In the Ships & Ports edition of February 27 – March 4, 2012, I wrote the piece titled The Psycho Ward Called Lagos Ports Access Roads for this column.
Penultimate Friday, as we prepared to put to bed our edition of March 5 – 11, 2012, I got a call from an invaluable source, hinting about the death of two agents at the Tin- Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC). This writer needed no further prompting after this vital piece of information from this most reliable source, a veritable big brother.
Any true editor is a true reporter. And what a true friend the true reporter has in the cell phone! Series of calls were placed to a network of sources, who, each in his or her respective manner, helped in elucidating the circumstances surrounding the double tragedy that hit the maritime industry that Black Friday.
What were the facts that emerged? Two men described as Customs agents had died very avoidable deaths along the Conoil (National) Filling Station stretch of the TCIPC access road. Both men (names withheld) had become human sacrifices in a macabre drama.
Against the backdrop that is the maddening Lagos ports access roads, a minor traffic disagreement had turned virulently violent. It was learnt that one of the two lead dramatis personae, described as the villain, and the driver of a Honda Pilot jeep, had allegedly stabbed the other, and the driver of a Nissan Maxima, to death for allegedly brushing the saloon car against the jeep. Eyewitness accounts had it that the weapon was snatched from its scabbard on the waist of a Naval rating who was his passenger when the vehicles crashed.
Beyond verbal exchanges, road rage in Nigeria, even playing out in the notorious Lagos traffic, is not particularly of the violent kind, as in other climes. That is if you overlook the antics of siren-blaring banks bull(y)ion vans, convoys of the military and paramilitary, private security firms, diplomatic corps, company executives, traditional rulers, governors, local government bosses, heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAS), clerics, first ladies etc.
Lest I forget, road rage, as manifesting between feuding chieftains of certain political parties, such as those that occur during campaigns, or as when the convoy of member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Chris Uba, allegedly ran off that of his estranged political “godson” and the then Anambra State Governor Chris Ngige, off the road.
Lest I forget also, road rage of the kind unusual for Nigerian standards manifested itself some years ago in Lagos when a Naval officer pulled his service pistol and shot dead a mere commercial motorcyclist for allegedly brushing the bike against his precious car at Allen Junction, Ikeja, the state capital.
And still quite fresh in memory is the tale of the young lady and her male companion, whose car did not clear out of the way fast enough for a Naval top brass whose duty post was in Delta State, but he was that fateful day in Victoria Island, Lagos, when his all-male security detail of burly Naval ratings descended on the duo, beating them blue-and-black, reducing the slightly-built young woman to near-nakedness.
Again, road rage of the worst kind wailed that Black Friday in an episode that could have been a Nollywood script, as the driver of the Honda Pilot jeep, quite out of synch with his sobriquet of Elder, allegedly plunged the prop provided (inadvertently?) by the (siddon look) Naval rating severally into his perceived adversary. And the man died on the spot. And the alleged killer sobered up. His eyes cleared of the killer rage that beclouded had them moments ago. The devil fled from him. And he saw reason. Alas, it was too late for a man, who was living and breathing only just moments ago, but was now a cadaver. Just as the devil fled from him, the killer made to flee the scene. But it was not to be.
In Lagos, any scene, no matter how innocuous, attracts the ubiquitous onlookers – Lagos onlookers. Like moths to a flame, these purveyors include pickpockets who often reap a rich harvest from the unwary during such moments and are as often accused of stage-managing such scenes to promote their nefarious enterprises.
However, there was nothing whatsoever playacting about this particular incident, even as the scenes played out like a typical action (horror?) movie. There was quite a crowd at the scene, that would surely do any movie set proud as extras. Nollywood’s famed wakapass. And as the horrific slaying of a man like the human sacrifices of the ancient Aztecs unfolded before their eyes, a number of the wakapass troop promptly went after the self-appointed Chief Priest from Hell. Almost in no time, the suspect had joined his alleged victim in the other world, pummeled to death by members of a mob driven by the same bloodlust that gripped him and fuelled the irredeemable damage he wrought on his victim’s life.
Few tragic tales don’t have their roots in romance gone awry. The unfortunate incident of that Black Friday at the TCIPC, according to sources, is traceable to bad blood between the dead duo, allegedly feuding over the favours of the same woman. How true, or how false this angle is? No one has been able to tell with certainty, as yet. As the popular saying goes, dead men tell no tales. And as someone reminded me last Wednesday, the dead tell no lies, neither do they tell the truth.
But even if the investigation by the Police, the Ports Authority Police Command (PAPC), is never ever able to completely unravel the circumstances surrounding the double deaths, a particular certainty is that the Lagos ports access roads will witness more avoidable violent deaths. Call me a prophet of doom, but it takes no genius to read the glaring pointers. Just a reminder, these factors include that nerve-wracking grossly-inadequate infrastructure within and outside the ports is the leading cause of the near-perennial gridlock, which in turn attracts the horde of rapacious officials, fake and real, of local, state and Federal governments, ostensibly on rescue missions to facilitate free flow of traffic. Curiously, the more their numbers increase, the worse the traffic situation, on these roads get. What eloquent testimony to the position of keen industry watchers that the attraction for these officials to the Lagos ports access roads is the easy monies they rake in from extorting road haulage operators for both real and phantom road traffic offences.
Fear, it’s been said, opens the purse strings. Fear is copiously deployed against the truck drivers, mostly headed for the ports to discharge empty containers or pick up cargoes at the terminals. While just some of the Naval and Police personnel carry assault rifles, a piece of plastic pipe, or wood and koboko is a fixture in the hands of the officials and touts, including personnel of the Navy, Police, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Man’O War and various road transport associations or unions.
The harsh sound of vehicle side mirrors, headlights, trafficators and backlights crumbling under the assault of rifle butts and other handy cudgels is a regular beat on Lagos ports access roads. It is only a matter of time before such cruel blows will indiscriminately not just land on these inanimate objects, but living heads and other parts of the human anatomy. It is happening already. It happened last month when a Naval rating allegedly gunned down a petroleum tanker driver at the Sunrise Bus Stop, along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
With frayed nerves running raw and wild, when will the next killing(s) occur on the psycho ward called Lagos ports access roads? Only time will tell.
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