It was indeed a gloomy Wednesday for some Nigerians as 23 people, including a family of six, perished in Lokoja, the Kogi state capital when a truck fully loaded with petrol had a brake failure and in the process crushed five cars and three tricycles along Felele highways of the confluence city.
But in what appears a mystery, a boy, whose age and name could not be ascertained as at the time of this report, survived the tragedy, but not without some level of injuries.
Eye witness account said the accident occurred around 7: 45 am when pupils, students and workers left their homes for schools and offices.
The sad incident also involved a family of six who were burnt beyond recognition in their Highlander Jeep.
Though the number of casualty as declared by the state Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC) Idris Fika was put at 23, a resident, Jude Uzuguzo, who witnessed the incident, said not less than 50 people died in the accident.
He said prior to the arrival of the FRSC officers, many burnt dead bodies were evacuated from the scene by sympathisers.
Uzuguzo said the casualty figure would have been reduced but for the absence of fire fighters, a development that led to many being burnt for about two hours.
This infuriated students of Kogi state Polytechnic, who in protest, vented their anger on journalists.
Addressing the large crowd of students that gathered at the scene of the accident, Kogi state Deputy Governor Edward Onoja explained that the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was already in talks with the Federal Ministry of Works on how to find a lasting solution to the many road mishaps that are fast becoming common occurrence at the accident scene.
He assured that a pedestrian bridge would be constructed at the main gate of the Polytechnic to ease the movement of students and staff of the institution.
He condoled with the families of the victims of the accident and promised that the state government would not leave any stone unturned in its effort to avoid a reoccurrence.
Brake failure as cause
A resident of Felele community, Musa Ahmed, who witnessed the accident, explained that the truck had a brake failure and ultimately lost control.
He called on the government to do the needful to end the persistent road accident along Felele road.
Meanwhile, the state command of the FRSC has officially confirmed the death of 23 in the tanker inferno.
Asides the lives lost, a school bus, cars, tricycles, and motorcycles were destroyed, the FRSC sector commander in Lokoja, Idris Fika, told our reporter.
Fika said a total of 23 corpses, including 10 adult males, six female adults, three female and four male children were evacuated from the scene.
He said the charred bodies had been deposited in the morgue at the Kogi State Specialist Hospital, Lokoja to enable relations of the victims recover them for burial.
He also said a little boy survived though with minor injuries, but had been treated and taken home by his parents.
Fika said some corps officers had been deployed to the scene for traffic maintenance.
“They will ensure that the unhindered movement is restored back to the place,” Fika said.
Bello blames poor roads
Reacting to the ugly development, Governor Bello blamed it on the deplorable state of federal roads.
The governor spoke during a visit to the minister of works and housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, to solicit urgent federal government’s attention to the deplorable condition of federal roads in the state.
In a statement by his media aide, Mr Onogwu Muhammed, the governor told the minister that the deplorable state of all federal roads across the state led to recurrent accidents in the state.
“He said the state government has done a lot in maintaining the roads but owing to the large volume of traffic on the roads, in view of its strategic location as gateway state, such repairs and maintenance do not stand the test of time.
“He appealed to the minister to expedite action in carrying out reconstruction of roads across the state to curtail the preventable accidents on the road.”
The statement also quoted the governor as pleading with the minister to direct contractors handling repairs on the Murtala Bridge at Jamata “to speed up the rate of work,” noting that the slow pace of work has caused the commuters untold hardship.
Similarly, the governor urged the minister to direct the contractors in-charge of the Kabba-Ilorin road project to return to site.
He said the total neglect of the road in the area had made life unbearable for motorists and commuters plying the road.
It said: “The governor also drew the attention of the minister to the Lokoja-Ganaja-Ajaokuta road which the federal government awarded for over three years but contractors were yet to be seen on site.”
Muhammed said the minister had ordered the Federal Road Maintenance Agency(FERMA) to immediately fix the bad portion of the road at the Felele end of the Okene/Lokoja/Abuja road
In his reaction, President Muhammadu Buhari said that the death of 23 people, as confirmed by the Federal Road Safety Commission, represents another disturbing and saddening incident in the litany of tragedies that have befallen our country.
The president said he was deeply touched by the incident, stressing: “I am seriously worried about the frequency of these unfortunate and large scale tragedies in the country which cause needless deaths.”
“These frequent incidents that result in loss of lives and property are a national scandal caused by our indifference to safety standards.
“Many accidents are preventable if proper proactive and precautionary measures are put in place or properly observed as routine policies.
“Ours is a country where we move on whenever tragedies occur instead of taking preventive safety measures to forestall future calamities,” he said.
President Buhari called on the transport authorities, traffic and road management agencies as well as law enforcement officials to sit up and enforce safety standards with more seriousness, adding that “refusal to do the right thing can cause potential tragic problems that harm innocent people.”
“Nigeria is not having a shortage of laws and regulations, but our problem is lack of zeal to enforce those laws and regulations for the sake of public safety,” he said.
The president condoled with Kogi state government and the families of the victims of the tragedy.