BY OLASUNKANMI AKONI
…As Lagos plans low-key commemoration
ELEVEN years after the Ikeja Cantonment bomb blasts that led to the death of over 1000 Nigerians with 12000 rendered homeless, victims of the disaster are still awaiting a compensation package promised by the Federal Government.
It was gathered that the Federal Government had earlier given N500,000 each, as a temporal relief package to parents who lost a child or children and those whose bodies were recovered, while N250, 000 each were given to parents who could not find their children, with a promise to pay actual compensation after 10 years.
As of press time, the victims are still waiting for the compensation without any positive response from Federal Government’s agents, who have continued to keep mum over the issue.
Chairman of the Association of the affected victims, Mr. Olaniran Majekodunni, could not be reached at press time but the secretary, Mr. John Adebayo Orire, who lost his son in the incident, decried the Federal Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards the victims, saying, “we are staging a peaceful protest during the 11th anniversary.”
He continued: “It is saddening that 11 years after, the Federal Government has been playing games with us on the issue of compensation. Though, we are not saying that what they are giving us could actually compensate the lives that were lost, but at least it would go a long way in healing some of the wounds.”
“We are already planning a peaceful demonstration against Federal Government’s failure to fulfill its compensation promise to the victims. Come January 27, 2013, we are carrying placards in protest.
“We have written to federal government, through our lawyer, Femi Falana, on several occasions without hearing from any of their agents. We are lost, but will see to its logical conclusion.”
Lagos plans low-key commemoration
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who recently gave 70 verified families the sum of N250,000.00 each as compensation, had in 2012 set up a 10-man anniversary committee to ensure proper and successful commemoration of the anniversary.
Led by the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Obafemi Hamzat, the members include Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr Wale Ahmed; Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa; Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba and chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, as well as Permanent Secretaries of the four ministries.
The state government is however planning a low key 11th anniversary, come next Sunday, January 27.
Indeed, January 27, 2002 was horrendous in the history of Lagos and the entire nation. The Ikeja military cantonment was a large military cantonment and storage area in the city of Lagos, situated north of the city centre near the districts of Isolo and Onigbongo.
The base was being used to store a large quantity of “high calibre bombs” and other sundry explosives. On the afternoon of January 27, a fire broke out in a street market being held next to the base, which was also home to the families of soldiers. At around 6 pm the fire apparently spread to the base’s main munitions store, causing an enormous explosion. The blast killed many of the base staff and their families and immediately destroyed several nearby streets, flying debris starting numerous fires further away.
Also thrown up by the blast were thousands of unexploded military munitions, which fell in a rain of exploding shells, grenades and bullets casting further destruction across most of the northern section of the city. Thousands of people from Ikeja and neighbouring districts, seeing explosions and fires breaking out, fled their houses in an attempt to leave the affected areas. As the streets became more and more crowded, explosions amid the fleeing crowds from shells falling from the initial explosion created panic.
A stampede developed as panicking people fled in all directions, trampling those who fell underfoot. It was also reported that people were jumping from burning high-rise buildings and being killed in desperate attempts to cross the busy Ikeja dual carriageway.
In far away Ejigbo area, most people who ran towards Oke-Afa, drowned in the canal. Most of them, oblivious of quick sand in the canal, drowned as they fell over one another. Local divers did their best to rescue the unfortunate victims but many died before they could get help.
The final death toll is hard to compute, although the Red Cross claimed that at least 1,000 bodies were recovered and a number of people were reported missing and never found. In addition to the dead, at least 5,000 people were injured in the disaster and over 12,000 left homeless, with entire districts of the city gutted. About 20,000 people fled the city on the night of the explosion, and the survivors gradually returned over the course of the weeks.