As I set out for Onitsha from Lagos on August 15, 2017, I was informed that the journey would be deemed through, only after we had gone beyond the Benin Bypass. This is because trucks, mainly Dangote trucks, had constituted a nuisance at a bad spot on the road. So, we set out very early in the morning (around 5:00 a.m.) to avoid being caught up in the traffic mess that could last for hours. Yet, by the time we got to the dreaded spot on the Bypass around 10 a.m., the traffic had built up.
I observed that truck drivers had converted the sides and middle of a federal highway to a mechanic workshop. After about a thirty-minute delay, our driver opted for an “improvised bypass” of the un-tarred road at the Benin Bypass. As we darted in front of one of the trucks to escape from the building traffic jam, the rude truck drivers hauled insults and abuses at us. We managed to escape, but the afternoon arrivals on this bad spot must have passed through hell.
I wonder why the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) under Babatunde Fashola charged with the statutory responsibility of monitoring and maintenance of Federal Roads is unresponsive to the plight of travelers on this spot. Meanwhile, just a few kilometers before this spot where Dangote trucks had constituted themselves into a safety hazard, the men of the Federal Road Safety Commission were busy obstructing motorist and collecting “egunge”. The cowards are scared of provoking the wealthiest man in Africa. Punish the poor for minor offense, reward the rich for lawlessness?
Chief Aliko Dangote is a silent, yet powerful, mini-god in Nigeria and relevant government agencies are scared of going after the nuisance of his trucks on Nigerian roads. But thanks to SaharaReporters, there is still a national medium we can use to speak truth to the bloody powerful and the politically corrupt. So, Chief Aliko Dangote, know it that your trucks are instruments of death, pain, and misery to Nigerians.
I challenge Chief Aliko Dangote to make this road trip from Lagos to Onitsha just to experience the pains, suffering, and misery his trucks have brought to travelers to eastern Nigeria. I don’t even want to talk about the avoidable deaths caused by reckless driving by truck drivers across Nigeria.
Chief Dangote is the wealthiest man in Africa, and has benefited immensely from the corrupt political system in Nigeria over the years. Chief Dangote has received waivers worth billions of Naira for countless products he has been importing into Nigeria. Yet, he sees no reason to construct a befitting park and mechanic workshop for his trucks in order to get them off the bad and narrow Nigerian roads.
It should be noted that it would only cost Chief Aliko Dangote less than 0.0001% of the illicit benefits he is receiving from waivers at Nigerian ports to fix this very bad spot on the Benin Bypass. The cost of setting the standard in the truck business in Nigeria for others to follow is also nothing to the wealthiest man in Africa. Yet, Chief Dangote has chosen to turn a blind eye to the havoc being caused by his drivers.
It is sad, very sad, that while Chief Dangote could make a Lagos to Kano trip of more than 1,100 kilometers in just 1 hour 20 minutes in a private jet or commercial airline, his trucks are forcing pregnant women and nursing mothers to be held up for upwards of 4 hours along Benin Bypass that is less than 15 kilometers. What a world, what humanity.
What Chief Aliko Dangote is doing in his truck business is a classic case of exploitation of cheap labor while making massive economic gains. Some truck drivers in Nigeria are too young, untrained and often doing dangerous work with low wages for the transport moguls.
I would not have bothered Chief Dangote if he had limited the sufferings and pains to his employees. But the very fact that ordinary Nigerians on whose national wealth Chief Dangote built his empire are now being subjected to additional misery is unforgivable.
I thought I felt something good in Chief Aliko Dangote when it emerged that he mediated in the feud between Olamide and Don Jazzy a while ago. That very act of reconciling the super stars made me believe that there is something special about this silent billionaire. Was that act a fluke? Is Chief Dangote only interested in “big boys” palaver?
If Chief Dangote has a human heart for ordinary Nigerians that are not celebrities, I want him to instruct the management of Dangote trucks to direct all their drivers on this very bad spot on the Benin Bypass to vacate immediately. As I stated earlier, the cost of reconstruction of this bad spot is nothing to the richest man in Africa. Chief Dangote should, therefore, proceed with the repairs at the same time build a permanent park and mechanic workshop for his drivers. He needs to take his trucks off this bad spot now.
A few months from now, thousands of Nigerians will be traveling across Nigeria for Christmas and New Year celebrations. No road in Nigeria will be as busy as the Lagos-Benin-Onitsha road via Benin Bypass. I know of one mama Ifeoma, a mother of three toddlers, who is planning to make such a long trip. She lives well below the poverty line and as such cannot afford the big bus that could have allowed her and her kids to stretch their legs during those miserable long delays caused mainly by Dangote trucks. Is Chief Dangote going to punish mama Ifeoma with his trucks for being poor?
While denying interest in the 2019 presidential election in Nigeria, Chief Dangote was quoted as saying that “by the time the ongoing Dangote refinery in Lagos and the sugar projects come on stream fully, there will be a great positive development and thousands of jobs created that will change the narrative in the country.”
For mama Ifeoma and other travelers on the Benin Bypass, however, the narrative that has to change now is the misery and pain inflicted on them by Dangote trucks and others. Chief Dangote claimed that he is only involved in “the business of wealth creation.” I want to let him know that his trucks are currently creating untold hardship and not wealth to users of on Lagos-Benin-Onitsha road.
As a proud but disillusioned Nigerian, I wouldn’t want the name of Chief Dangote, the richest man in Africa, to be synonymous with pain and misery. To avoid this, Chief Dangote should personally get involved, repackage his truck business model and change the narratives of travelers on Nigerian roads, starting with the Lagos-Benin-Onitsha road.
Is that too much to ask for from the wealthiest man in Africa? I don’t think so.