The Death Trap Called Lafia-Akwanga Road

By Danjuma Joseph

It has happened again on Lafia-Akwanga road and most members of the group of sympathisers, rescuers and even victims could not help thinking as they shed tears, wail and roll on the ground mourning the premature death of 11 people who had just lost their lives in a ghastly crash.

A cement-laden truck bearing the Dangote logo had crashed into a motorcycle and a Toyota-Sharon commercial car.

As if the bloodthirsty road had not drunk its fill of carnage, barely seven days after, Sunday September 15 to be precise; there was another fatal accident. This time, the number of causalities was higher.

At the end of the counting, no fewer than 18 persons had drawn their last breath in the fatal mishap that involved again a truck, a Benue Links 18-seater bus and another car.

An accident scene along Lafia-Akwanga road recently

It was yet another torrent of tears, wailing and gnashing of teeth as passers-by, rescuers and sympathisers witnessed the evacuation of the victims, which included a mother and her three children.

The September 9 accident took place at Wowyen Hill, which is also known as “Many have gone”, around 10:25am. It was the same spot where the Nasarawa State Deputy Governor’S convoy was attacked recently.

Reports have it that out of the 11 persons that were consumed in the crash, nine were men and two female.

Findings show that the cement-laden truck with registration number Kano-KMC 523 YD heading towards Lafia, allegedly suffered brake failure and crushed a Sharon car with registration number Nasarawa-LFA 497 ZY, killing all the occupants.

An eyewitness said the truck also crushed a motorcycle rider and his wife to death, while one of the occupants of the trailer also died in the accident making it 11.

He said the Dangote trailer allegedly failed brake and hit the rear of a moving 12 tyres truck with registration number Gombe-GME 466 XA, conveying beans from Gombe to Aba, before it lost control and crushed the Sharon car, killing all the occupants.

Another accident scene

In a related development, a Sharon car loaded with passengers and traveling from Jos to Port-Harcourt, skipped the road and fell into a ditch just 500 meters away from the scene of the above accident, but all the occupants came out safe.

Investigation shows that some of the victims were identified either through their ID, ATM or SIM cards, owing to how they were broken into pieces by the trailer.

The Federal Road Safety Corps Sector Commander in Nasarawa State, Ismaila Maiwada-Kugu, confirmed the Sunday incident to journalists saying, “13 people died; 10 adults and three children. Three vehicles were involved: a small car, a bus belonging to Benue Links Transport Company and a truck. What happened was that the truck fell on the bus and crushed the vehicles with passengers trapped inside.”

“Despite the fact that the road is narrow, bumpy and not very good, drivers refuse to take extra precaution. The drivers are not patient. That’s the problem we have on the highways.”

An eyewitness said the accident happened around 3:40 pm along Akwanga-Lafia road in a village called Angwan Chiyawa, in Nassarawa Eggon Local Government Area of the State.

Our reporter gathered that the trailer coming from Lafia axis and carrying irons ran into a stray tyre of the smaller car; in the process of dodging the tyre, the truck lost control, then the tail detached itself while the head rammed into the 18-seater Benue Links bus, coming from Abuja, pushing it into a ditch and killing most of the occupants.

A Benue Links Vehicle Involved In one of the accidents

The same spot was where two trucks broke down on the road and caused heavy traffic for almost 24 hours.

Incidents like these have, however, become a re-occurring decimal on this dangerous hill before the small village called Agwan Chiyawa.

Hardly a day or week passes by without accident on Lafia-Akwanga road. If you don’t see accident on your way going, you may see one on your way back.

In the meantime, the FRSC said 18 persons were confirmed dead from the accident involving the trailer and the Benue Links bus.

The Nasarawa State Sector Commander of the FRSC, Ismaila Kugu, said five additional persons later died in the various hospitals they were taken to.

“As at this evening of Monday, 16 September 2019 when we went for follow up, five of the 11 injured persons we took to the hospitals for treatment have died,” he said.

FRSC Commences Investigation:
The FRSC has commenced investigations into the factors that led to the two ghastly motor accidents that claimed about 29 lives and left many others injured on the Akwanga/Nasarawa-Eggon/Lafia federal highway within seven days.

The Sector Commander of FRSC in Nasarawa State led a team of officials from Nasarawa and Plateau States to the locations of the accident on Tuesday, 17 September and addressed reporters shortly after the exercise.

It would be recalled that the first accident involving a trailer, Sharon car and a motorcycle took place at ‘Many have gone’ in Wowyen village, on September 9 and claimed 11 lives with some others suffering various degrees of injuries.

