The people of Enugu celebrated the last Easter in sadness following a tragic road crash that claimed several lives. CHUKS NWEZE reports.
Saturday April 8, 2023 was a black day for residents of Enugu state.
This is because on this day as the people were in a festive mood ahead of Easter the following day, a fatal motor accident occured along the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.
The accident which involved a Mercedes tipper and a commuter bus claimed the lives of all inmates in the bus. The only survivor of the gory accident is the driver of the tipper who escaped with fire burn but the rest were consumed in the fire as both vehicles went up in flames.
There was conflicting media reports that 18 passengers died in the incident while some reports had it that it was 15 people that perished in the inferno.
This could be described as one accident too many because of the dastardly way the people who were full of life and had high hopes of what to do just ended their lives unannounced.
The most annoying aspect of the accident is that state is yet to recover from a similar accident that took place at Enugu-Onitsha Expressway in Enugu near the Central Bank quarters, Trans Ekulu area. In that unfortunate accident involving a trailer and a commercial bus, 10 passengers lost their lives.
According to the information gathered, the bus left Abakpa Nike part of Enugu and was heading to New Market also in Enugu when it collided with an oncoming trailer that crushed the bus beyond recognition.
It was so bad that Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi rushed to the venue to commiserate with the family of the deceased.
So, it was to an already unhappy Enugu residents who were victims of recent one.
Also, touched by the unfortunate incident, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) issued a statement lamenting the unbecoming loss of lives in Enugu state and indeed Nigeria.
Spokesman of FRSC, Assistant Corps Marshal Bisi Kazeem who confirmed the accident in a statement in Abuja stated that the accident took place at the Enugu end of the highway at about 8.20 p.m on that day.
The statement said, “The victims have been given mass burial. All obstructions have been cleared. Enugu State Fire Service already extinguished the fire in the bus.
“The fatal crash is blameable on several factors including fatigue, which must have made one of the drivers to sleep on the wheels.”
Kazeem quoted the FRSC Corps Marshal, Mr Dauda Biu as advising motorists to desist from night journeys to reduce fatalities from road crashes.
He added that Biu noted that most fleet operators and other vehicle owners, including private vehicle owners addicted to night journeys, do so for selfish economic gains.
“The FRSC boss observed that most night travellers indulge in overloading of vehicles with passengers and goods. Travellers should plan their journeys for the day time because when crashes occur away from FRSC rescue points, it is difficult to access help from other motorists at night,’’ Kazeem also quoted Biu as saying.
The police too
In the same vein, touched by the accident, the Enugu State Police Command like the Road Safety Corps also deplored the incident pointing out that they would carry out investigation to unravel the cause of the head-on collision.
Spokesman of the command, DSP Daniel Ndukwe in a statement which he issued also revealed that the fatal accident which occurred around 8:30pm that day involved a Mercedes Benz tipper with registration number: AAA 285 XR and an 18-seater commuter Enugu South Mass Transit bus with registration number: NKE 622 XA, that occured at Ituku Awgu LGA, along Enugu/Port-Harcourt Expressway.
According to Ndukwe “Preliminary investigation reveals that the tipper loaded with bags of cement and plying against traffic from Enugu city, had a head-on collision with the bus loaded with passengers and coming from Aba, Abia state, resulting in both vehicles bursting up in flames and all the occupants burnt beyond recognition, except the driver of the tipper who was found alive and is currently admitted in the hospital.
“The Commissioner of Police, CP Ahmed Ammani, while bemoaning the unfortunate incident in this Easter season, when Christians in the state and the world over are commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has prayed for the repose of the souls of the deceased and also consoled their families, friends and loved ones.
“The CP has, therefore, ordered the State Traffic Officer to carry out full-scale motor traffic investigation into the incident, including evacuating the remains and obtaining the exact identities of the deceased victims and their relatives as well as coming up with actionable report.
“He cautions motorists against disobeying road traffic rules, while reiterating that the only way to safety on the road is to exercise caution, patience and obey all road traffic rules and regulations.”
Gov-elect commiserate with victims too
As a leader that would care about the welfare of the people he would govern, Enugu state governor-elect, Peter Mbah frowned at the accident and condoled with the victims families for their painful loss.
Mbah, while condoling with the families of the deceased, prayed for the peaceful repose of the souls of the departed, and described the incident as a heavy and collective loss to the state while urging for greater caution by road users.
The governor-elect who spoke via a statement by the head, Peter Mbah Media Office Dan Nwomeh said, “I received with a deep sense of loss the news of the fatal accident that claimed 15 lives at the Ituku axis of the Enugu–Port Harcourt expressway on the eve of Easter. My heart bleeds at this gruesome development and indeed goes out to the families and friends who lost their loved ones.
“It is a collective loss to us as a people and I urge all to pray the Almighty God to grant the affected families and friends the fortitude to bear the tragic loss. Let us also join them in prayers for the peaceful repose of the souls of their loved ones.
“May I also urge all road users to be more mindful of road rules and regulations for the safety of all. While also saluting the efforts of our law enforcement agents, I equally call for stricter enforcement of the rules and regulations to minimise such unfortunate incidents, especially during festive seasons,” the statement read.
Normally, accidents don’t just happen, it is often caused by human error and at times technical faults by the vehicles involved.
The appauling thing is that most road accidents are avoidable but some motorists are careless not minding that any little mistake could result in loss of lives and property as in the case in question.
Some road users drive under alcoholic influence and illicit drugs such that when they could have manuovered through dangers, they would not because they are under a certain influence.
Most motor parks have become havens for hot drinks and hard drugs where some drivers help themselves and after consuming such harmful substances, they constitute nuisance on the roads and this is one of the major cause of road crashes apart from the bad condition of some roads and poorly maintained vehicles that often drive with worn out tyres.
Drivers share thoughts
Investigation reveals that some drivers, out of carelessness, derive joy in over-taking without considering the risks involved while others compete with one another, thereby driving dangerously that often culminate in road crashes.
Some drivers who shared their experience on the issue say that drivers often are the cause of avoidable road accidents. For instance, the Easter Eve accident along Enugu-Port Harcourt Express could have been avoided if the drivers were careful.
For instance, James Nweke, a driver of over 20 years experience said,
“I am a driver and I know that most accidents are caused by us. Some people overtake anyhow, while some drink before they drive. Some drivers do not want another driver to overtake them and would do anything to see that another does not overtake them. So, where they could have given way for other drivers that want to overtake them, they often deliberately refuse to shift until the others run into oncoming vehicles.
“We have often seen multiple accidents being caused by overspeeding and in most cases on bad roads,” he said.
One of the causes of road accidents is by night travels and often times, apart from bad roads, the vehicles may not have good lighting and this could cause road crashes. Frank Ede, a commercial driver said, “Drivers who don’t have good tyres should not ply the roads when it is raining because during rains, roads are often slippery and could cause road crashes and you find out that some vehicles do not have good wipers yet they drive when it is raining.”