Breakdown of law and order is a threat to human life in Nigeria
A significant percentage of Nigeria’s challenges stem from breakdown of law and order. Our institutions deteriorated to this sorry state, in large part due to lawlessness. Other horrific features of the Nigerian experience; bad service delivery, poor infrastructure and so on are inextricably linked to our collective extreme lawlessness.There are environmental, trade, food production and processing laws, codes and ethics, brazenly flouted by individuals, corporations, religious bodies and other enterprises without any repercussions whatsoever. In many cases, some people are not even aware of certain extant laws and so innocuously but inevitably violate them. This undesirable standard has claimed numerous lives, rendered others morbid, disenfranchised several groups of people; particularly the less privileged and reduced the overall life quality of so many Nigerians.
The tragic incident of Thursday, June 28, 2018, that claimed lives, maimed several others, polluted the environment, damaged property and ruined livelihoodsis the latest heartbreaking display of our Country’s disregard for the safety and wellbeing of its citizens. To be clear, accidents are bound tohappen. That isa sad reality of life. This unfortunate incident however was, unnecessary and avoidable. Apparently, there is a law in the state, barring heavy vehicles from plying the roads before 10 PM. However, this truck was on the road before 10 PM, recklessly shunningan established regulation, thereby compromising the wellbeing of several other citizens.There are other laws enacted to prevent these sorts of mishap; vehicular weight and design stipulations, speed limits, maintenance standard and many other road traffic laws, routinely violated by not only heavy vehicle drivers, but many other road users as well. Factual details of the incident are lacking, as there is no conclusive output of a constructive investigation yet, butaccording to official media briefings, preliminary investigation indicate that the offending truck was loaded to twice its pulling capacity.Our societal culture of blatantly disregarding laws and regulations have resulted in similarly unwarranted tragedies in the past, such as the loss of at least 100 lives in a similar incident, which occurred in Port Harcourt in 2012. Likewise, a report in the Premium Times notes that Lagos state recorded 115 petroleum tanker accidents in 2016 alone.
It is typical of most humans, especially the unscrupulous to break, bend or attempt to manipulate the law; however, what distinguishes other sane societies from ours is enforcement.Admittedly, the government’s job seems difficult in this instance. In the past, attempts to regulate the transportation of petroleum and petroleum products on roads led to strike actions that crippled socio-economic activities throughout the country because energy supply was disrupted. This generated significant distress, yielding misguided public outrage that forced the government to soft-pedal.However, the government cannot afford to be hapless or helpless, considering that political leaders are elected to make tough decisions that will ensure the safety of lives and property. There are other contributory factors however, such as powerful forces at play here; big corporations or individuals with intimidating political and business connections who evade the law. Such blatant evasion of the law has to stop.
Respective state governments need to act. In states where relevant laws exist, enforcement is critical. These states can use agencies and strategies within their jurisdiction while ensuring proper training and remuneration of enforcement agents. States without such laws, should enact reasonable laws, that can be easily enforced as quickly as possible. Infrastructural development is essential for sustainable change in this regard. Rail system is a more acceptable alternative for transport of petroleum and petroleum products and we just must find a way to develop functional, effective rail transportation. It would limit the ‘incidence’ of heavy vehicles on Nigerian roads.In the interim, specific regulations for oil tankers should be initiated and rigorously enforced.Relevant investment in road technology e.g. CCTV cameras that can monitor daily events on roads, to aid trace-back investigations in future is necessary. Improved provisions of emergency relief support measures is also desirable. This latest incident is a harbinger of possibly more catastrophic future accidents, if we do not address our partial and ultimately weak law enforcement crisis in this country. Laws are useless if they are not enforced, can this fact possibly be over-emphasized?
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