•More than 600m litres of fuel in 50 Tank Farms located in Satellite Town, a residential area
•’Nigeria the only country that can allow that in the whole world
•Victims of Abule Ado explosion yet to know fate
By Evelyn Usman
An earth-shaking explosion erupted last Sunday in Abule-Ado area of Satellite, Lagos State, leaving scores of persons dead and others wounded. Some victims of the explosion died as their buildings caved in and buried them in the rubble. Others, lost their lives owing to the heavy bricks that landed on them when the buildings collapsed.
Tremors from the explosion affected many buildings in near and distant parts of Lagos. The impact was so heavy that roofs and ceilings of buildings far from the scene of the blast came down and windows shattered. About 100 buildings were destroyed around Abule-Ado alone. Among them was a private girl boarding school – Bethlehem Girls School. Luckily, none of the students lost her life according to the school’s management. But Principal of the school, Rev. Sister Henrietta Alokha , died moments after being rushed to the hospital. She rescued many students but lost her life in the process.
Different reasons have been attributed to the cause of the explosion. First, some claimed it was caused by pipeline vandals who broke one of the underground pipes in an attempt to siphon petroleum products, while another account claimed the explosion erupted from a gas factory within the area. But the National Emergency Management Agency attributed its cause to pressure exerted on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC by a heavy-duty truck laden with granite. The truck which was reportedly parked on the pipeline overnight was said to have forced the content in the pipeline to blow up.
Despite several reasons attributed to the cause of the explosion, some Nigerians are insinuating that it could have been an attack by insurgents believed to have infiltrated Lagos State. This is because the incident was likened to that of January 27, 2002 accidental detonation of a large stock of Military high explosives at a storage facility in the Ikeja Military Cantonment. At least 1,100 lives perished and over 20,000 displaced.
At the end of the inquiry launched by the Federal Government to investigate the Ikeja cantonment incident, the Nigerian Army was blamed for failing to properly maintain the base, or to decommission it when instructed to do so in 2001.
Prominent Nigerians have paid visits to the scene in Abule-Ado. Others took their social media platforms to commiserate with those who lost their loved ones and properties in the tragedy.
Some governors of other states also identified with their Lagos State counterpart, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu , by making one donation or the other to assist in getting relief materials for the affected victims.
On his part, Governor Sanwo –Olu set up a N2 Billion relief fund to alleviate losses suffered by victims. He doled out N250 million as the capital base for the relief fund.
But none of these contributions have been channeled towards assisting these victims. Rather, they have been given temporary shelter at the State;s Emergency Relief Camp at Igando, in Ikotun-Igando Local Council Area of the state.
As days run into months and months into years, it is hoped that their fate will not be like that of similar past victims, some of who are still in temporary accommodation.
A pathetic case was that of the Abule-Egba fire, two months ago, in which some persons were killed and buildings razed. Like Abule-Ado’s it also occurred on a Sunday.
The Abule-Egba’s fire was not the first. A similar one happened at a nearby Awori community last year and another which left hundreds of residents dead occurred in 2009.
Unfortunately, some of these victims are still in the camp in Igando , waiting endlessly for government to help them.
Recently, governor Sanwo-Olu , assured them that he would be meeting with the NNPC to discuss on how to compensate them. The compensation plan according to him, would be extended to those whose properties were razed in the inferno, adding that some of the victims who rented homes in the area would also be supported to re-adjust back to their normal lives.
While victims were still expecting help from Lagos State government, the Federal Government appeared insensitive through their initial reaction, talking about taking over the land in the affected area.
Another case of explosion that readily comes to mind was the Ijegun pipeline explosions in 2008 and 2019 respectively. Victims of the May 15, 2008 explosion dragged government and three others to court , an action that forced the Lagos State government to meet with them, promising to compensate them.
However, last year, the residents stormed the Lagos State House of Assembly to demand compensation for victims involved in the recent fire incident in the area.
