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Epidemic of fuel tanker disasters

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WITHIN two weeks, a series of deadly petrol-laden tanker accidents brought sorrow, tears and blood to Nigerians, most of them uninvolved in the process. In Onitsha, disaster reaped a grim harvest of over 90 lives when a fully loaded fuel tanker ran into a bus and set it and everything else around on fire. A similar accident had taken place in Makurdi, Benue State, and claimed the lives of a newly-wedded couple and their guests in a bus.

In separate incidents days apart,two tankers fell in Idimu and Iyana areas of Lagos State, consuming houses, cars, goods and valuable property in the ensuing conflagration. These tragic incidents led to gruesome deaths and grave misery for survivors and their families. They rendered people homeless and left many with their means of livelihood gone in a flash.

In most cases, these avoidable disasters take place as a result of indiscipline and neglect. Some articulated vehicles carrying highly inflammable liquids are often operated by drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding dangerously on narrow or poorly maintained roads in densely-populated areas. Many of the drivers are not properly trained to handle these specialised vehicles, and they get away with it because the law-enforcement agencies do not live up to their responsibilities. Many of the vehicles are also barely road worthy.

Over the years, trailer and tanker owners and drivers have become laws unto themselves. Most of these vehicles are owned by highly connected individuals, particularly those in military and security agencies. Moreover, the drivers belong to unions that are always ready to hold the society to ransom by going on strike any time the law reins in their members.

We commend the Lagos State Government for responding promptly and promising to provide the victims with immediate financial support, at least to enable them cope with the refugee status that the tragedies bestowed on them. In other places similar tragedies took place, governments should not abandon the hapless citizens to their fate. Efforts must be made to provide them succour to assist them to get back on their feet. That is a dividend of citizenship that must no longer be overlooked.

Since there is a limit to what governments can do, it is important that we take the issue of insurance serious. It is a great way to recover some losses.

Governments should expedite measures to reduce the number of fuel tankers on our roads by striving to get the pipelines and railways back into use. Law enforcement agents should also do their jobs.

These incidents are becoming epidemic and endemic

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