It was a black Saturday January 24, 2021 in the ancient town of Akungba Akoko, the community that hosted the Adekunle Ajasin University, as crying, wailing and agony rented the air, following the killing of about 15 people by a Dangote truck. TOPE FAYEHUN writes
There seems to be no end to the wave of accident in the hilly town of Akungba in Akoko Southwest Local government Area of Ondo state , as the blood sucking varsity road continued to claims more lives everyday.
The last weekend accident make it the fifth time in just one year that the dark cloud will again took over the ancient town following yet another fatal accident at the dreaded Varsity stretch of the hilly Ikare-Akungba road.
This time, about 15 lives lost as an articulated truck lost its breaks and rammed into shops and buildings, while several people were critically injured.
The sudden death of not less than 15 persons, mainly the University undergraduate in an avoidable truck accident is not just tragic, it signposts what has become a regular feature of untimely deaths virtually in all the roads leading to the town and its environs .
Record has it that in the last one year alone, over 60 lives lost to truck accidents in Akungba Akoko. In the last accident in 2020, about 23 people were crushed to death by a truck accident resulting from the same brake failure.
Toward the end of last year, another tragedy struck again in the same town, as an articulated truck lost its brakes and crushed commuters and other vehicles, killing some and maiming others.
It was learnt that the then trailer, also coming from Ikare Akoko road, had a break failure and rammed into two Toyota Camry cars, killing the occupants and injuring others.
Then, the population of people in the town was minimal because students of the University were not in session.
Among the victims of the accident were a middle-aged hair dresser, Auntie Remi and her twins who were killed in her shop after the truck rammed into the shop.
Out of the people involved, 7 people were rescued with different degrees of injuries and taken to the hospital while 16 people got killed and their dead bodies deposited at the Specialist Hospital, Ikare and General Hospital Iwaro Oka mortuaries by the FRSC emergency rescue teams.
Till today, nobody has claimed the ownership of the ill-fated trailer, according to a source.
However, in the last weekend accident , among the casualties were eight students of the Adekunle Ajasin University which has its main gate along the death trap section of the road.
A Dangote cement-laden truck was said to have been heading for Owo from Obajana in Kogi State, when its brake allegedly failed. As a result, the driver lost control of the vehicle and swerved off the road and rammed into some shops directly opposite the university and trapping the occupants under huge debris for hours.
The students of the university had just resumed back to school after a long holidays occasioned by the outbreak of Corona Virus last year and prolonged strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
The students, who had been back for just a week, were preparing for their semester examination before eight of them met their untimely death in the accident
LEADERSHIP learnt that among the dead students were three siblings, Kelvin, Kunle,,,,, and Oluwaseun Ojinni. The three were said to be inside a shop and preparing for the birthday of Oluwaseun when the accident occurred and they were all crushed to death.
According to a source, the eldest, Kelvin Ojinni, a graduate of the University who got married last year, has been operating a mini-computer cyber cafe shop near the gate of the institution.
It was learnt that the three siblings who were native of Ijero-Ekiti lost their father when they were six years of age.
Two of the siblings were said to have joined their brother in the shop on a fateful day to assist him before they were crushed to death on the spot by the truck.
The tragedy that befell their family in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, was compounded when their mother, Mrs. Ronke Ojinni, on hearing the sad news of her children’s death, slumped and died.
Also killed in the crash which occurred at 4 pm on a fateful day is a former President of the Students Union Government of the school, Adesomoju Samuel. Adesomoju who hailed from Okitipupa in Ondo State and popularly called Sam Praise, was a 500-Level Law student of the university before his death.
As at now, the Acting Unit Commander of the Ikare Akoko Unit of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Kabiru Muhammed, said nine dead bodies were recovered from the scene while nine others who were injured were taken to the General Hospital, Iwaro Oka and the Federal Medical Centre, Owo for medical attention.
The incident forced the management of the University to shut down the institution on Sunday until further notice after a protest broke out in the town. The directive to close down the school was contained in a circular issued by the acting Registrar, Mr. Opeoluwa Akinfemiwa.
The circular read, “Further to our circular of Saturday, January 23, 2021 and the attendant protest by students on Sunday, January 24, 2021, the acting Vice-Chancellor, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Prof. Olugbenga Ige, on behalf of the Senate, has directed that the university be closed with immediate effect until further notice. All students are therefore advised to vacate the campus latest by 6pm today, Sunday, January 24, 2021.”
The Ag. Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Olugbenga Ige, who later visited the scene of the accident, commiserated with the families of victims and described the trailer accident as a tragedy on the part of host community; the Management of the University and the Nigerian Students at large.
