Tyre importers’ greed responsible for rising fatalities on Nigerian roads

LAST March 6, the Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, James Ocholi, died in a car crash along the Kaduna-Abu­ja Expressway, alongside his wife and son.
The report from the Federal Road Safe­ty Corps (FRSC) showed that the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) they were in had a (tyre) blow-out.
From FRSC statistics, about 10,050 people die annually from road accidents last year. While this translates to about 27 lives daily blow-outs have been discovered to be a major cause of these fatalities.

The Benin-Ore Expressway also wit­nesses heavy road carnage almost on daily basis.
While the Federal Government has banned the use of vehicle tyres above four years old for safety reasons, it is rather shocking that the new and trusted ones  which the authorities mandate motorists to use may also have been compromised by poor han­dling.

Some tyres may not have ex­pired going by the dates indicated by the manufacturers but could have been damaged due to bad handling in the course of ship­ment from countries of origin.
Investigations show that before tyres arrive in shops and markets across Nigeria, they are ignorantly manhandled by stuffing one tyre into another in attempt to pay less import duty.
Industry watchers say such practice is not uncommon among desperate importers who, pro­pelled by greed and desperation to pay less duty, squeeze tyres meant for four containers into one. Profits are made by twisting or squeezing three to four tyres into one. This often leads to ruptures or blasts when the tyres come un­der intense pressure on the road.

According to an official of the FRSC who does not want his name in print, the tyres are in the squeezed or compressed state for months and are only brought out and stretched to their normal po­sitions after they are delivered to the markets or shops where they are to be sold.

The most visibly affected and dangerous part is the tyre bead with round metal wire. The bead of the tyre is supposed to have an airtight seal between the tyre and the rim. Where this fails, air will escape from the tyre and this could lead to explosion leading to possible loss of control and ac­cidents.

Importers will pay for one con­tainer. But the number of tyres in that single container ought to fill up three or four contain­ers. So, they sell them and make more profits while endangering lives. This is also a means through which government revenue leaks because the shipment is assumed to be one container instead of three or four.

Tyres contain metallic parts that when twisted or squeezed, they become compromised and damaged internally,even if they are new. An average tyre user without knowledge of the product may not know when it is compro­mised,” he explained.
Vehicle experts say officers of the FRSC and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) can hardly know a compromised tyre as all they look out for are expiry dates.

Poor enforcement
Stakeholders say officials of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) either compromise their positions looking the other way while the compromised tyres come in or lack the equipment and expertise to detect bad tyres even in their new state.
Experts say a tyre may not have expired and yet not good for use. Tyres not bought from direct brand distributors stand a 50 per cent risk of being compromised. The real brand distributors have a corporate reputation to protect.

Such brand distributors offer after-sales service and can replace bad tyres to ensure customers get value for money spent on the products they sell. From various parts of the world, particularly in advanced economies, hundreds of tyres are removed from vehicles penciled down for destruction.
From the advanced coun­tries, these disused tyres are compressed using a specialised (PAS108 specification) Tyre Baler and then exported worldwide to various sites where they are expected to be used in the con­struction industry and for other applications. When the used tyres are being compressed, it is presumed that such tyres are no longer meant for use by vehicles so little or no attention is paid to the tyres’ integrity.

Unfortunately, these partially condemned tyres get sold to mo­torists in third world countries who find them incredibly cheaper because it reduces the operating costs of commercial and private motorists. That also explains why there is a growing market for used tyres across West Africa. Used tyres seized by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) amounts to over a hun­dred million naira yearly.

Tom Lori Published by Tom Lori

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