Last Sunday, devastating explosions occurred at Abule Ado, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State. The explosion left dozens of persons dead, houses and other property completely destroyed. Worse hit was a secondary school owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos known as Bethlehem Girls College, in which the school’s principal, Rev. Sr. Dr. Henrietta Alokha SSH, reportedly died. Defeaning sound of the explosion which was heard as far as Agege, Yaba, Ejigbo up to Okota, was initially thought could only be bomb explosion.
Eyewitnesses spoke figuratively of devastations which can be compared to destruction by terrorists and allied forces in Syria or what was witnessed during the American-led Allied Forces to stop Iran after it announced the annexation of Iraq in the 90s. After the explosions in Abule Ado, what was left of over 50 houses which were badly affected were mere rubble; vehicles parked around the area were completely destroyed and several of them mangled, while people say, scores of people are unaccounted for, having been completely dismembered and burnt beyond recognition.
It should be recalled that on January 27, 2002, there was bomb explosion at the Ikeja Cantonment. The explosion resulted from what the federal government then described as aftermath of expired bombs stored in a warehouse in the Cantonment. Several people died from the incident, but worse were that some other people who were fleeing from the blast, got drowned at a nearby Oke-Afa Carnal. In spite of the caliber of the warheads that caused the explosion, the level of devastation and death cannot be compared with the consequences of the Abule Ado blast, raising suspicions as to whether or not the real cause of the blast had been ascertained.
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, who was at the scene during the explosion carrying out rescue operation, said the explosion was caused by gas leakage, which he attributed to scattered gas cylinders in the area. On his part, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police (CP), Hakeem Odumosu, attributed the blast to contact by the tyres of a trailer laden with granite with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) gas pipelines, which traversed the area. He said the tyres of the trailer was stuck and the driver tried to rescue the truck, it cut open the gas pipeline which sparked fire that engulfed the entire area.
Also, the NNPC Group Managing-Director, Alhaji Mele Kyari, who visited the place for an on-the-spot assessment, confirmed that the explosion was caused by gas cylinder leakages that ignited the wide-spread fire, which he said was further compounded by buildings and gas vendors who he claimed were doing business on NNPC pipelines right of way (ROW). His statements was corroborted by the acting Coordinator, Lagos Territorial Office, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, who said the pressure exerted on the pipeline could be likened to compressing a coke bottle, which will certainly explode.
As these top government officials spoke, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, not only visited the scene of the blast, but immediately setup a N2 billion Emergency Relief Fund to assist the victims. He also set up a committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Dr Kadiri Hamzat, charged with the responsibility to ascertain the actual cause of the blast.
The governor did not stop at that, he blamed people he claimed had illegally built houses at area, threatening to deal with persons who had built houses in the area without a building plan approval. He also suggested that certain people had violated the ROW earmarked for the NNPC pipelines, adding that appropriate action would be taken against those who did so.
With the discordant tones on the cause of the blast, opinion on the matter is running riot. The AUTHORITY learnt that some people see the blast as clearly the handiwork of some sort of terrorists who they claimed had planted bombs or dynamite at interval in the area. There were certain persons who also claim that elements close to the Boko Haram, specifically targeted the girls college, and so, other property owners became collateral casualties.
Whatever is the case, this newspaper joins the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in ncalliing on the federal government to carry out a forensic investigation on the explosion. Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive-Director, said the explosion could be likened to some military aerial bombardment and does not sound like pipeline explosion, which is why the issue should not be treated with kid gloves.
Similarly, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), led by Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, had also blamed contravelling forces for the blast. He called on the federal government to set up a judicial panel of enquiry to unravel what actually occurred, insisting that the matter should not be swept under the carpet.
There is no gain saying that the blast is had brought in one disaster too many. There is no doubt that it has introduced a new dimension to spates of explosions in the country, and with the level of devastation wreaked on lives and property resulting from the blast, we call on government to speedily get answers to rising questions and put the perpetrators to face the law.
There is no doubt that shifting blames would not help anybody particularly with some persons already pointing accusing fingers on terrorists. It should also be reminded that Boko Haram had threatened to attack Lagos and other major cities in the country. Could it be Boko Haram or allied terrorist groups that caused the blast? Could it be the NNPC pipeline? Only a clinical forensic investigation can reveal this. And that is why we at The AUTHORITY lend our voices to urging the federal government to conduct a forensic audit of the blast so as to get to the root of the matter and put up measures to counter such in the future. Nothing more than quick response to this is desirable and humanity will not be in a hurry to count government on the positive side if it should speedily do the needful, rather than looking for who to blame.