By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Residents and denizens of Awka, the capital city of Anambra State stormed Regina Caeli Junction axis of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway to buy fresh yam at its ‘cheapest price’ ever, as a truck laden with yam crashed on the ever-busy road.
The crash, which happened at about 11:40am on Wednesday along the popular Regina Junction in Awka metropolis, involved a driver of a Toyota Hilux (with the registration no. SMK897XA) and driver of a Mercedes Benz Truck (with the registration no. ACA10XD), both of which crashed into gutter.
When contacted, the Ag. Sector Public Education Officer, Federal Road Safety Corps (Anambra State Command), RC Margaret B. Onabe attributed the crash to speeding and wrongful overtaking.
According to her, eyewitness accounts explained that the driver of the Hilux was on high speed and wanted to overtake from the right before it rammed into the truck and crashed into gutter, while the truck, in attempt to avoid the Hilux, also crashed into the gutter, while all its contents (yams) scattered all over the expressway and in the gutters.
RC Onabe, while noting that no casualty or injury was recorded in the crash, also cautioned motorists against speeding and wrongful overtaking, so as to reduce the incidences of road traffic crashes, most especially in these Ember months when roads are usually busier.
It was, however, gathered that shortly after the crash, people crowded the scene, some of whom came to show sympathy, while many others came with the intent of ‘getting it cheaper than ever’ by taking advantage of the unfortunate incident to pilfer or buy fresher yams at cheaper price.
Most of the yams were also observed to have been broken, scratched, damaged or crushed by oncoming vehicles, thereby giving the people more opportunity to leverage on the misfortune.
The distress sales, which started shortly after the crash lasted till about 8.26pm, as many of the so-called (emergency) yam buyers were sighted, still loitering about at the scene, looking for some more to buy.
When this reporter visited the scene at about 8.27pm, a good number of the distress buyers were seen, begging that the remnants of the unaffected yams, which had been trans-loaded into a shuttle bus be brought down and sold to them; while an apparently-stressed man was seen asking them to go home, for sales had ended.
The profusely-sweating man, dressed in stained stock shirt and clean canvas, also insisted that no single tuber of yam would be brought down from the shuttle or sold anymore.
Speaking with this reporter, the middle-aged man, who eventually introduced himself as just Mr. Chika explained that all the yams belonged to an Awka-based cooperative society known as Òtù Ofu Obi, which he also heads as the Chairman.
According to him, the yams worth over five million naira (₦5m), while the extent of damaged done on the truck was yet to be ascertained, as the truck was still inside the gutter as at that time of the night.
He, however, regretted that the misfortune has thrown the cooperative society and the members who are the owners of the yam into a great loss, as virtually all the yams had been auctioned out, far below even the cost price per unit, because many of them were badly damaged as a result of the crash and got sold in tranches/pieces.
He also regretted that hundreds of the yams that scattered on the expressway when the crash happened were crushed by vehicles, while some others were stolen by malevolent individuals who came in disguise of sympathizers.
“This is one of the greatest losses we have ever incurred since the history of this Cooperative. I have never seen this kind of thing in my life,” he lamented.
On his own part, the driver of the ill-fated truck who introduced himself as Abada said the crash was the most painful road misfortune he had ever been involved in, as he had almost reached his destination in Awka after long hours of journey on hundreds of kilometers of roads all the way from Benue State.
“It is very very unfortunate, my brother, very very unfortunate!” he said, adding that “the truck had successfully passed all the bad roads it went through and now crashed on a tarred road that is plain and wide enough to accommodate any vehicle.”
When asked their next move and the whereabouts of the driver who caused the accident, Mr. Abada revealed that the driver had been arrested and is currently in the police custody, together with his Hilux, which was also towed to the station. He further revealed that they themselves would be going to the police station shortly, for necessary dialogue and negotiations, as, according to him, “that man must pay for everything and every damage he caused, including repairing my vehicle.”