What a tragic way to end the year 2021! Students of Ojodu Grammar School/Babs Fafunwa Millennium School, Lagos, never had any foreboding of danger and death lurking in the vicinity of the school premises when they arrived for classes on Tuesday morning. When they closed at about 2pm that fateful day and headed to the bus-stop outside the premises for their usual journey back home, many of them never knew they’ll never get to their destinations. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the driver of a fast-speeding trailer lost control and rammed into dozens of the students patiently waiting at the bus-stop around the school gate for vehicles to convey them to their various homes. By the time the driver of the ‘rampaging’ killer-trailer regained control of the vehicle and sped off, in his criminal bid to escape from the accident scene, more than a dozen students lay dead and many other lucky ones had sustained various degrees of life-threatening injuries.
According to eye witnesses, the reckless driver was trying to escape arrest by a combined team of some notoriously obtrusive and corrupt officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), whose bribe-seeking antics around that area have made drivers plying that route to become more reckless behind the wheels, not minding the safety of pedestrians, especially pupils in the schools’ complex in the vicinity. Ordinarily, that stretch of the road should have been the safest, being the location of the offices of these three traffic regulatory authorities, but alas, the area has become a notorious haven for indiscriminate arrest of motorists. It is disheartening that the notoriety of the FRSC, LASTMA and VIO officials on this road contribute greatly to the recklessness of the drivers plying this route. And it’s so sad that innocent school children had to pay with their lives and injured limbs for the wickedness of these corrupt traffic officials. Already, rash denials have been made in the media by the FRSC, LASTMA and FRSC, but they can tell their glib stories to the marines! Rather than blabbing to the press, they should fish out the culprit operatives and punish them appropriately to serve as deterrent to others of their ilk in the traffic regulatory bodies.
As of the time of writing this and more than 24 hours after the tragic accident, the only action the Lagos State Government had deemed fit was the shutting down of the school! The state Commissioner for Education, Folashade Adefisayo, merely visited the school on Wednesday to officially announce its closure. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who later on Wednesday in a statement by his media aide, Gboyega Akosile, expressed sadness over the killing of the students, is perhaps still too busy to make any personal statement on the tragic incident at Ojodu Grammar School, not to talk of visiting to sympathise with the parents and guardians of the dead students or going to the hospitals where many of the injured students are still being treated, to show a modicum of empathy. Similarly, the terse condolence statement by President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, on behalf of his principal, is not enough to comfort the grieving parents, guardians and distraught school. Precious lives of young and promising Nigerians have been lost, for crying out loud! In saner climes, yes, in saner climes, no pun intended, as a matter of course, flags would have since been flying at half-mast and days of national mourning declared. The country’s leaders won’t just stop at issuing some terse press statements over such a tragic occurrence, as we are wont to do here.
Now that the lives of innocent school children have been needlessly lost, the recklessness of motorists along this road aggravated by the blatant corruption and greed exhibited by the obtrusive LASTMA, VIO and FRSC officials operating in the area should be a matter of serious concern to government and the relevant authorities
Yes, it’s true Nigerians are used to the hypocritical response of our public officials to such tragedies, especially when hapless citizens are the ones affected. What many government officials are still oblivious of is the fact that citizens had long ago realised that our leaders have the incredible propensity to shed crocodile tears in public, but gloat and carry on as if nothing had happened the moment they return to their comfort zones in their various cosy offices. This is callous, to say the least!
The dead and injured students of Ojodu Grammar School, my alma mater, may be children of nobody, but they could have been anyone’s children. I left this same school some 35 years ago. For six years in the early to the mid-80s, several other students and I waited everyday at that same spot to take a bus back home after school. I sent my third child to that same school for just a session in 2018/2019 to experience what it’s like to be in a public school. Everyday throughout that one session, she stayed in that same bus-stop to get a bus back to Iju-Ishaga, where we then lived, before I decided to let her return to her previous private school to finish up her secondary education. I insist it’s the height of callousness for those in authority to continue to carry on amid this tragedy as if it’s nothing much to worry about.
I hope the appropriate authorities will address the problem squarely and not just merely tinker with it. The fact remains that this tragic accident is one too many for the affected parents to bear, especially at this time of the year, and for anyone to try to paper over. This matter should not end with the arrest of the killer-driver by the police. No! The authorities should take more than passing interest in investigating and apprehending the traffic officials alleged to have been chasing the driver of the vehicle. Identifying the culprit LASTMA, VIO and FRSC officials should have been part of the first steps any responsible government should have taken over Tuesday’s wanton killing of innocent students.
Can anyone tell us what has become of that law in Lagos State banning articulated vehicles from moving during daytime?
To be frank: we can’t keep crossing our fingers, shutting our eyes and hoping for the best in our worsening situation. No one should expect this storm that hit Ojodu Grammar School to blow over soon. The corruption-ridden attitude of the traffic officials in that axis of the state and the slow response of the state authorities are symptomatic of the wider problem in our body politic: the dysfunction in government at all levels.
It’s so sad that our government keeps failing and failing, even in handling the most mundane of issues in virtually all aspects of our life. Yet, political leaders and government officials continue to gallivant around in their manifest incompetence, pretence and charlatanism before our very eyes.
It begs the question to say that the government of the day at all levels in this country has so little under control of a situation that is spiralling wildly.
Anyway, this is what we get when the reins of governance are literally tossed over to people interested only in the frills and thrills of political power and the razzmatazz of public office, but detest the responsibilities attached to such position of leadership.
Now that the lives of innocent school children have been needlessly lost, the recklessness of motorists along this road aggravated by the blatant corruption and greed exhibited by the obtrusive LASTMA, VIO and FRSC officials operating in the area should be a matter of serious concern to government and the relevant authorities.
Reckless drivers and greedy traffic officials will continue to constitute serious danger to the students of Ojodu Grammar School and other pedestrians around the school until the government puts in place drastic measures to check their menace. Can’t the authorities and appropriate bodies come up with better ways of apprehending fleeing reckless drivers, rather than chasing them on motorcycles or service vans? The accident that claimed the lives of those innocent school children at Ojodu Grammar School was avoidable!
At this juncture, I will enjoin the appropriate authorities to urgently consider erecting speed breakers along this road to effectively check reckless driving by motorists, regardless of the categorisation of the road as “Trunk A.” These speed breakers will go a long way in reducing the speed with which motorists drive past the school area and in the long run, save the lives of students and other pedestrians.
It is needless to say that over-speeding should also be prohibited on the stretch of the road that runs within the precinct of the school.
I will also urge LASTMA, VIO and FRSC to device a means to deploy only incorruptible traffic officials to enforce speed limit along that road, especially around the vicinity of the school, to check the excesses of motorists plying that route.
The presence of incorruptible traffic officials along this road would better serve to deter reckless drivers from exhibiting their anti-social traits while behind the wheels.
Of course, this will be a very sad and traumatic December for families of the affected students and the entire school. My prayer is that God gives us all the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss of these innocent school children. May Almighty God grant their young souls eternal bliss. Amen.