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Tyres remained one of the most important components in a vehicle, but unfortunately, it is the least that is looked after, or taken care of. They are the parts that have constant contact with the road. So sensitive are they that the majority of accidents on Nigerian roads are traceable to tyres, most of them expired, and brought into the country illegally. Yet, people appear to prefer the ‘tokunbo’ brands, which experts believe are unfit for the road. ISIOMA MADIKE reports



Tokunbo tyres are gradually but steadily becoming very popular in Nigeria. Findings by Saturday Telegraph appear to suggest that the patronage of these brands of tyres is higher than that of the new ones. This is attributed in part, to the high cost of acquiring new ones, and ignorant on the part of users. However, the prices of Tokunbo tyres are said to range between N3, 500 and N6, 000, while new ones, range between N15, 000 and N35, 000. It could also be up to N350, 000 and more for bigger SUV cars and trucks.

These variations in the prices often prompt vehicle owners, particularly commercial motorists, to prefer tokunbo tyres to new ones. They argue that some tokunbo tyres, if one is lucky enough, could last for more than two years.

The new ones, which are obviously more expensive, last longer though, depending on the grade and the usage. Yet, some consumers said they preferred the fairly used tyres to new ones because of the economic hardship being experienced in the country. For instance, a middle aged motorist, who identified himself simply as Nnamdi, said he had always patronised fairly used tyres. Nnamdi said: I’ve never been disappointed using tokunbo tyres.

They are very cheap when compared with the new ones and I believe they are even stronger and better than the so-called new ones. The tyres I am using now were bought almost two years ago and they haven’t disappointed me. So I do not see any reason why I should stop buying them.” Adebayo, a taxi driver, also said he did not believe that fairly used tyres caused accidents as being said by some Nigerians. According to him, speeding is the major cause of road accidents because “if one is not on speed, he could control his car if anything happens to his tyres’’. Adebayo said he had never bought a new tyre before and did not know tyres have expiry dates.

“I’ve never bordered to check,” he added. For Afolabi, “I usually buy tokunbo tyres whenever I am in need of them. I feel safe using them because I usually buy from a particular dealer and he tries as much as possible to give me the best. Most tokunbo tyres last longer than you can imagine, but if I can actually afford the new ones, I will buy. Right now, I settle for fairly used ones.” While Tomi Ayodele simply prefers tokunbo tyres because, “they last longer.

The expiry dates on tyres are not really genuine, they just put them there. Tokunbo tyres are stronger and more reliable. I settle for them any day, anytime.” But, there are those who would never have anything to do with tokunbo tyres, no matter how good they may look. According to a Lagos-based lawyer, Emmanuel Nwaghodoh, “though new tyres are very expensive, we still manage to buy them. It is only when you don’t have money that you settle for less.

I think it’s only when a car owner is in dire need of tyres and he does not have much to purchase new ones, he then goes for the fairly used with the mindset of getting new ones when he is financially buoyant. But, some commercial vehicle drivers prefer the fairly used ones, just to cut corners.”

However, the Director, Public Relations of Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Abiodun Obimuyiwa, said a lot had been done by the council regarding consumer awareness of the use of tyres. He said: “CPC has been doing so much on awareness creation on checking the date of tyres and other products and we have not relented in our efforts. “We have included this awareness in all our enlightenment programmes and we have done flyers and manual which we gave out to consumers.

We have also devoted one edition of our TV programmes to the safe use of tyres. The problem we have with Nigerians is that we do not take certain issues seriously and we tend to overlook and play down matters that are risky to life.’’ Worried about the loss of lives and property as a result of the usage of substandard tyres in the country, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) had consistently given the dealers of the product, manufacturers and importers, ultimatum to clean up their stores.

A reconstituted task force, the organisation said, has already started the search for and impounds fake and substandard tyres across markets in the country. According to the director, Inspectorate & Compliance Directorate of the SON, Engr. Bede Obayi, the statistics from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) indicated that a high number of people are killed in the country due to incidents from substandard tyres.

“The statistics is gruelling, between 2015 and 2017, for instance, the total annual road traffic crashes was about 10,050. This translates to 27 deaths on Nigerian roads daily, excluding hundreds of victims, who suffer various degrees of injuries and permanent disabilities from such carnages. This is what we have been suffering in Nigeria,” he said. Incidentally, many drivers still do not know that tyres can expire.

When Saturday Telegraph confronted some drivers at the popular Ogba Motor Park with a simple question bothering on expiry dates of tyres, many of them looked at the reporter like an alien from another planet, an expression that seemed to ask in awe, “do tyres ever expire”? Yet, they have been driving professionally for years. But, the reality, however, is that every tyre has an expiry date after which it is supposed to be replaced, lest it risks a blow-out.

The life span of a tyre from the date of manufacture, Obayi said, is four years. He told Saturday Telegraph that the date a tyre was manufactured is written on it as four digits. The first two digits, according to him, represent the week, while the last two is the year of manufacture. “Please note that the four digits stand alone, not added to any alphabet.

Some manufacturers place the asterics sign (*) before and after the four digits, while others simply encycle it. So, 1612 means, for instance, that the tyre was manufactured on the 16th week (last week of April) in the year 2012. The tyre will, therefore, expire on the 16th week of 2016.

“You may, therefore, buy a ‘brand new’ tyre, which has since EXPIRED or just about to expire. Some middlemen with negative creative ingenuity have a way of deleting the date of manufacture on their tyres, breaching the estacode thereof. They may also inscribe another date, making it more dangerous for use. “Buying such a tyre is akin to swallowing a pill without an expiry date.

