The news of the fuel tanker explosion that recently happened (on Wednesday, 16th October, 2019) in Onitsha spread like wildfire. I was on my way to Anambra State when I heard it. People were calling and checking on their loved ones. Gory pictures (both the authentic and the inauthentic ones) of the fire outbreak were circulating on every social media. It was indeed a day a lot of people won’t forget easily.
This morning, news filtered in that another tanker fell and exploded late in the night at Omagba area of Onitsha. Fortunately, this one was contained by the Anambra State Fire Service (thank God they have ‘water’ this time – if you know, you know).
Another incident like this happened in Onitsha sometime last year (or was it two years ago) at DMGS Roundabout (not too far from Onitsha Main Market). In this very incident, no life was lost but a lot of properties were destroyed because nearby buildings (including the ones housing some banks) and the filling station were affected.
This incident doesn’t happen only in Onitsha. We hear a lot of news about things like this happening in other parts of the country. We can’t continue like this; something needs to be done and done soon too. But it will be good to look at the causes of these tanker falls and explosions.
CAUSES OF TANKER EXPLOSION
We know that most of the cases of tanker explosion has to do with accidents (usually when they fall and spill their contents), but has anyone else asked why the tankers have to fall or have accidents in the first place (besides mechanical and electrical problems)? And why do we record so many casualties (for both properties and humans) during these explosions? Well, below are my two cents on this matter.
- Bad Roads: I started with this because that’s the first answer a lot of people will proffer when faced with this question. Yes, bad roads affect these vehicles, just as it affects other types of vehicles. I’ve seen many of them fall in places where there are deep potholes and ditches. This problem of bad roads needs to be tackled as soon as possible.
- Reckless Driving: Sometimes these drivers forget that they are driving long vehicles, and that the road is bad. Some of them drive as if they were under the influence of drugs. Note that they are not the only reckless drivers on the road: car and bus drivers also have their own problems. Reckless driving and over speeding contributes a lot to these explosion accidents.
- Disturbance by Law Enforcers: An article was published not quite long ago about police checkpoints on our roads and the problems they create. These police officers also target heavy duty vehicles, especially those loaded with goods. Most of the times, these tanker and trailer drivers, in a bid to avoid ‘settling’ these officers, accelerate their speed and swerve through the checkpoint obstructions in very dangerous manner. This type of maneuvering has led to a lot of disasters.
I also want to make it known here that the police are not the only law enforcers that cause these problems. Sometimes, I see groups of young men on the highway that forcefully stop all these heavy trucks to collect money from them. I’ve asked and was told they are ‘special’ task force that monitor and collect passage allowance (or whatever they call it) from heavy duty vehicles. Well, anything is possible in Nigeria.
- Filling Stations in Residential Areas and Public Places: Do you know that tankers won’t be passing through residential areas if not because we have filling stations located there. I know more filling stations are springing up closer to our homes and markets because we have to run out to buy ‘fuel’ for our generators; but, are they supposed to be located in these places (especially near markets)?
- Disobedience to Road User Rules: I haven’t seen it stipulated but I know there is this rule that holds that heavy duty trucks and tankers shouldn’t be on the road until very late in the evening (or even at night). But I think this rule only works in the FCT. Right now, ‘small’ vehicles struggle through the bad roads with the ‘big’ ones during the daytime. If anything happens then, a lot of people will be affected.
- Wrong Packing: You know eh, all these long vehicle drivers always behave like they own the road. They can stop and park their vehicles wherever they want and no one can say or do anything about it. If the vehicle was parked for repair, it will be left there for hours or days. I don’t know why Road Safety doesn’t ‘see’ them.
Like I said earlier, these are the causes I know. I believe there are so many others; it is now left for us to voice them out and hope that the right authority hears them. However, I have a few suggestions on how to reduce the rate of tanker explosions.
HOW TO REDUCE THE CASUALTY RATE IN FUEL TANKER EXPLOSIONS
- 1. Building filling stations near residential areas and public places should be discouraged.
- 2. Heavy duty trucks and tankers should be discouraged from plying the roads during the day. Those police officers and other law enforcement agencies should do something about this.
- 3. If heavy vehicles are to be allowed on the road during the day, a separate road should be provided for them (I believe this is possible).
- 4. More fire service stations should be created and spread across the country (and they should please be ‘working’). I will also suggest that market authorities set up fire service stations within the market. They shouldn’t wait for government to provide everything (after all they are collecting money from traders, and sometimes buyers).
- 5. Trailer parks should be provided and the heavy duty truck drivers compelled to park there. If you ask me, I will say that trailer parks should be owned and managed by the private sector. This will make it more effective.
Accidents can never be stopped, but they can be averted. We don’t have to wait for many tanker explosions to happen or for many more lives to be lost before something is done. The right time is now. Nigerians already have enough on their plate; they don’t need more right now.