Tears flowed on Wednesday after no fewer than 20 persons lost their lives in a multiple accident at the Tollgate end of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Ogun State.
Among the dead were a pregnant woman; a yam seller identified as Iya Nimota whose daughter would be having her wedding on Saturday; five bread sellers; two policemen and motorists.
A trailer reportedly rammed into four commercial buses, three private cars and a police patrol van.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the policemen, from the Sango Police Division, had at about 11pm on Tuesday, stopped a bus conveying yams, and insisted on collecting N200 from the driver.
The illegal checkpoint reportedly created a traffic snarl.
Our correspondents gathered that the trailer, from the Lafarge Cement Company, Ewekoro, conveying hundreds of cement bags, had a brake failure, and ran over the line of vehicles, pushing three of them into a canal at the junction.
While the 20 casualties had been taken to the Ota General Hospital morgue, the others were said to be in a critical condition at the state hospital.
When PUNCH Metro got to the area around 8am, a crowd of aggrieved friends and relatives of the victims had thronged the accident scene.
A survivor of the accident, Lateefat Olukogun, said they had encountered 10 police checkpoints on the road and bribed the policemen at each checkpoint.
She said when they got to the Oando area of Tollgate, they met another team of policemen, who flagged down their vehicle.
She said, “All we were carrying in our truck were yams and sacks of garri. The police never allowed us to have breathing space as they kept stopping us on the road and collected N200 from us.
“I was the one paying them and I had spent everything I had. I had N100 left on me. I begged the policemen to take the money from us and allow us continue with our journey, but they insisted that we pay the N200.
“The driver then gave his boy N500 and asked him to go and look for change to give the policemen. The guy crossed to the other side of the road to look for change. Few minutes later, he returned and gave them the N200. He had barely paid the money than we heard a loud bang.”
Olukogun said she did not sustain severe injuries because she sat next to the driver
“Iya Nimota was sitting at the back. The trailer crushed her. The driver of the bus, however, got seriously injured and he is in the hospital,” she said.
A relative of Iya Nimota, Rasheedat Adenekan, told PUNCH Metro that the deceased was preparing for her daughter’s wedding.
While showing our correspondent the victim’s scarf, which was still hanging on the crushed white van, she said the deceased was almost home when the accident happened.
“I can’t believe she is dead,” she wailed.
Another eyewitness, identified only as Sulaimon, said the trailer started crushing vehicles from the Dalemo bus stop, adding that no fewer than eight vehicles were affected.
He said, “The road leading to the Tollgate area is a slope. This caused the trailer to move at a high speed when it lost control and hit v ehicles. Three cars fell into the canal instantly. We all mobilised to the scene to rescue the people.
“Four persons sitting at the back of a commercial bus were crushed instantly. Three people who were selling bread on the road were killed. The trailer broke their skulls. Three others lost their legs. Some people in the cars that plunged into the canal also died.
“There was commotion at that moment. Two of the policemen waiting to collect money from the driver were among the dead. We began to convey the injured persons into buses that would take them to a hospital around 2am.
“We appeal to the state government to put bumps on the slope to forestall a recurrence.”
An official of the Federal Road Safety Corps, who was part of the rescue team, told our correspondent about 12 people died in the accident.
He said, “I was sleeping when we got the call that an accident had happened. We pulled out at least six people from the water, dead. But I am aware 12 people died in all.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that policemen from the Sango, Ogun State; Ijaiye, Alakuko and Alagbado, Lagos State divisions, responded to the accident.
Meanwhile, there was a drama around 10am on Wednesday in the area after some soldiers descended on the policemen, including a Divisional Police Officer.
A witness told PUNCH Metro that the accident had caused a traffic jam on the road and as the soldiers were passing in their truck, they became stuck.
“One of them came down and started controlling the traffic. A policeman suddenly came to challenge him. The solider, who had been told that the police caused the accident, slapped the policeman.
“As some other policemen surrounded him and started to beat him, the soldier’s colleagues arrived and descended on the policemen. They beat up the policemen and slapped their DPO. The police had to run away from the place,” he said.
While confirming the incident, the Unit Commander, FRSC Asst. Corps Commander Leye Adegboyega, said five people were killed in the accident.
He identified some of the victims as Richard, Kazeem and Oloyede, adding that the corps recovered N54, 970, four phones, a bunch of keys and a purse with an expired driving licence, at the scene of the disaster.
He said, “A fatal crash in which eight vehicles and nine persons (seven males, two females) were involved occurred on Abeokuta-Lagos road, at the frontage of Oando Filing Station, Toll Gate, Ota by 12.10am.
“The crash most likely occurred as a result of a Larfarge trailer fully loaded with elephant cements, which had failed brakes. It rammed into other vehicles and pushed two of the vehicles into the water.”
The Sector Commander, Ogun State FRSC, Mr. Adegoke Adetunji, said the rescue team had to leave the scene of the accident after commercial drivers and miscreants at the Tollgate went on the rampage, damaging all oncoming articulated vehicles.
He said, “The Area Commander, Sango was contacted and he mobilised seven police teams to maintain peace and order for the rescue operations to take place. The rescue operation was carried out under the watch of the FRSC and DPOs from nearby areas.
“The four injured men were conveyed to the General Hospital, Ota, through the police patrol vehicle out of which one later died. The remaining four dead bodies (two males, two females) were evacuated from the scene and deposited at the morgue of the same hospital by men of the FRSC, bringing the number of deaths to five.”
It was learnt that there was another accident on the road around 6.45am, involving eight vehicles.
Those injured were said to have been rushed to the hospital where they were receiving treatment.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Ogun State, Muyiwa Adejobi, said the accident did not involve his men in any way, adding that the Lagos State Police Command mobilised both men and materials to the incident.
“We didn’t have anything to do with that accident. Please contact the Lagos State Police Command,” he said.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Joe Offor, said six persons died in the accident, adding that their corpses had been deposited in a public morgue in Ota, Ogun State.