He expressed displeasure while noting that some students were affected in the tragic incident, adding that colleagues of the deceased have been placated not to take law into their own hands.
His words: “Sadly, it is a tragedy to the Community and all Nigerian Students. It is painful some of our students were involved and sadly they lost their lives for coming to School to learn and to get themselves educated.
“The last one that happened, we had to constitute a Committee whose recommendations we have implemented. The committee recommended that roadside trading should be banned and the community market should be relocated and it was complied with”
While proffering a lasting solution to the incessant trailer accident, Prof. Ige said the hilly route of the community, near the Institution should be stepped down.
He also opined that heavy-duty trucks should be barred from plying the route. He, however, urged the irate youths to eschew violence, saying assiduous efforts were being made to restore normalcy.
Prior to the visitation of the VC, some irate youths had prevented the government delegation from entering the community.
Part of the entourage includes the Chief of Staff, Mr Olugbenga Ale, the Pro-Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Dr. Tunji Abayomi among others.
The fierce looking youths who were chanting songs demanding the appearance of the Governor stopped the delegation at Iwaro Juction, Akungba Akoko, stating that the Government has neglected the community as no efforts were made to curb incessant Accident.
Earlier, the Commissioner of Police in the State, Bolaji Salami, was allowed to enter the community with the vehicle conveying him only, while his securities parked and trekked.
In a bid to pave way for the dignitaries, the Son of soil and the Commissioner of Agriculture, Otunba Gboyega Adefarati, pleaded with the youths, but all was to no avail.
Meanwhile, leaders of the community have expressed dismay over the numerous negative incidents of motor accidents that have bedeviled the community within the last five years.
The leaders led Dr. Bode Iwaloye, the Asiwaju of Akungba Land, said Of recent, the events and happenings within the University Town have taken new dimension, degenerating from lone non-fatal accidents being witnessed to massive fatal accidents involving loss of numerous lives and properties.
Iwaloye said, the community has witnessed catastrophic accidents in the last six months which have caught global attention and painted the image of the community in very bad colours.
According to him, “On October 31st, 2020, a trailer, loaded with bags of rice, ran into an 18 seaters Hiace bus at the front of Ebenco Petrol Station at Abata Area of Akungba. About seventeen people died, with 19 bags of rice looted. The victims of this accident were commuters passing through the town.
“Exactly one month later another accident occurred at Ibaka market, with a trailer loaded with rice colliding with electric poles before running into the open market. In the process 25 people died from electrocution and impact of accident trailer.
“The accident victims were mainly residents of Akungba Community. Accompanying this particular accident was the massive looting of bags of rice and the deliberate wasting of the rest that could not be carted away.”
Iwaloye further stated that the most agonizing was the accident that occurred in front of the university gate on Saturday 23rd January, 2021, where another Dangote Cement Trailer ran into the frontage of the University gate killing 27 people, including Students, visitors, residents and passers-by.
He said,”This accident took the life of former SUG President Sam Praise. There were also harrowing cases of three students of the same parents being killed in the accident.
“Accompanying the accident was also the case of gas explosion which killed some people near the accident site on that same day.”
While saying that the Akungba Community shares the pains of the families of the deceased and those who lost their loved ones in these serial and random accidents and pray that God should console the bereaved, the community leader said, “We are in pains that all these accidents have almost the same pattern, the fatal incidents being caused by trailers and trucks/buses cascading down the Okerigbo hill towards the university community and running near-road gatherings of people.
His words: “We note that these accidents were recent in the history of Akungba community and are not unconnected with the new re-construction of Ikare-Ajowa road which subequently diverted Abuja and North-bound vehicles from Okene road to Akungba-Ajowa-Obajana road, causing trailers congestion along Akungba main road, something unknown in the years before.”
Iwaloye , however appealed to the state Government to proffer permanent and enduring solutions to these accidents by realigning the sections of road between
Okerigbo hill and Tunji and Tunji filling station and
AAUA Guest House (Annex) and Police post, Etioro.
According to him, widening and dualising the main road between Okerigbo hill and Etioro wi give more space for vehicles that lost control and keep gatherings at distance from the main road.
He said, “We are also appealing to the state Government to help facilitate the payment of compensation to the families affected by the recent accidents involving Dangote Cement Company, being isolated accidents involving only Dangote Cement trailers.
“The Akungba community would strive to abide by any safety measures put in place by the Government. We shall, on our own part, try to coordinate the affected families to seek reparations by providing legal aid.
“We shall, in addition, make the plight of the community known to the Federal Ministry of Works, being the owners of the Federal road passing through our community and call for their immediate intervention into the incessant road accidents.”
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