Traffic officer wants stiff regulations after fatal crashes in Lango
On January 10, a road crash claimed 9 lives in Lira and left scores wounded.
By Aceng Patricia Amne
Lira – June 23, 2022: Six months after a fatal road crash in Lira district, road traffic officers in Lira have spoken on the need to tighten road safety regulations and swift prosecution of traffic offenders.
On January 10, a Fuso truck registration number UBJ 354 G overturned at Piiawac along Abako-Lira road in Lira district killing seven passengers on spot. This happened around 8:00 pm.
The deceased and those wounded were mainly market vendors. They were returning to Lira town from Ajuri market in Alebtong district.
Addressing the media the next day, the North Kyoga Regional Police spokesperson, ASP Jimmy Patrick Okema attributed the crash to speeding. He also gave particulars of the deceased and those rushed to Lira Regional Referral Hospital.
“Preliminary findings indicate speeding by the driver, overloading, and recklessness,” Okema told journalists in Lira City.
Whereas no arrest of the offender [driver was made by the Police] to answer charge[s], the Officer-in-Charge (OC) traffic attached to Lira Police Outpost, Monica Nyomara, told TND News that the file was transferred to the Resident State Attorney for sanctioning.
Some eyewitnesses revealed that the truck driver tried to overtake another vehicle and eventually lost control forcing it to overturn.
However, business people who operate in Alebtong district blamed the crash on the “narrowness” of the Abako-Lira road.
Over the past decades, Lango has recorded fatal crashes which are attributed mainly to drink driving, speeding, and distracted driving.
In Uganda, according to the statistics from the Police Annual Crime and Road Safety reports shared by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) Coordinator for Kampala Jemima Nalumansi, a total of 3, 269 fatal cases were recorded in 2020 compared to 2,999 that were registered in 2016.
Per the same report, careless driving ranked top with 5,358 cases. 1, 081 were fatal; serious cases were at 2,611 and minor stood at 1,666.
In Lira, for instance, Monica Nyomara told this publication that much as the police works tirelessly in reducing the fatalities in the district [Lira], the office of the Inspectorate of Vehicles should also embrace the measures used to eliminate or reduce the chances of crashes.
She cited the use of Express Penalty (EPS) for the offenders. She quantified the amount for each offense: seatbelt fine is UGX80, 000, speeding UGX200, 000, careless driving is charged UGX100, 000, driving a car of DMC status UGX90,000, phone driving at UGX100,000, driving with an invalid permit tantamount to a fine of UGX100,000.
An offense that seems like a Gordian knot is operating an uninsured vehicle without a 3rd party.
Asked about the measures they undertake to eliminate the intended traffic cases, she believes that doing underground checks to ascertain who owns a driving school, and what they operate under concerning the road safety conditions will be key.
In Lira alone, there are over 7 driving schools among which 4 are recognized, according to her.
Data obtained by TND News on road crashes in Lira – a stretch of 6km beginning from Lira city center to the scenes, most crashes are caused by truck drivers who ferry vendors, for example, from one market to another on a full load of over 80 passengers. These vendors have heavy merchandise yet use a faulty vehicle[s].
43 cases of fatal crashes were registered in 2020. December is the peak month. That month, nine  died, 30 were serious cases; 15 were minor.
In 2021, January recorded 6 deaths followed by May and August with 5 cases, respectively.
The months of October, November, and December had no death cases, according to the police spokesperson of North Kyoga Region, ASP Jimmy Patrick Okema.
Unsafe road infrastructures
Safe vehicles play a critical role in averting crashes and reducing the likelihood of serious injury and death.
Speaking to Bosco Wacha, the Director of B/S Company who owns a Fuso truck that got involved in the January 10 road crash, he appeals to the government to expedite the process to expand roads from the 7-10 meters to 20 meters for the roads done under Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID).
In a survey done by the World Health Organization (WHO) in June 2021, approximately 1.3 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes.
