By Taiye Elebiyo-Edeni
Unarguably, indiscriminate parking of articulated vehicles and damaged vehicles on highways across the country has contributed to the rate of road accidents.
Concern citizens have, on many occasions, expressed dissatisfaction about the rate of accidents, especially those caused by such indiscriminate parking of trucks and other articulated vehicles.
They cite such parking in Benin Bypass, Obollo Afor, 9th Mile in Enugu; Ogere, Mowe, Ibafo, Sagamu in Ogun, Lokoja, Abaji (FCT) Etobe and Obajana, Kogi, among others, as examples.
They, therefore, suggest the building of modern truck transit parks as a way of controlling such indiscriminate parking and reduce congestion of vehicles and accidents on highways.
But before the outcry for such transit parks, the Federal Government has planned to develop transit parks at Lokoja, Obollo-Afor, Enugu, Ogere, Ogun, Jebba in Kwara and Port Novo Creek, Lagos State, as an alternative strategy to address truck congestion at the seaports in Apapa and Port Harcourt.
Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi observe that these parks will complement the Ore Sunshine in Ondo State and the ones being processed by the Kaduna State Government at the Mararaban, Jos and Tapa on the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
“The Federal Government shall ensure that truck transit parks will be independently developed by state governments and private investors to meet a minimum standard in the number of facilities provided at the sites.
“The Federal Government shall ensure that the parks are economic, creating wealth and employment for the teeming population,’’ he said in an event recently in Lagos.
Sharing similar sentiments, Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola, said if the activities of these big vehicles were not checked, they could become hazardous to the society.
Fashola observed that the absence of rail had accommodated articulated vehicles and other heavy vehicles on the highways.
He said although the activities of the vehicles had contributed to the nation’s economy, they ought to be well managed by building modern transit parks.
According to him, the construction of such parks, which will the first of its magnitude in Nigeria, is expected to be completed within the 2017 fiscal year.
Fashola said that when the park is completed, it would decongest the highways and improve economic activities.
He, however, advised that such parks should be replicated on major arterial routes and roads leading to neighbouring countries such as the Lagos-Badagry road, Benin border, Ikom-Mfum road (Cameron border) and Kazaure, among other border towns.
In his view, Mr Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, said the building of modern truck transit parks had been the initiative of the council.
“There is much deficit in infrastructure and Nigeria will have to modernise its transport infrastructure. Now, we cannot afford articulated vehicles or trucks to park indiscriminately.
“That is why we said we could have a truck transit park. It is a modern way where we have parking spaces off the main way where you have fuel stations, gas stations, hostels, shops, and other facilities.
“It will reduce congestion; ensure the safety and security of cargoes and there will be trackers all over — a civilized way of doing things,’’ he said.
He said that the parks would also promote other transport modes to boost efficiency, competitiveness, safety and enhanced service delivery in the transport sector.
According to him, one of the facilities that will be used in parks is a device to check overloading in trucks.
Making clarification on the construction of modern transit parks across the country, Mrs Antonia Ekpa, Director of Road Transport and Mass Transit, Federal Ministry of Transportation, said it was in line with global practice.
She explained that the parks, also to be referred to as “Rest Stop’’ and “Truck Terminal’’, would provide guest houses where drivers could rest on transit, conveniences, filling stations and restaurants.
“When a tanker driver drives for a longer period of time without stopping, it usually results in accidents whereby trucks can fall and this has claimed lives and damaged goods on daily basis.
“It is important for a driver to find somewhere and park to relax and have access to conveniences,’’ Ekpa said.
For the success of the construction of the parks, Rep. Ovie Omo-Agege, Vice-Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport, pledged the support of the National Assembly in in that regard.
He said the parks would go a long way in addressing problems caused by heavy duty vehicles on highways.
“The National Assembly remains prepared to provide every legislative support required to achieve the dream of the Buhari-Osinbajo administration for the transformation of the Nigerian transport landscape,’’ he promised.
Underscoring the importance of the parks, Dr Kassim Bataiya, National President, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), said that if the parks were established, they would improve efficiency in haulage and increase returns on investment in the trucking business.
“The establishment of the parks will reduce man-hours spent in gridlock and in sourcing for cargoes by both dry and wet cargo truck owners.
“It will also improve the security of trucks and prolong the lives of drivers, as well as reduce the exposure of trucks to hijacks, robberies and extortion.
He said investment opportunities would also become massive if the idea of developing the parks was executed as planned.
He, therefore, commended the efforts of the Federal Government on the initiative and for revamping the nation’s rail system.(NAN)