Accidents occasioned by activities of heavy duty vehicles have failed to abate despite the construction of trailer parks along the Abuja, Niger, Kaduna and Kano roads as drivers have abandoned such facilities. Daily Trust Saturday reports that governments of Niger, Kaduna and Kano states had constructed trailer parks to dissuade articulated vehicle drivers from parking by the roadside in order to reduce accidents and other vices.
From Abuja to Kano, a distance of 427 kilometres (265 miles), trailers and fuel tankers are common sight on the highway.
They obstruct movements at the popular Kaduna road in Suleja, destroyed Suleja tollgate, Tafa, Jere, Maraban Jos, Dankande, Kwanar Dangora, Daka Tsalle, among others.
The drivers see such villages and semi-urban settlements as resting places, even as locals have established eateries, taverns, night clubs and restrooms.
Over the years, many people have been killed and properties worth billions of naira destroyed as a result of head-on collision by moving vehicles or infernos from fuel tankers that parked by the roadside.
Years or months after their ‘completion’, the multibillion naira worth trailer parks are yet to be fully put to use.
While authorities have continued to blame the drivers for the malice, the drivers on the other hand say most of the facilities are not habitable because they lack water, conveniences and security.
These danger zones have recorded several accidents, particularly at the Maraban Jos axis of the highway, due to incessant traffic congestion and indiscriminate parking of trailers and tankers.
Earlier this year, a tanker loaded with petrol went in flames at Jere junction on the highway and burnt dozens of shops and residential houses.
In January 2022, a ghastly motor accident along Dankande, on the outskirts of the Kaduna metropolis, consumed more than 13 people in a head-on collision between two tankers.
In 2017, three people lost their lives while 15 others sustained several injuries when a tanker loaded with petroleum lost control and crashed at Tafa, along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.
In that incident, 17 houses, 12 shops and several fuel tankers parked along the highway were burnt.
However, Governor Nasir el-Rufai has decried the alarming loss of lives recorded on that section of the highway due to the indiscriminate parking of long vehicles.
This was why he initiated the construction of some trailer parks, especially at the identified red spots.
The Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria highway is the busiest road in the northern part of the country and connects seven states in the North West zone to the country’s capital, Abuja.
Kano trailer park rots away
The park, located in Daka Tsalle, Bebeji Local Government Area, approximately seven kilometres away from Kano city, was started and completed in 2013 during the second tenure of Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso as governor of the state and was thus named ‘Kwankwasiyya Trailer Park.’
While the park has a space that can contain hundreds of trucks at a time, the drivers remain adamant in using it as they chose to stay away from what the then government called a ‘modern parking area.’
The drivers instead line up their vehicles on the expressway due to what some of them described as “lack of access and absence of amenities inside the park.”
Lawan Hassan, who is one of the truck drivers who frequent the Kano-Zaria expressway, said while parking by the roadside was dangerous, the drivers were allegedly not permitted to park inside the modern garage.
“Who gave us permission to park inside?” Hassan asked rhetorically, adding that once permission to start using the park was granted, they would start using it because most of them don’t like parking by the roadside.
“It is closed. As a concerned driver, I give assurance that if the government said we should occupy this place now, before tomorrow you would be surprised at the number of vehicles you would see inside. Some of us spend days before going forward. I think it will be safer to have our vehicles inside the park.
“We started using the one in Abuja and Tafa even before their completion, the same thing with that of Mararrabar Jos in Kaduna built by El-Rufa’i because all requirements to make the parks functional were available,” he said, pointing at the shut gates to the park.
Abdullahi Gaidam, another driver, who learnt how to handle minor mechanical challenges due to his vast experience of driving truck vehicles over the years, also agreed that it was risky to park by the roadside as one could not know the way and manner somebody would come driving.
“We know quite well that it is not safe to park by the roadside; and frankly, we don’t enjoy that. I just parked here to do minor repairs and move on. I am travelling to Maiduguri. If it were a major repair, we would love to have a place like the park, at least for our safety,” he said.
Lurwanu Kabiru, another truck driver who knew about the existence of the park, said he was not aware that it was secured for them to park their vehicles.
