By Emeka Nwosu, PhD.

On Tuesday, 14th November, 2023, Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State, recorded a tragic road accident that claimed lives and left scores injured. The sad incident reportedly occurred at the popular Ogbor Hill, near the Waterside in the Enyimba city when an articulated vehicle lost its brakes and skidded off the road and fell on some vehicles and tricycles carrying passengers. Four persons were said to have lost their lives instantly with several people suffering varying degrees of injuries.

The bloody incident reportedly led to a blockage on this very strategic road that connects Aba with the South South States of Akwa Ibom and Cross River, causing untold hardships to travelers who became trapped in the ensuing melee. The accident was said to have occurred in the rush hours of the morning.
The accident spot had in the past recorded similar mishaps that prompted the regulation of the movement of heavy duty vehicles on the road. It has been an outpouring of condolences by the Dr. Otti-led government and well-meaning people of the State to the families of the victims. I join the government and the good people of Abia State in conveying my deep sympathies to the affected families. While we pray for the repose of the souls of the departed, we wish those on hospitalization speedy recovery.

Particularly noteworthy, however, is the timely response of the Abia State government to the incident which included the removal of the wreckages and institutionalization of immediate remedial measures to restore free flow of traffic and medical support to the injured. The government has undertaken to pick the medical bills of the accident victims. The government also directed the restoration of the ban on articulated vehicles which restricted their movement to late hours in the night when there is minimal human traffic on the roads.

In a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Communications, Mr. Dodoh Okafor, he pledged the support and assistance of the government to the affected families.

He said:
“The State Government under the leadership of Dr. Alex Otti has set appropriate machineries in motion for identifying and reaching out to the families of the victims to sympathize with, and offer all necessary support to them.

“The Governor has assured that the State Government would stand by the victims and their families during these difficult times and would do everything within its powers to lessen the burden on all affected by this regrettable tragedy.”

These soothing words from Governor Otti are very reassuring, and would definitely go a long way in bringing succor and relief to the grieving families. The show of empathy by the Abia Government is remarkable and commendable. Much more importantly, the Government has taken steps to ensure that such deadly incident does not repeat itself in Aba or any other place within Abia State.
According to the statement by Dodo Okafor: “The first of such measures shall be the setting up of a taskforce which shall work on 24-hour basis every day in Aba and Umuahia with a mandate to remove all damaged or immovable vehicles on the road as quickly as a report is received. This shall apply to heavy duty, commercial and private vehicles.”

The statement further noted that, “Government will work with all relevant stakeholders over the next few days to identify suitable parks within the two cities where affected vehicles can park and wait until the appropriate time when they can move without constituting a threat to the safety of other road users”.
The Government should ensure that the proposed taskforce works under strict supervision of relevant authorities and complies with the protocols on good conduct.

Experience has shown that if such ad-hoc bodies are not properly supervised, they can become a terror to the motoring public. This must be avoided from day one.
Again, the decision of Government to find suitable parks in Aba and Umuahia to serve as holding bays for these heavy duty vehicles is a step in the right direction. This is in conformity with global best practices. The parks should be located on the outskirts of the cities where these articulated vehicles are expected to anchor before they are given the green light to get onto the roads.

The proposed taskforce has its duty cut out for it. The membership must, therefore, be rigorously screened to ensure that only people of disciplined behaviour, and not touts, are recruited. With the festive season around the corner, there is going to be an increase in the volume of traffic. The taskforce must work closely with other traffic managers and security agencies to ensure that our roads are free of gridlock and carnage. May Abia continue to win!

Dr. Nwosu, a public affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia.