…‘Why Buhari hasn’t visited site’
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Representative Enitan Dolapo-Badru is the Leader of Lagos State Caucus in the House of Representatives. Dolapo-Badru represents Lagos Island 1 Federal Constituency. He speaks, in this interview, on last Sunday’s Lagos explosion among other issues.
You visited Lagos explosion site and you saw what happened. What can you tell us about the explosion?
It was a devastation of enormous proportion and it was just like a war zone where probably a bomb was dropped, or a missile was just dropped. It was a very gory sight and unbelievable.
We had information that prior to that explosion that there was a gas leak that lasted about three hours. What does that tell you about the preparedness for an emergency by the government?
Well, I wouldn’t want to comment on speculation. What you just said has not been verified or confirmed by anybody and anybody who wants to be mischievous, in fact, a mischievous person will say he has gas on video. Gas is air and I don’t know how you can video air.
What do you think was the cause because we saw debris and one wonders, as you described it if a bomb was dropped on that place? Would you say it was actually a gas issue or were there some other theories to it?
Have you ever seen a gas cylinder explode? In fact, bombs are mostly made with gas cylinders. So, it must be, definitely, gas cylinders. It cannot be one. Probably there are some other catalysts that now triggered the propensity and the enormity of the blast. I am not so versed in that field but it was devastation.
There are gas stations popping up every day in residential areas. What is your take on this considering the enormity of the damage this does to our lives and the economy?
I wouldn’t like to speculate. Like I have said and, again, when I was a member of the executive council of Lagos, I know for sure that the Ministry of Physical Planning was very thorough and very articulate in granting permits for petrol stations and I wouldn’t think sitting of petrol stations in residential areas is very prominent in Lagos.
I doubt that, but if it is, it is not something that should be condoned. But what I am saying in effect is that most of the damage of this particular incident happened way out of where the incident occurred because the proximity of the school, in fact, nobody can say exactly where that incident occurred, pinpoint with accuracy that it was this point or may it was that area because it caught everybody unawares.
So, it is the investigation and that is why I don’t want to speculate before investigation. When they eventually find out the root cause of this, then we can take steps to now apportion blames and then look at what we can do to avoid a similar occurrence in future.
If you, as an individual, were to proffer solutions, what would they be?
I cannot proffer solution to something that we don’t know and, as far as I am concerned, right now, it is still speculative. We think it is gas cylinders. Some people say it is pipeline. Some people say it is a bomb. So, we cannot proffer solutions on speculations. Now, if you see the motion, it says because we know that Lagos State government has already initiated an investigation, the House cannot on its own too initiate an investigation.
So, we have to partner Lagos State government to do this investigation together so that we can then get to the root of the matter, then we can proffer solutions. If you look at the motion, you will see that it is a joint motion in consonance with the Honourable member from the constituency and every member of the Lagos State Caucus. I was made to present the motion because I am a caucus leader. I said it was for and on behalf of all members of the Lagos State Caucus of the House of Reps.
It’s been days since this incident occurred and, as it is in other parts of the world, the President would have naturally visited the site. But that is not the case as of today here. What is your take regarding that?
I don’t think you are correct. You see, there are so many things on the President’s plate right now. First and foremost, it is coronavirus. In as much as it is a national disaster, I believe that probably the President may have been briefed or may not have been properly briefed to know that it is not a local issue.
The governor of Lagos State took some pictures to the Villa to show the President but Nigerians are saying that the President needed to be physically present at the site to really see what has happened and sympathize with the people instead of looking at pictures. Are you specifically saying that it is Coronavirus that has actually stopped the President from visiting?
I did not say so. What I said was that right now, I cannot hold brief for the President. What I said is that right now the President’s plate is full and that the first and foremost thing on his plate is coronavirus. In as much as I am not downgrading the enormity of the incident, everything, right now, is coronavirus for everybody in the world and that is why I said the President was probably not briefed or had the erroneous impression that it is a local matter.
The governor taking pictures to him does not put a national perspective in that even anything that happens locally that is beyond the governor’s powers, he can take it to the President and seek help. So the issue and the enormity of the issue is something on one side. Now, whether it is viewed as a local matter or national matter is another issue entirely.
So, it now depends on the people who are paid to do that job to brief the President that this is a matter of national importance of which you are supposed to visit. So, I wouldn’t know and I cannot hold brief for the Presidency. There is separation of powers and we have done our bit.
Going by the increasing rate of illegal stands where they sell gas across the country, isn’t this the best time to move a motion to curtail that trend to ensure proper registration of gas plants?
Yes, you are very correct, but, you see, there a lot of things. Like I said it may have been gas cylinders, but even if it is gas cylinders, with the enormity of the destruction, probably there have been catalysts; most likely, it couldn’t have been only gas cylinders. Why did I say that?
Today, we saw a disaster, I can bet you this evening while they are still searching for bodies under the rubbles, somebody will still go and scoop fuel in that area. That is our people for you.
Total disregard for even their own safety and for the safety of others and, when this thing happens, when he scoops that fuel for his own stupid and nasty selfishness, he now puts 100 other people in danger and while he is doing it, the people around would be laughing, some would be saying he is a mad man instead of confronting him; if you want to beat him, beat him because, at the end of the day, he is going to endanger the lives of everybody in that community.
Your motion talked about asking NEMA to send relief materials. There was no compensation outlined for victims or even relatives of the dead.
That is not correct. If you look at prayer two and if you look at the beginning of the prayers, it says “the House resolves to partner with the government of Lagos State”. And the body of the motion says that it has taken cognizance that Lagos State government has set up a foundation of 2 billion naira and the state government has already put N250 million into it. So, we are now asking the government to fund that foundation so that people can be compensated, that was prayer two.
The House left out school closure in the motion on coronavirus. If you have banned open/public worship and schools are left out, don’t you think that it will signal…?
I don’t think we are at that stage of the closure of schools because if we just want to put a blanket closure, you close all ministries too, there are more people in the ministries than in schools, you can close down the whole country. America didn’t close down everywhere with the several thousands of cases that they have recorded.
Britain didn’t close down everywhere, even the little they closed down they backed it up with 50 billion dollars. Italy closed and backed it up with 200 million euros. The UK backed it up with several billion pounds. How much do you have?
Orientation camps of NYSC have been closed…
Yes, they said they will close them, maybe by God’s grace, they will pay them tomorrow. They said they will pay them and tell them to go home.
But we don’t seem to be doing any clinical trials, nothing at all as it relates to finding cure for the virus…
No. I was a member of Lagos State executive council during the time of Ebola, we contained Ebola in Lagos and that was how we finished it. Now, Lagos is very good, the two people at the helm of affairs, the governor and the deputy governor, were members of the Lagos executive council then, so they know what to do.
That Ebola centre comes in handy today because we were proactive. So, it was Lagos that started all these questionnaires for travellers and that was how things got curtailed. The man from Ogun and all the people that were on the plane with him, how did they trace them? It was because of that questionnaire. So, that they were able to identify them takes a lot of courage and hard work and the health providers too have not contracted it; that means they are doing a very good job.
Many fear this will affect the economy even at this level…
There is no rocket science in that. So you don’t take it to that level to now shut down the economy by saying ‘ban this and ban that’. You have to put the economy into consideration because when you do that you are now closing all doors and if we get inside the hole, I don’t think we will be able to come out.