Kabiru had a horrible experience of parking by the roadside recently in a town called Kwanar Gafan, along the expressway. He said a driver, who was driving and feeling sleepy, ran out of the way and hit his truck, and which resulted in the death of one of his assistants.
“Wherever there is a park and I see someone parking by the roadside, I always question his sense of safety. If it is not necessary, I don’t park by the roadside and sleep because for every vehicle passing by, I have to wake up suspecting that the incident will happen again. Chances are that when I am inside a park, no vehicle will run out of the road and hit me.”
‘Absence of amenities’
While a divisional police office was provided within reach to provide security for the park and the area as a whole, there are no amenities to ensure a hitch-free movement in and out of the park, Daily Trust Saturday observed.
A resident of the area who preferred to be anonymous said the park was built without providing a lane that trucks with long trailers could use to access the expressway easily while coming out from the park.
He said that without service lane, the articulated vehicles cause accidents or distract vehicles already at high speed on the expressway.
He said as the trailer park had been abandoned for a long time, some parts of the perimeter fencing of the park have started to fall.
Daily Trust Saturday further observed that although the park also has no proper landscaping, tarred roads and designated parking spaces, the complaint about service lane could no longer hold water as the road has been expanded recently by the federal government.
It now has enough shoulders and drainages on both sides.
But what remains sources of concern is that amenities like restaurants, public convenience and vehicle wash stands are lacking in inside.
Instead, locals in the area have improvised such “amenities” by the highway.
Auwal Musa Muhammad, the manager of a public convenience and truck washing points near the park said, “This carwash has been here before the park was built. I did not attempt relocating inside the park because they are not using it. Once they open it and it becomes functional I will also relocate if the government permits.”
Muhammad said they collected between N2,500 and N3,000 to wash a truck. However, when it is dirty, they charge as much as N3,500 or N4,000.
“Honestly, when they park by the roadside, accidents happen. That building there is part of our public convenience and the driver of a vehicle lost control and hit it.
“There are many reasons the truck drivers abandoned the park. Apart from the poor arrangement, some of the drivers siphon fuel; and some are into drugs. They won’t be comfortable inside the park because of security,” he alleged.
While officials of the state Ministry of Housing and Transport who are the custodians of the park could not be reached for comment, a source who preferred anonymity said the project had been given to a company, BHK Habitat Limited to operate.
When contacted, the managing director, BHK Habitat Limited, Bashir Haruna Kassim, said the place was given to the company last year and the company had just concluded arrangements with the government to start operation.
“The government gave us the place just last year. It was given to the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and they abandoned it. This February, the government passed a law on the issue and election matters kicked in and we had to stop.
“We are going to keep up with the government now and see how we will can start the operation very soon,” he said.
A Federal Road Safety (FRSC) official who spoke in confidence said it would require collective efforts by the state and local government areas concerned, officials of articulated and tanker unions, owners of such vehicles and the traditional institutions to solve the problem.
“You will be appalled when we give you the record of accidents recorded around such illegal parking areas. However, I want to assure you that adequate measures are being taken, especially now that the highway from Abuja to Kano has been reconstructed. It will not be business as usual,” he said.
One year after, Tafa trailer park awaits facilities
It is more than a year since one of the truck parks located in Tafa town along the Abuja-Kaduna highway was commissioned to be used by articulated truck drivers that ply the highway.
The area under Kagarko Local Government in Kaduna State witnessed a number of accidents that led to casualties as a result of indiscriminate parking by truck drivers.
Two locations in opposite lanes within the community were earmarked for the trailer park, with each to serve for drivers heading toward the Abuja or Kaduna axis. While one of the sites located at Bakura community on the outskirts of Tafa town on the way to Kaduna was still in the initial stage, the second one on the way to Dikko junction was almost completed and had since been commissioned in December, 2021.
The two parks are being constructed by the Kaduna State Government and the federal government through the Ministry of Works and Housing.
Daily Trust Saturday visited one of the facilities which had been commissioned for use, where over 100 trucks were seen, with some of them undergoing some mechanical repairs or adjustment.
