Peter Dada, Akure
The agrarian community of Akungba Akoko in the Akoko South West Local Government Area of Ondo State was thrown into mourning on Saturday, January 23, 2021, after a road accident which occurred opposite the Adekunle Ajasin University killing many people, including some students of the institution.
The state sector command of the Federal Road Safety Corps and the state police said nine people lost their lives while several others were injured in the accident that involved a truck labelled Dangote Cement coming from Obajana in Kogi State and descending the popular Okerigbo hilly road to Owo. However, it was gathered that the death toll later increased.
The latest accident was said to be the second in the last two months and the third in the last five months in the axis. Statistically, according to the report from the FRSC sector command, a total of 20 died in three fatal crashes caused by trailers. Most of the articulated vehicles come from the North.
In the latest accident, it was a pathetic moment for the university community, the Akungba Akoko community including family and friends of the dead victims. The victims included some students who just resumed academic activities after several months at home occasioned by the COVID-19 lockdown and the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The most pathetic part of the incident was the case of the Ojinis who lost four members of their family to the crash –Kelvin Ojini, a graduate of Public Administration from the institution. He operated a mini cybercafé opposite the school. Kelvin’s brother and sister, Ayokunle and Oluwaseun who were students of the university lost their lives when the truck which reportedly had a brake failure crushed them to death in their brother’s shop. On the day of the incident, they were said to be assisting him in the shop. Their mother reportedly died of shock after hearing the news. The varsity was immediately shot until further notice.
Also, a former Student Union President of the university, Adesomoju Samuel, popularly known as ‘Sampraise,’ was also a victim. He was reportedly identified at the hospital morgue by his colleagues. The death of Adesomoju, who hailed from Okitipupa in the Okitipupa Local Government Area of the state, was said to have devastated his fellow students and members of his family. He was a final year student of law at the institution before he died in the accident.
Several stakeholders have called on the government to end the incessant crashes on the less than a kilometer Okerigbo Hill road where trailer drivers usually experience brake failure while descending the hill.
Some linked the accidents on the axis to evil spirits, needing appeasement, while others blamed them on the road’s topography and drivers’ recklessness.
One of the survivors of the latest accident, who identified himself as Aletile Stanley, told our correspondent that he survived the accident by a miracle. The 27-year-old businessman stated that the trailer driver, which he said descended the hilly road with full speed, faced him and he managed to manoeuver to the other lane.
He said that despite his dexterity on the wheel, the truck still crushed his jeep.
Stanley said occupants of the vehicle were removed from the wreckage after the windscreen was broken by sympathisers, adding that he also came out of the badly damaged vehicle unhurt.
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Stanley said, “Honestly, I don’t even know what to say other than to thank God because it was God who saved us. We were four in the car. I dropped a friend in the school on that day. I am not a student of the institution. Few minutes after I turned, suddenly I looked up and I saw a trailer descending uphill at full speed. I tried to dodge it but I couldn’t due to its closeness to me. It bashed my car so much that a lady who sat at the back was wounded by the shattered windscreen.’’
Stanley urged the government to provide an alternative road for trailers or dualise the road, adding, “I learnt that accidents happen frequently on the road.’’
Twenty-three-year-old Olorunfemi Anuoluwapo, who lost her mother, Mrs Caroline Olorunfemi, to the road was unhappy recalling the accident. Anuoluwapo said her late mother, who was a petty trader, once escaped death on the road and she moved her stall away from the scene of the previous accidents on the road to a new place.
Anuoluwapo, who appeared to be emotionally troubled while speaking with her correspondent, said “I wasn’t there the day the accident happened. My dad only came home on that day and informed us about the incident.
“My dad said the lifeless body of my mother was at the gate of the Adekunle Ajasin University. My mum moved from where she sold petty goods earlier when an accident happened. She moved away from the place but it’s sad that she met her death in the new place she moved to. It is painful. We are six in the family. The death is a disaster to the family.”
Describing her late mother as a caring, hardworking woman who was the family’s breadwinner, Anuoluwapo added, “My siblings are young and nothing is coming from our father. In fact, we need assistance to continue with life, particularly our education. I am seeking admission into the university and my younger ones are still in primary and secondary schools. The accident has caused serious problem to our family.’’
The 23-year-old noted that it was important for urgent solutions to be found to the recurring accidents on the road.
A commercial bus driver who plies the route, Mr Shina Owolewa, said that frequent accidents on the road needed to be checked. He stated that it was becoming regular.