Then on September 15, another accident involving three vehicles occurred on the same highway at Agwan Chiyawa community in Nasarawa-Eggon local government area killing 18 and leaving some others injured.

Kugu said that the spate of accidents at the highway was alarming thereby prompting the FRSC Corps Marshall, Mr Boboye Oyeyemi, to order investigation into the incidents and possible ways of preventing a future occurrence.

“Our Corps Marshall directed that we should do thorough investigation on the two accidents and we are on it. We just came back from the field to do some administrative work and we will go back again. When we finish, I will take what we were able to find out to our management to discuss how best to prevent such accidents in future,” he said.

Kugu who itemized some of the dangerous ‘black spots’ of the highway to include Alizaga hill, Gako hills, Agwan Chiyawa and ‘Many have gone’ among others, urged drivers to be wary of these places and be extra careful.

“The road is narrow. There are hills, bends and curves. There are also potholes. Also there are no shoulders on both sides of the road coupled with impatience of drivers. Other factors include lack of maintenance of vehicles and recklessness because some of the drivers are in a hurry,” he said.

He urged commuters, especially commercial drivers, to exercise caution and patience while plying the route because of its narrow and rough nature. He also implored vehicle owners to give more attention to the maintenance of their vehicles, especially trucks in order to avert some of the accidents.

“We lost so many lives within seven days on one road alone. It is not what we want. We want to stop it. So what we have decided is to station our men before the flashpoints so that before drivers reach those places, our men have already calmed them down. I don’t want to pre-empt what steps we are going to take but traffic calming is definitely one of them,” he said.

Families Count Losses:
Some family members of the accident victims, relations and sympathizers expressed shock and regrets over the ugly incidents, describing the carnage as a national tragedy that calls for sober reflection.

The Permanent Secretary, Government House Lafia, Hamza Gayam, who lost an in-law in the first accident, described it as a colossal loss to him and family members.

“That day I was returning from NYSC Camp in Keffi to Lafia, and then I saw the disgusting accident. It happened 30 minutes earlier, before I got to the scene and saw people trying to help the victims of the accident.

“Unknown to me, my in-law was involved in the accident. It was three days later that we discovered he was dead, then we went and collected his corpse and buried him. It was very painful” Gayam said.

A neighbour to the couple from Nasarawa Eggon, who also lost their lives in the first accident, said “I saw them that morning going out together on their motorcycle. They went to Lafia, came back and the wife wanted to travel to Akwanga. She couldn’t get a car on time, so the husband decided to take her to Akwanga and come back, but unknown to him, it was a journey of no return.”

The neighbour who does not want his name mentioned, described the death of the couple as painful and regrettable as he prayed for the repose of their souls.

Samuel Tivta from Makurdi, wrote on his Facebook wall that “We lost these precious lives to the ghastly accident involving a Benue Links bus and a truck yesterday along Akwanga-Lafia road. I pray for them, I really pray they find rest. One family! This one brings tears to my eyes.

“Mr. Tavershima Jebe lost his wife and these three beautiful kids in that fatal Benue Links accident yesterday and for Tavershima, the world has ended already. My brother nothing on this planet can console you right now. God alone knows better so we won’t question him. Please accept this as an act of the Almighty. May their souls find rest in heaven, amen.”

Benue State Governor Condoles With Families:
The Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has said he is heart-broken over the tragic end of the victims of the Benue Links accident including Tavershima Jebe’s wife and three children.

Tavershima’s wife Mrs. Comfort Ngumimi, and children, David Iorwuese, Beauty Iwuese and Favour Dooshima died on Sunday September 15th at Nassarawa Eggon, Nasarawa State. They were returning from a holiday in Abuja, FCT, when the sad incidence occurred.

Ortom said the death of a wife and children was usually painful, adding that it occurred at the time they were most needed. The governor, who commiserated with the Jebe family on behalf of his family, government and people of the state, urged the family to take solace in the fact that even though the deceased four were loved, God needed them most.

“As we stand by you in your moment of grief, we pray God Almighty to grant you and the entire Jebe Goosu family and Mbagba community in Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State the fortitude to bear the painful and irreplaceable loss,” Ortom said.

Horrible Condition of Lafia-Akwanga Road:
Driving from Lafia to Akwanga is an unforgotten experience considering the dilapidated nature of the road, which is currently in a bad shape subjecting motorists and their vehicles to excruciating pains.

The problem is further compounded with the high number of vehicles particularly trucks, articulated vehicles and tankers plying the road.