Most drivers spoken to lamented that the facility still lacked some critical supporting infrastructures.
A tanker driver, Muhammed Abdullahi from Tarauni Local Government Area of Kano State, said that since he discovered the facility about a year ago, he would always make a stopover there instead of packing along the highway within the community as he previously did.
“This gives me rest of mind as I don’t expect any vehicle to hit my own or lose anything to the thieves,” he said.
Abdullahi said he was expected to move to Lagos once he was through with some mechanical works on his vehicle.
He, however, lamented that the unavailability of a decent public convenience at the facility, as the two that have been constructed are yet to be properly put into use, and there’s no water to run them.
Some officials of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), who were seen manning the entrance to the facility, said every truck driver paid N1,000 before being allowed in.
After that, nothing would be demanded from him, no matter how long his vehicle would remain here, one of the officials disclosed.
The official listed some of the infrastructures needed there to include running water, lodging, restaurants, fire service station, as well as befitting public conveniences. He said each of the N1,000 collected from a truck driver is shared between Kagarko Local Government and their union, with each taking N500.
He said the facility was expected to be leased out to a private company for better management within one week.
Daily Trust Saturday also learnt that while the inner fence situated between the facility and the surrounded undeveloped lands (forest) were already built, the one from the main road was yet to be attended to.
A survey by union officials indicated that only 25 per cent of truck drivers use the facility as their stopover in the area, while the rest still park on the main road.
According to them, most of the drivers heading toward the Kaduna axis are finding it difficult to drive into the facility that is situated opposite their moving lane.
A driver who was seen parking along the highway on his way to Kaduna said he could not use a turning point located far away from the trailer park to access the facility.
As such, he demanded for completion of the second trailer park that could serve trucks heading to Kaduna and in the alternative, a turning point be constructed around the existing trailer park that could make it easily accessible from both lanes.
A source in the community disclosed that only drivers that work with companies like Dangote and BUA are manoeuvring their way into the park due to their companies’ strategic supervision against the violators.
“There are cases where some drivers that park along the way have some of their goods like bags of sugar been stolen, and their company no longer take such neglect lightly; hence they always make sure they park within the trailer park,” the source added.
Speaking in the same vein, an official of the National Union of Petroleum and National Gas (NUPENG) that manned the facility entrance had accused the government of failing to enforce the parking order in Tafa.
“You could no longer see such a thing at Maraban Jos where the outgoing state governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, had warned that any building owner that allowed a trailer park in front of his house or shop would have it demolished. Why can’t we have such a directive in Tafa?” the official said.
Findings reveal that the Maraban Jos trailer park was established to reduce the illegal parking of vehicles along the busy Kaduna-Zaria highway.
Before its construction, trailers were parked on the side of the road leading to fatal accidents that claimed many lives and properties.
The government decided to construct the park meters away from the town to move the transporters off the road and ensure the safety and convenience of travelers, particularly the tanker drivers and villagers.
However, the transporters were forced to relocate to the park after El-Rufai banned illegal parking by the roadside a few years ago while the park construction was ongoing.
Earlier, the drivers had cited insecurity reasons as a major reason for their reluctance to move into the park, making the park less useful.
While the premises were made conducive for the vehicles, there are still other abandoned work within the park, such as the toilets and the second gate into the park, which are yet to be completed.
The drivers now use a single gate for both entry and exit, which is making it difficult as other trailers had to wait outside for others to go out before they go in.
The chairman of the trailer union at the park, Alhaji Yunusa, urged the government to complete the work, saying his members are not happy using a single gate as entry and exit.
“The police have agreed to handle the problem of illegal traders selling outside the park so as to discourage drivers from parking outside,” he said.
An official of the consulting firm handling the park who didn’t mention his name mentioned, said they had written to the authorities concerned about the need for a u-turn on the highway close to the Maraban Jos trailer park.
According to him, the u-turn will encourage drivers to utilise the park.
Calls to the managing director of the Kaduna Market Development Agency, Tamar Nandul, were unanswered and she was yet to reply to a text message sent to her seeking clarification on the development.