Bosco Wacha says he lost over shs45m following the January crash. He says shs2m was given to each family of the bereaved; 9 in total. To others that sustained serious injuries like Patricia Akello, Caroline Omara, Joshua Okino, Jasper Ocen, Moses Awich, Sarah Abaa, Lawrence Baguma, and Margret commonly known as Imat Margret who had both leg and hand fractures, she received a total of shs1, 650,000 for treatment.
In a meeting held on April 28, 2022, at Fortress Guest House, councilors of Lira City and City West divisions represented by Daniel Okello, the council speaker of Lira City west division complained that the roads have been narrowed.
“For example, after several attempts demanding for a copy of the road design and the contract agreement, a number of the legislators’ requests were void,” he told the meeting.
Okello said he would write to the Inspectorate of Government to investigate the implementation of the USMID projects in Lira.
In the same meeting, Morris Chris Ongom who is the president of Lira City Development Forum blamed the narrow roads on the past Mayors like Omara Okello, Omodo Anyuru, Mike Ogwal Olwa Veve, and the incumbent, Sam Atul.
Ongom said the above leaders “failed to draw a master plan”.
In Lira City, more than 40 vehicles carry vendors to local markets daily. The drivers or owners are inconsiderate of the risks along the way because of their need for profit maximization.
Also, Public Service Vehicles (PSV) charges a standard fare of shs10.000 on shorter distances [other districts]. Their cars are loaded to the brim; purveyors are always heard making distractive noise and the drivers with excitement drive at the highest speed possible to catch up with time for business.
A source who preferred anonymity at Lira Bus Park argued that the owners of these vehicles make fault by giving cars first to their trusted friends or relatives whom they believe will not steal.
“It instead endangers lives of the passengers alongside other road users and eventually the burden mounts on the victims or the family of the bereaved,” he said.
“In recent years, vehicles at the known Bus Park have lived independently on personal management; a blame road user put on the CSOs and other instrumental icons that should work hand in hand to reduce on carnage in Lira, but this is long-awaited development with no desired effect,” he noted.
The majority of the traders and other road users are optimistic that if this is implemented, there will be an inspection of all cars before they set on roads.
Asked about the burden he has gone through since the January 10 tragedy, Jasper Ocen, 28, from Barogole in Lira City west says he was victimized. “I spent over shs3m on treatment after getting a fracture on my leg and now on support by a splint.”
Judith Alyek, the chairperson of Lango Parliamentary Group [LPG] expressed concern about the ever-skyrocketing road carnages in the country.
Alyek, who is also the Kole district Woman MP, in her recent address to the State Minister for Works and Transport Musa Ecweru, insinuated that the rampant road crashes that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives could be a result of poorly constructed narrow road networks in the country.
“We are going to upgrade and tarmac this Lira-Kamdini road, but are we going to reduce the rate of road crashes? I don’t know, but maybe to some extent,” Alyek said in the presence of minister Ecweru.
She then appealed to Ecweru to advise the government on the need to commit adequate financial resources to expand and widen roads to accommodate the increasing population and traffic in a bid to curb road carnages.
The construction of the road stretching from Tororo to Kamdini will cost the government shs331b, according to Ecweru. The World Bank will fund it.
Responding to LPG Chairperson Alyek, Ecweru admitted that trucks have severally overturned on the Lira- Kamdini road due to its “sorry state” but said the delays to work on the road were caused by bureaucracy by the word Bank.
He, however, allayed fears by the LGP’s Alyek and said MotaEngile, a Portuguese company that was contracted to do periodic maintenance on the road will do due diligence and appropriate engineering designs to reduce on-road crashes.
“Part of the delay was because we realized that the initial designs would cause this road to experience flooding, so we had to go back to the drawing board and now we have taken necessary measures that will ensure the rising level of water in Lake Kyoga basin will not affect the road,” Ecweru replied to Alyek.
Lira Kamdini road has seen numerous fatal crashes over the years. Notably, on June 4, 2016, ten people were killed when a Pickup registration number UAP 374V was knocked down by a trailer registration number UAZ 579C. It was a Wednesday afternoon.
The pickup was carrying traders from Kamdini market heading to Wirao village, in Aber sub-county. Seven people died on the spot – others later.