It was gathered that the increase in the vehicular movement on the road is attributed to the current state of insecurity in the North East as vehicles from Yobe and Adamawa states which usually ply through the Wukari /Katsina- Ala road are forced to pass through Jos- Akwanga – Lafia road to the eastern part of the country.

Lafia/Nassarawa Eggon/Akwanaga road is the only federal highway in the north central part of the country connecting the far north to the eastern and southern parts of the country.

The Lafia-Akwanga road has some dangerous flash points in places like Alizaga hill, Gako hill, Agwan Chiyawa, the ‘Many have gone’ hill and Kururuwa Village (kwannan Dangote) curve, among others

The 52-kilometre Lafia-Akwanga road has a total number of 42 bends and curves; some are dangerous, while some are minor ones.

The other thing is that from Lafia to Nassarawa Eggon, which is about 24 kilometres, there are only six bends, while from Nasarawa Eggon to Akwanga, with a total of 28 kilometres has 36 minor and major bends.

Our correspondent observed that most of these flash points, bends and curves had the road shoulders and there were no road signs to alert a new road user of the dangerous nature of the road.

NURTW and Others:
The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) has attributed the high rate of accidents on Nigerian roads and in particular the Lafia-Akwanga road to reckless driving and bad nature of the road.

Nasarawa State chapter chairman of the NURTW, Alhaji Salisu Adamu (Sarkin Yakin Masaka), said 70% of the road accidents are due to the bad nature of the roads, while the 30% he said are due to reckless driving by the drivers.

He said they use to have orientation on road usage for their drivers at the end of every month, but because of the ‘Ember Months’, they adjusted it to two weeks, to enable them talk to the drivers.

He commended the federal government for awarding contract for the dualisation of the Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road, because according to him, it will reduce too many accidents on the Lafia-Akwanga road.

But a journalist from Benue State, Esther Akaa Ukile, based in Lafia Nasarawa State, shares different views with the chairman of NURTW, as she attributed 70% of the road accidents to recklessness on the side of the drivers.

She called on the chairman, management and owners of public transport buses plying the Abuja-Makurdi road to caution their drivers to value human lives and drive them with caution.

Contracts Awarded For Re-Alignment And Dualization:
Worried by the high rate of accidents on the Lafia-Akwanga road, the federal government, in 2009, awarded a 13.3 kilometer stretch of the road to ENL Consortium, at the cost of N3.3 billion for the re-alignment and straightening of the hilly and dangerous curves between Akwanga and Lafia with a completion time of 18 months.

As it happens with such projects in Nigeria, 10 years on, the job has yet to be completed and the road users continue to bear the brunt of the tradition of abandoned projects and bad governance.

It was alleged that the contractor abandoned the original job and concentrated efforts at crushing and selling the rocks found at the hills to the detriment of some sections of the road that were cleared and now chopped off by erosion.

ENL Consortium (a shipping company) with head office in Lagos, pocketed N1.3 billion out of the total contract sum of N3.3 billion and did little or nothing, then abandoned the contract and disappeared to the thin air.

But recently, the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari approved 995million dollars for the reconstruction of phase II of Abuja–Keffi–Akwanga–Lafia–Makurdi road.

The Federal government in collaboration with the Nasarawa state flagged off the 220 kilometre dualisation of Keffi, Akwanga, Lafia to Makurdi, road. The exercise which was held in Marke, Kokona Local Government Area of the state, attracted many people from within and outside the state.

Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Babatunde Fashola, alongside the then Nasarawa State Governor, Umaru Tanko A-Makura and representative of the Benue State Government collectively performed the flagging off ceremony, in November, last year.

The duplication of the road which linked the Federal Capital Territory and six Eastern states has been in the plan and programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration which was contracted to a Chinese construction firm to the tune of over One hundred billion, six hundred and forty eight million, one hundred and seventy seven thousand, six hundred naira and sixty four kobo.

Speaking earlier, Fashola disclosed that the president’s visit to China on Diplomatic mission was not for fantasy, but to engage experts who can tackle meaningful and life-changing projects that has direct bearing on the people, which has resulted to the construction project aimed at enhancing the long suffering of motorists travelling from Abuja to Makurdi.

He further affirmed the Federal Government’s readiness in making sure that the construction of the road would be completed within 36 months.

The Minister also cautioned those who are in the habit of criticising the administration of being slow, to be aware of the fact that the present government’s programmes are quicker in terms of achievements, that is why “We are result oriented and have began this huge projects within Three years, which is faster than the Sixteen years of the past government of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, also important to note that this is a road connecting people which would have formed their priority to link the people but was neglected” he said.

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