He said, “Many articulated vehicles who had brake failure in the past were always overloaded with goods beyond the capacities. Normally, when the loads become too heavy, there is likelihood for the truck to lose its brake, which later becomes uncontrollable while descending the hill. Sometimes the drivers become confused, hence the truck rams into people. Many lives have been lost. FRSC men should arrest drivers of heavy duty vehicles who violate driving rules.”
He called on the government to dualise the road, noting that it was the best thing to do to curb the frequent accidents in the area.
Another motorist in the town, Mr Ojo Oluwafemi, called for a ban of trucks on the road. He pointed out that trailer accidents had ended many lives on the axis.
Oluwafemi said, “It is painful and beyond human comprehension. We ply the route but the question is why do trailer accidents happen all the time? With my experience in driving, I believe some of the trailers need to be replaced. Many of those drivers from the North have not passed the hilly road of Akungba before. They drive with full speed hence it becomes uncontrollable and fatal crashes occur.’’
He urged the government to find a solution to the hill like that of Oke Alabojuto in Ikare Akoko.
He added, “Now that the Oke Alabojuto hill has been stepped, accidents have reduced drastically in Ikare. Some years back, Ikare people experienced the same occurrences as Akungba people are experiencing now. But today, Ikare people are living peacefully.
“Also we are begging the government to create alternative routes for the trailers. When there is an alternative route for them, then it will help matters. Government should rehabilitate the Ipele-Idoani-Ifira road, when it is done, then there will barricade in some places such as Iwaro, Ikare and Owo. Also, if the road can be dualised, it will be safe for the inhabitants of the community.”
A resident of the community, Chief Adewole Abdulamidi, said the hill ought to be levelled.
He said, “Apart from the hill, we are not prone to accidents in our community. Many of the drivers of the articulated trucks always load goods or products in excess which amounts to overloading. Many of them come from far region. And instead of them to park and rest, they are always in a haste to meet up with time. The road must be dualised and the hill must be stepped down as it was done in Oke Alabojuto in Ikare-Akoko.’’
Besides, a lawyer residing in the town, Mr Ojo Peter, noted that the road leading Akungba to Ikare was bad, adding that it was the duty of the state and federal governments to solve the problem.
Peter said, “They need to do something tangible. The stakeholders in the community at several times invited state government but they deliberately turned a deaf ear. Also, the type of vehicles that ply the route need to be checked”
In his contribution, the Ikare-Akoko Unit Commander of the FRSC, Mr Kabir Mohammed, identified road dualisation and relocation of roadside markets as a solution to the problem.
Mohammed said, “All the markets by the roadside should be relocated. Trucks coming from Okerigbo hill descend the hill. The hill is the main problem, so when it is dualised, it steps down the hill to some extent.”
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The FRSC boss noted that the corps had been making efforts to enlighten the truck drivers on the need to ensure that their vehicles were in good condition before embarking on journeys.
Mohammed said, “We have embarked on public enlightenment. We have visited their (drivers) offices to tell them to put their vehicles in good condition. Another thing is that the nature of the town is hilly. Descending or ascending, it is hilly so an alternative route should be provided; particularly the road passing through Isua-Ipele-Owo should be properly rehabilitated. This will stop incessant accidents in the Akungba community.”
In his contribution, Ishola Obembe, said the “geometric design” of the road must be improved on as it was recently done at the Oke Alabojuto in Ikare-Akoko.
Obembe said, “Besides, road safety officers in the town must be serious with their jobs and make sure that heavy trucks plying the road have effective braking system.’’
Meanwhile, the traditional ruler of Akungba community, Oba Isaac Ajimo, who lamented the spate of road accidents in the area, said the community had carried out efforts to curb the situation but they had yet to yield fruits.
He, however, promised to be engaging the authorities and stakeholders on the matter to achieve the desired result.
The monarch said, “What is happening in Akungba is the ugly side of urbanisation without expansion. The heavy traffic inter-regional road from Lagos to Abuja that passes through the narrow road in our town, plus the hilly topography of our location, are mainly responsible for the incessant accidents. We have been engaging all stakeholders— from the state, FRSC, university community, youths and other elements in society and we won’t relent.”
Speaking about the matter, the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, said the road belongs to the Federal Government, saying the state was, however, making efforts to solve the problem of accidents there.
He said, “The fact that it is a federal road will not stop the state government from evolving a means to avert further crashes on that axis. It’s a disturbing issue. In a matter of weeks, the state government will facilitate a meeting of stakeholders where a plausible solution will be found to curb the gory scenes in Akungba.”
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