I think it’s even worse, because the expired drug can only hurt you, while a burst tyre puts the life of ALL the occupants of the vehicle in jeopardy,” Obayi said. However, most annual reports from the FRSC have indicated that tyre bursts, is now becoming the major cause of accidents.

The reports often indicated that most motorists do not pay keen attention to their tyres before driving and most of them are also not keen on expiry dates. “Most dangerous accidents that occurred on our roads were as a result of tyre bursts, which resulted into the cars overturning, said Nseobong Akpabio, Assistant Corps Marshal and Zonal Commanding Officer, Zone 2. He advised all motorists to buy authentic tyres from authorised dealers to avoid the possibility of purchasing expired ones. Apart from Akpabio, the FRSC’s Head, Media Relations and Strategy, Bisi Kazeem, also said: “Some tyres are expired, some are substandard, some are under-inflated, some are over-inflated, and some have been handled wrongly by vulcanisers.”

He confirmed that tyre burst is one of the factors responsible for road traffic crashes in recent times. Tam Tamunokonbia, a lawyer and head of the Lagos office of the CPC, has also said that the council has launched a campaign that it called “Check the BB Date” Campaign. It was first launched by the former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, on June 30, 2014. “BB” means “Best Before”. What this implies is that consumers should check the labels of the goods or products they buy to see if the product has expired or is close to its expiry date. Once the “BB” or expiry date on a product label has expired, consumers are advised by the CPC to avoid the product.

However, motorists in Lagos State, who spoke to Saturday Telegraph, said they prefer to buy fairly used tyres because of their affordability as against new ones. This was also the declaration of some vehicle owners as they shed light on the two types of tyres which are the fairly used, otherwise known as tokunbo, and the new ones. Against the backdrop of the influx of unregulated second- hand motor tyres, the SON is collaborating with relevant agencies like the FRSC in stemming the ugly trend.

“Presently, we are launching an indigenous campaign against substandard tyres, and anywhere we see these tyres in circulation, we confiscate them. “The awareness campaign will also educate the vulcanisers because even if you are using a brand new tyre, and the vulcaniser puts in pressure higher than what is not recommended because the gauge he is using to measure the pressure is not well calibrated, the danger would still be there. Often times, if you measure three vulcanisers’ gauges, you may find out differences in them. “And so that correction is what is needed for them to know that at each point you ought to know that what you are using is correct. If you are in Ojuelegba and somebody gauges your tyre at 50 and then you take it to another place to check, and they tell you it is 40, you go to another place and they tell you another thing. You are at a very big risk. Tyre maintenance starts from the users.

“We also collaborate with the CPC because they are the foot soldiers that intercede for the consumers. So, what we need is that everybody should support this programme, because, if one is doing badly and you don’t report, how will SON know,” Obayi said.” He stressed that the corps have been good allies in this regards and have remained focused in their enforcement strides with emphasis on the fairly-used tyres. Obayi lamented the abuse of tyres specifications as recent survey by his men indicated that about 250 different brands of tyres are used in the country.

“Some motorists use tyres meant for agricultural purposes on commercial ve-hicles, thus widening the possibilities for avoidable road traffic accidents,” he added. Also speaking on the collaborative efforts of the SON and FRSC, Akpabio told Saturday Telegraph that “In some cases, you stop a vehicle with four different brands of tyres being affixed to the same vehicle and we take extra steps to sensitise such drivers on the traffic hazards associated with this practice. But, in most cases, we prosecute them in line with provisions of the traffic laws. “It is worrisome that motorists patronise these products which have not only expired in some cases but also do not conform to minimum safety standards.

It is also imperative to note that new tyres are not ruled out from expiration because some tyres may get close to expiry date before being purchased and used by motorists who are ignorant of this,” he added. Already, SON, according to Obayi, has taken its campaign against fake and substandard products to warehouses in Matori tyre market, impounding about 20 containers full of substandard and expired tyres. The SON boss explained that Nigeria can no longer be buying products that would gravely endanger the lives of citizens in the country. In like manner, the organisation has impounded more than 10,000 used and substandard tyres in Kaduna. The tyres were seized after SON raided shops in new Panteka market and along Katsina Road in Kaduna metropolis recently.

He said that nine shops were also sealed during the raid coordinated by SON, Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the FRSC. “All those used and substandard tyres may have been smuggled into the country; they didn’t come through normal process. This is an exercise that is going on simultaneously across the country,” Obayi noted. However, tyres have remained one of the most important components in a vehicle, but unfortunately, it is the least that is looked after, or taken care of.

For some people, so far they do not have flat tyres, everything is just fine. However, one surprising thing about tyres, which most Nigerians do not know about, is the fact that they have expiry dates. It is so terrible that a larger percentage of Nigerian drivers do not even know that tyres expire, or know how to check if their tyres have expired. This is, therefore, one of the contributors to burst tyres while vehicles are in motion. Vulcanisers that often work on tyres, also seem to be ignorant of all these.

For instance, Chinedu, a vulcaniser in Ojuelegba, Lagos, said since most tokunbo tyres were produced to be used in the US and Europe, the manufacturers produced the best. “But whenever it comes to producing tyres for the Nigerian market, they would produce substandard tyres for us. Chinedu said: “That is why many motorists prefer tokunbo tyres, and it has nothing to do with whether vehicle owners have money or not. However, I know a client who is wellto- do, who prefers buying tokunbo tyres. But, the question we should ask ourselves in this country is, why is it that products manufactures for us in Nigeria do not last while fairly used products manufactured for clients in the US and Europe last longer?”

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