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‘Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime’

By Denrele Animashaun

“The Test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” –  Franklin D. Roosevelt

There are superstitions in some countries, where people avoid Friday the 13th. For the superstitious this day is a harbinger of doom. People avoid going out on this day and call in sick. On the  13th of   July, early that morning, a oil tanker driving in the southern Rivers State swerved trying to avoid three oncoming vehicles including a bus. After  the  collusion, and  while  the  tanker  was  resting  on  its  side, hundreds of locals in the Ahoada area flocked to the scene to collect the spilling fuel.

The authorities said the vehicle did not immediately burst into flames but did so sometime after the villagers rushed to collect the fuel. Many of the dead were okada drivers, who raced to fill up their tanks after learning of the crash, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

Apparently, some troops who got to the scene before the fire broke out told the villagers to refrain from going near the tanker according the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Alagoa Morris, coordinator at advocacy group Oil Watch Nigeria, asks: ‘How can people who have enough to eat scoop oil that belongs to someone else? It is poverty.’ This is sadly the truth.  Life is cheap  and  no lessons  have  been  learnt to  prevent  similar accidents from  happening again and  again.

No risk assessment, no contingency   plan and no medical protocol   to   follow when dealing   with burnt victims. In fact, no  emergency  services  was   on  site   to  take  charge  of  the  situation until  much  after   the  explosion.  The   pictures  of the  dead  was   gruesome, they  littered  the   scene, burnt   beyond  recognition in what  can  only  be  described  as   self immolation  .

President Jonathan

So,  why   on  earth  would  people  in  a  oil  producing   state  run  out   to   collect  spilled  oil?   How  wretched  have  we  become  that   people  are  reduced to  this  desperate  depths?  Why  in  a  country that  produces crude oil and liquefied natural gas and  ships it  across the world still  cannot  afford  to provide  affordable  oil   for  its   people?.  We all know   that Nigeria makes billions of dollars every year. Where does the money go?

Major road accidents in Nigeria, often involving long- haul and poorly maintained tankers regularly ply bad roads. This was   avoidable; so said the president and the governor of the state. When people live on less than $2 a day and are existing in grinding   poverty.  It   is  not  avoidable  and   their condition  will not  improve  until  the   government  deem it  fit   to  raise  the  living   conditions  of  inhabitants.

It  would   help  if  kick-backs  and  blatant corruption were not of  the   government  and  the  present  administration. At least two contracts have been signed over the last six years to expand the highway that runs through Niger Delta states, according to a government website. However, corruption often hinders or slows down road construction and maintenance projects.

Mr Alagoa said the accident ‘would not have happened if the road had two lanes there’.  Yes, and if the   road was maintained and the infrastructure was up to standard.

President Goodluck Jonathan said in a statement he is ‘deeply saddened by the loss of many lives’ caused by the explosion and ‘particularly distraught by the fact that once again, so many Nigerian lives have been lost in an avoidable fuel fire disaster’.

I  mean,  the   sentiments  mean  nothing, just  hot  air  and  more  fluff.  It  is  easy   for  the  president  to   tell  the   country   he is   deeply sadden  about  the  deaths. It   serves  no   purpose  if  we   do  not  learn   from   the  past, then  we  are guaranteed  to  repeat  it.  If   he  is   really  sadden about the  current  incidents  what  of  the  other  times   that  had   claimed   many  lives? Which one he is most deeply sadden about?

The  death  toll  is  stacking  up  and  all  we  hear  is  talk  shop and  photo opportunity.  In October 1998, more than 1,000 people died at Jesse, in the south-eastern Delta State, when a pipeline exploded as people tried to steal fuel.  In April last year, a fuel tanker overturned at an army checkpoint in the central part of the country, sparking an inferno in which some 50 people were killed.

125 people were killed by a pipeline explosion in the village of Ovim in Abia State September 16, 2004 nearly 60 were killed when a pipeline exploded on the outskirts of Lagos. More than 17,000 people died in about 31,000 road accidents across Nigeria.  I   would  not   go on  as  it  seems  lives  are  cheap  and grinding  poverty  has   damaged  people  to  the  point  that they  will   do  anything  to   make  a fast buck  including  risking   their  own  lives.  Every single life lost is one too many.

Sadly,  it  was  given  adequate news  coverage  over  here but  it  was  clinical  in its  delivery.  People are becoming numb to the news that comes from Nigeria.  Most finger of blame is at the politicians and their corrupt ways. No one I have spoken to thinks it will change for the better.


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