As many find their way into churches and religious centres for a special cross-over service to pray into the New Year, it was a cruel twist of fate for 30 passengers, who died about 15 minutes to the new year in a road accident on Monday night near Bola Ige International market along new Ife-Ibadan expressway, Gbagi, Ibadan, Oyo state capital.
A pregnant woman, simply identified as Mrs. Funmilayo and 30 others were crushed to death by a trailer on New Year eve at the second gate of Bola Ige International Market. Though the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) gave conflicting details of the incident, both confirmed that many people were killed.
While the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Adekunle Ajisebutu, said 11 persons died in the accident, a comprehensive report obtained from the office of the Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Cecilia Alao, showed that 12 persons died from the incident, adding that their bodies have been deposited at the morgue of Oyo State Specialist Hospital, Adeoyo.
The report also indicated that 10 injured victims were receiving treatment at Toun Specialist Hospital, in Iwo Road area.
The incident according to eyewitnesses and the FRSC boss occurred at 11:45p.m. on Monday. The victims were said to include people who were going to churches for the annual cross over night at Iyana-Agbala and Egbeda area of the city.
Eyewitnesses revealed that a bus belonging to one ‘Orobo Baba welder’ had loaded passengers at the spot and was about to embark on its journey, when a trailer enroute Iwo Road from Ife axis crossed the road and wrecked the havoc.
The motor boy of the bus, Waris Olatunde, who spoke with newsmen, said he narrowly escaped the incident because the driver of the vehicle (orobo baba welder) had paid him for his job and asked him to go home.
“It was only God that saved me. Usually, I used to collect money for him from the passengers before he leaves the park but in this case he said since it was late already, I should take N200 and leave. He told me that he would collect the money himself on the road.
“The man just closed the side door of the vehicle and before he entered from the driver side, the trailer had cross to this side and killed everyone in the vehicle. Even a Toyota Camry and Nissan Micro car were also crushed,” he said.
It was gathered that the victims were crushed to death by an oncoming trailer from Iwo road axis, which rammed into the commercial buses by the entrance of the market. The Gbagi accident led to heavy gridlock which saw vehicles enroute Ife from Ibadan stranded for many hours.
Although, no eyewitness could say if the trailer suffered a brake failure or if the affected buses were parked on the road, sources confirmed that only two people initially survived the accident and many people were taken to a nearby hospital while other passengers were said to have died immediately.
Sources, however, hinted that many of the victims included people going to churches for the cross-over service at Iyana-Agbala and Egbeda area of the city.
New Year eve also turned bloody in Ondo State as suspected armed robbers went berserk along Uso-Owo Expressway in Owo Local Government Area of the state, killing six persons and leaving many others injured.
According to an eyewitness, the culprits were dressed in police uniforms to lure unsuspecting road users to slow down, after which they attacked their victims and shot sporadically into the air to scare away people who might come for their rescue.
The source disclosed that two persons, who were on motorcycle, were killed on the spot by stray bullets while others were fatally injured with various degrees of injuries.
The Guardian gathered that four of those who sustained gunshot injuries were confirmed dead at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owo, while one Fatai Awosusi who was on his way to Ipeme to celebrate the New Year festival died at the University of Medical Sciences (UNIMED) Teaching Hospital in Ondo.
Sympathizers described the attack as reprisal against the recent raid on kidnappers’ den by security operatives last week and the parade of a notorious kidnap kingpin, Mohammed Jahiel, alongside other squad members on Monday by the police.
For the record, the Akure/Ado-Ekiti/Owo/Ikare/Benin routes have become kidnappers’ dens in recent times but the joint task force of security operatives combed the deadly spots to disperse the culprits.
A survivor of the incident and lecturer in the Department of Languages, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo (RUGIPO), simply addressed as Dr. Ayodele, recounted that she and some travellers were saved only by the whiskers.
Narrating her ordeal on the WhatsApp platform of RUGIPO’s Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), Ayodele said: “We just escaped armed robbery some 30 minutes ago. This happened between Ogbese and Uso; two minutes drive to Uso from Ogbese. We were practically face to face with death. Some people were killed. We had a very narrow escape. Praise God on our behalf.”
Dr. Raman Abubakri of the Department of Mass Communication, who once escaped the forage of the kidnappers, urged government to find a lasting solution to the incessant kidnappings on the highway.
“The soldiers’ fire brigade approach is not the solution. Provision should be made for soldiers to be constantly on the notorious spots on the road. Besides, the thick bushes at the right and left sides should be cleared for about 100 meters from the main road. These measures will checkmate the boldness of the criminals who are now desperate to make money at all cost.”
Similarly, two other deaths were recorded at Ajowa, in Akoko North West Local Government Area of the state as two persons died, while three others sustained various degrees of injury in a lone motor accident.
It was learnt that the accident involved a J5-bus, which was fully loaded with kolanut and palm oil and heading to the northern part of the country.
According to the Commandant of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Ikare-Akoko unit, Jimoh Basiru, the accident occurred around 12:00a.m. near the military checkpoint in the town.
Bashiru said his men immediately swung into action to rescue the victims from the wreckage of the ill-fated vehicle before rushing them to the State Specialist Hospital, Ikare-Akoko.
The FRSC commandant attributed the accident to recklessness and night journey, which the Corps Marshall, Boboye Oyeyemi, has always warned against.
The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the State Specialist Hospital, Ikare Akoko, Dr. Wale Oguntuase, confirmed that two persons were brought dead and deposited in the mortuary. Oguntuase added that three others were receiving treatment at the emergency ward of the hospital.
A resident of the community, Alhaji Jamiu Zakariyahu, lamented that the high speed of vehicles along the road was becoming a matter of concern.
Zakariyahu stressed that many vehicles are now passing through Ikare-Ikaram/Ajowa/Ayere road without being familiar with the terrain of the road, urging appropriate authorities to mount speed breakers on the road.