by the fact that security agents – who spend most of their time harassing other road users – treat the drivers as if they are above the law.

THE damage to infrastructure from lampposts to the roads is becoming accepted as a norm rather than an aberration. They damage infrastructure and go scot-free. Road surfaces dissolve from the heat of bonfires they make to alert other road users of their broken- down trailers and trucks. They pay nothing for the damage.

PLACES like Lagos made laws restricting trailers and trucks’ movements to a particular period of a 24-hour day.But, these laws are observed in the breach, as the times of countless accidents, from containers falling off trailers, or their reckless drivers ramming into other road users, have proven. Nothing has been done to prosecute them under those laws.

BLACKMAIL is part of the fare. The drivers are ready to declare a strike if a member is apprehended for prosecution. The offence is irrelevant.

The point is that the law is neither for the owners of the trucks, nor for the drivers who regard other Nigerians as their foot mats. They immensely enjoy the dangers they pose to everyone. Their unchecked recklessness has spawned other impunities like parking anywhere they please and driving with poorly maintained vehicles.

ILL-maintained vehicles have been numerously cited as a major reason for accidents. As a matter of fact, few law enforcers dare stop these drivers. When they do, it is to get some money off them. If a thorough check of the vehicles is done, it is unlikely that more than half of them would be road-worthy.

TIME was when only tanker drivers had the privilege of lawlessness. Trailer drivers have formed an unholy alliance with them to make life hellish for Nigerians. A first consideration, if it is really a concern, is that a strike would result in shortage of petroleum products. Reckless drivers rule us on that sole score.

IT is commonly known that since the law looks away from their transgressions that it makes sense for Nigerians to understand that they cannot win a case against them. Therefore, it is an unstated law not to have anything against those drivers, whether they wronged you or you are in the wrong. The law rises up on their side, tilting the scale of justice dangerously beneath equity.

THE comfort that such compromise of the law provides for them is a major reason for the conduct of the drivers. They cause deaths. They damage property. They cause obstructions. The unwritten rule is that their vehicles would not be towed away, not minding the danger and damage to others.

If the drivers are above the law, definitely the owners of the vehicles are too big for anyone to contemplate suing them for the danger they pose to the security of lives, some of which had been lost from vehicles that broke barriers and careered into business premises, and sometimes homes.

WHERE aggrieved communities are incensed enough to attack the offending drivers, it becomes a communal clash, treated in the same manner as when Fulani herdsmen reduce peoples farms to grazing fields. The communities become victims and targets for further attacks by security agents who would accuse them of breaching the peace.

IF deaths are involved, they are dismissed as the will of the Almighty. There is no sympathy for the families of the dead. Compensations are usually not paid because the might and connivance of the law are employed in intimidating victims.

What to do about this? A RETURN to the railways would obviously minimise the use of tankers and trailers and ultimately the powers their drivers wield, but we cannot wait so forlornly.

IT is time the law reined in these drivers by holding them, and their owners, liable for the damages they are doing to Nigerians. No excuses can any longer suffice for the fragrant abuses of traffic laws and the resulting carnage on our roads.