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Sad story of Benue snaky road where tanker crashes, deadly explosions have become normal

Sad story of Benue snaky road where tanker crashes, deadly explosions have become normal

Sad story of Benue snaky road where tanker crashes, deadly explosions have become normal image
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The recent crashes of two petroleum product-laden tankers in the Oshigbudu community of Benue State 48 hours apart left many dead and property worth millions of naira destroyed; the survivors recount their experiences to JOHN CHARLES

Proponents of democracy argue that one major thing that makes them sell this form of government to third world countries is that it engenders national development.

Some of the indices of measuring development are good road networks, stable power supply and creating an enabling environment for citizens to thrive as well as provision of other basic infrastructure that makes lives more bearable for the living.

An example of such amenities is the Otukpo-Oweto-Abuja Road, which was initiated by a former President of the Senate, David Mark.

The road has not only opened up the area, but it has also eased the transportation of farm produce from the rural areas to urban centres, particularly, Abuja following the near completion of the Oweto Bridge.

One can appreciate the construction of the road if one considers the plight of the people of the area in the past when they had to spend a whole day to traverse the 81KM road from Otukpo to Oshigbudu, which now takes travellers barely one and half hours.

Though it is the best trunk ‘A’ road in the whole of Benue State, its snaky nature, no doubt, makes first time motorists vulnerable to crashes unless they employ caution and patience while driving on it from Otukpo, headquarters of the Benue South Senatorial District.

Apparently, the drivers of the crashed tankers at Oshigbudu in the Agatu Local Government Area of the state last Sunday and Tuesday were new on the road. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

 How the crashes happened

The Divisional Police Officer in Agatu, Hyacinth Enyikpo, explained that eyewitnesses to the Sunday accident, which occurred at the Obagaji/Oshigbudu junction, claimed that it occurred due to brake failure.

“According to what I was told at the scene of the accident, the motor boy was waving at the police and shouting on top of his voice that the tanker had suffered brake failure and the driver could not slow down the vehicle and lost control, and one of the tyres entered the drainage channel. The tanker somersaulted and caught fire,” Enyikpo said.

He added that the motor boy was brought to the General Hospital at Obagaji and was later referred to the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, but could not make it there alive.

The second crash happened barely 48 hours after the first. Though no life was lost, two houses were burnt down when the tanker fell and exploded around 4am on Tuesday.

Eyewitnesses attributed the accident to the nature of the road, which they described as zigzag.

An eyewitness, simply identified as Yahaya, stated, “You know the terrain here; the road is zigzag and one has to ascend before entering the town.

“So, on approaching the town, the driver tried to apply the brakes, but they didn’t respond and so he had to climb one of the woods used as speed breakers, and it entered in between the tyres and that is how the tanker somersaulted.

“The point is that after the first accident, logs were used to serve as speed breakers to the point of the first crash. So, this kerosene-laden tanker ran into the logs, fell down and exploded.

Twelve persons made up of eight male, three females and one male child lost their lives, while several houses as well as vehicles and motorcycles were burnt to ashes, according to the Federal Road Safety Corps.

Residents at the scene of the crash, who spoke to our correspondent, claimed that 11 persons from the community were burnt, four were unidentified, while seven were identified and buried by their families.

From the report of the residents, the 12th person was likely the tanker’s motor boy, who was severely burnt and initially admitted at the General Hospital, Obagaji, headquarters of the local government, but was later transferred to the FMC, Makurdi, but could not make it alive to the state capital.

Obagaji has been cut off from public power supply. The high tension lines that supply power to Obagaji were destroyed as a result of the intense heat from the inferno.

Victims recount ordeal (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The victims of the tanker explosions are still groaning in pain and counting their losses. The worry about how to forge ahead after the calamity is their major concern for now.

Like it is with other disasters, many have lost their life savings. To some, divine intervention is needed to get out of the ruins they have found themselves, and if care is not taken, the disaster may send a few to the farm.

Onah Christian owned three shops in the community; his major concern now is how to begin again having lost the shops to the fire that followed the explosion.

Christian said the incident happened barely a day after he stocked his shops with goods.

He stated, “I lost three shops; I was at Ugbokpo, headquarters of the neighbouring Apa Local Government Area of the state when it happened.

“I had three shops. One for provisions; I also sell refrigerators and generators in the others. The incident happened on Sunday afternoon and we don’t open on Sundays. That was how God saved my family. I have lost all my life savings to the fire incident, because I lost goods worth over N2m.

“You know, this incident happened a day after I came back from the market and stocked my shops with goods.

“I have family and where to start from is my major concern now.”

For Yahaya Ochokwu, when the first crash happened, he alongside others commiserated with the victims, unknown to him that calamity was lurking around and barely 48 hours after, he became the victim of a similar occurrence.

The four-bedroom flat, where he lived, was razed down in the second inferno.

Ochokwu said, “The first incident happened on Sunday and we commiserated with the victims only to experience the same thing almost two days after.

“This one happened when we were sleeping between 3am and 4am I could not help it; the whole bungalow went up in flames; aside from that, I lost over 100 bags of rice, plus sorghum and yam.”

Among those who lost their sources of income were commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as okada riders.

Two of the riders, who spoke to our correspondent at Oshigbudu, described the incident as “monumental tragedy.” (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Peter Ochocho lamented the tragedy that befell the community that fateful Sunday, saying mother luck was the saving grace as some of the okada riders narrowly escaped when the tanker fell down.

Ochocho stated, “It’s God that helped us here; see where the tanker fell and see where we parked. It is God, who saved us. I lost my phone while I was running.

“It is this motorcycle I used to eke out a living,” pointing at the wreckage, adding, “Since Sunday, it has been difficult to get money to feed.”

For Adanu Peter, it is the same story with no one to sponsor him, he opted to become a commercial motorcycle rider.

According to him, he started by hiring the motorcycle before he could save enough to buy his own, on hire purchase, unfortunately, he is yet to clear the payment when the unfortunate incident happened.

“I’m a secondary school leaver and when there was no helper, I opted for hiring a motorcycle and became an okada rider about  six years ago.

“I was able to save some money, which I used to get my own motorcycle though on a hire purchase basis, as at the time the incident happened on Sunday I was yet to complete the payment, yet the motorcycle is completely burnt.

“Right now, I don’t have anything to do again because I’ve lost my bike.”

To Idris Udongo, a community leader in Oshigbudu, what happened on Sunday and Tuesday were things that had never occurred in the area before.

He said, “I am touched by the incidents. I sent a message to the police and they came. The deceased were 11. The police have given permission for their burial.

“Four were unknown to us. The unknown were also buried at Oshigbudu. The seven, who were indigenes, were buried by their various families.”

The community leader said after the incident, the council of elders in the local government visited to console the community and so also was the state deputy governor, Benson Abounu.

All the victims, who spoke to our correspondent, called on the State Emergency and Maintenance Agency as well as National Emergency and Maintenance Agency to come to their aid by donating relief materials  to alleviate their suffering. They also appealed to good-spirited individuals to assist them.    ,,

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