On Wednesday, the Senate , mandated its Committees on Petroleum Resources Upstream, Downstream and Gas Resources , to carry out an investigation to probe the Abule-Ado explosion and report back at Plenary in two weeks, with a view to finding lasting solutions to incessant cases of explosion in the country .
Nigerians, therefore , hope that measures will be put in place to compensate these victims of circumstance.
Another disaster waiting to happen
Part of the move of finding a lasting solution to the recurrence of pipeline explosions in Lagos, should be centered on the need to address the relocation of tank farms in Satellite Town area of Lagos. There are many tank farms in residential areas in Lagos. Satellite Town is one.
The initial plan for creating the Satellite space was to assist low-income earners to own their houses. But today, the area is gradually being overtaken by tank farms. Report says 50 Tank Farms (storage of combustible petroleum products) are licensed by DPR to operate in the densely populated area. The sight of tankers driving in and out of the residential area is a usual one to residents. At a time, some of these truck drivers were alleged to constitute social nuisance by parking indiscriminately on the streets.
Speaking with Crime Guard , the Chairman on Media, Satellite Town Forum, Mr Ndubuisi Okafor, said, “ If this explosion had happened at our end of Satellite, the magnitude of the loss would have been something else. But the explosion shook the foundation of my buildings. It affected those around Water Side, close to the tank farms.
“The idea of situating tank farms in a residential area has been of paramount concern to us in Satellite Town. There are over 50 tank farms located right inside Satellite residential area.
We have been calling on the Federal Government, the State government and other relevant agencies to come to our aid, as it is quite abnormal to site tank farms where people are living. It has become a dumping ground for fuel dump.
The product here is said to be about 25 percent of what is consumed nationwide and it amounts to about N600 million litres of product within Satellite Town and this can be dangerous.
“As I speak, one of the promoters of tank farm is now planning to accelerate the percentage of his product to 50 percent. This is the only country in the whole wide world where you can see this type of thing happening and you see agencies pretending as if they don’t know what is happening.
“ Aside the risk involved, there is also the pollution, as over a thousand trucks are unleashed into Satellite Town every day, to either lift product or to offload containers. |And we are talking of carbon monoxide that is being unleashed on residents.
“ I am using this medium to still appeal to the Federal Government to relocate the tank farms from here , so as to avert the impending danger”.
In what could be described as response to this call, the House of Representatives, Wednesday, set up an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the concentration of Tank Farms in the residential areas of Ijegun, Satellite town, Kirikiri and old Ojo road in Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos State.
The House reached the resolution following a motion titled “Need to Relocate Tank
Farms in Residential Areas of Ijegun, Satellite Town, Kirikiri and old Ojo Road of Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency, Lagos State”, moved by Mr. Oghene Egoh from Lagos State.
Egoh told the lawmakers that concentration of the tank farms had taken over the space which he said had become a source of concern to the residents of the area.
He added that it had caused the people untold hardship as the traffic in the area had become very slow.
He said: “The House notes that Ijegun, Kirikiri, Satellite town, and old Ojo road are residential areas in Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos State;
“The House also notes that over 50 Oil Tank Farms have relocated to the areas, thus causing oil tankers to occupy all sides of old Ojo Road and practically every street in Ijegun, Kirikiri and Satellite town;
“Concerned that if any of the Tank Farms should explode in those residential areas, thousands of people would be killed and many properties destroyed;
“Aware that it is extremely difficult to move easily in those areas as Tank Farms block access in the residential areas, thereby causing avoidable delays and posing serious harm to the people, aside from the hazards they cause as the area that used to take only five minutes to travel through now takes over two hours to traverse”.
Adopting the motion, the House mandated that adhoc committee, yet to be inaugurated, to also reach a consensus on how to settle the issue to the satisfaction of the affected communities.
It is hoped that with this move , measures would be taken, immediately to avert a re-occurrence of the Abule-Ado misfortune.