Last week’s fuel tanker explosion in Lagos is one accident too many. The accident has again brought to the fore, the urgent need for the strengthening of emergency outfits in the country. It has also thrown up the fact that the country needs to retool its entire transportation
For several years, the issue of improved means of transportation had remained a major problem in the country. From Lagos to Maiduguri; from Calabar to Sokoto; from Port Harcourt to Kano or Ilorin to Yola, there is poor road transportation infrastructure. The other means of transportation do not fare better either. Road network across the nation’s major cities are nothing to write home about. It is even more serious with the railway network.
The airports fare no better, neither are the airports the Eldorado. Since the current democratic dispensation in 1999, successive administrations have promised the rehabilitation of the nation’s road network. But, all those promises are yet to materialise inspite of the billions of naira spent allegedly fixing those roads. It has been discovered that even as government spent huge amounts of money ‘fixing the roads’, such roads almost immediately fail and even get worse soon thereafter.
As for the railway sector, Nigerians have continued to wonder why it is taking the country decades to fix just the Western railway lines, while only the Almighty knows when the Eastern railway axis would be done. This is inspite of the fact that it did not take the British Colonialists, donkey years to complete the entire nation’s railway lines. This is equally without taking into consideration the fact that the Colonial masters did not spend the entire earnings harnessed by the Colonial Office to put together those rail lines, as we are taking humonguous amount of money in local and foreign loan to fix those rail lines. It is therefore mouth gapping that successive administrations have made rehabilitation seem as if it is rocket science.
Costs of rehabilitating the nation’s airports, are not any cheaper. The cost of rehabilitating the runway in our airports or build new tarmac facilities always remain shocking. Whereas it is important to emphasise quality, it has been found that quoted high costs do not necessarily translate to quality, stressing the need to critically re-appraise our contract award processes.
What is more, the tendency for the government to continuously carry out endless contract variation, which is pseudonym for corruption, is quite alarming and most unfortunate. One keeps wondering why government at every level would award a contract, a contract which had been approved in a budget, yet, the contractors would be owed, even when huge amount of money are yearly returned to the treasury at the end of the financial year. If therefore, a project is captured in the budget, why then would the contractor be owed? If the contractor for such project has exhibited gross incompetence or is found cutting corners in terms of quality, why should the supervising engineers not raise the red flag early enough? Could it be a matter of connivance or condonation?
The Lagos incident and similar gory incidents in parts of the country have brought to the fore the urgency to critically reassess our priorities, especially with the increasing population, which experts say, grow in geometric proportion. Where, as a country, we are still unable to take the right measures and thoroughly fix our infrastructures or keep to the letters of our budget, there is nothing expressing corruption more than such.
There is no doubt that life is the most precious creature, but the level of carnage and brigandage going on in the transport sector seem to portray us as a people that have little or no regard for human life.
If take a walk across the 36 states of the federation, one would easily come fact-to-face with the menace daily constituted by truck and tanker drivers. But, why should anyone blame them when the appropriate enforcement agencies, including the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, have lost rhythm. It is unfortunate that along the nation’s highway, emergency trailer parks have sprung up just by the road hanger or even in the middle of the road and those who have the responsibility to restore order seem unperturbed.
Since it takes at least two to tango, concerted effort must be put in place to ensure that road transport agencies lay less emphasis on revenue generation but should carry out their primary responsibility as enshrined in their enabling law. Government should also re-orientate its agencies so as to forge a better society; a society where decency, fear of God and respect for human dignity shall prevail. That is what Nigeria ought to be, not a country where gangsters and social misfits steadily bombard our psyche.