ONCE again, death and massive destruction of property came calling in Lagos in the morning hours of Sunday, March 15, 2020 when an explosion with an impact of epic proportions tore through Abule-Ado district in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area.
About 25 people lost their lives with scores more injured, while over 50 houses and vehicles were either levelled or badly damaged.
That was the second major tragedy to visit the state this year. Abule Egba area had also on January 20, 2020 suffered an explosion which killed at least two people, with several houses and dozens of cars destroyed.
The above incidents were linked to pipeline explosions. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, had only hours after the Abule Ado explosion, said it occurred after a truck hit some gas cylinders in a gas processing plant located near the Corporation’s 2B pipeline right of way.
Speculations are, however, rife that there could be more insidious things going on. For instance, the scale and character of the Abule Ado blast, some opine, is reminiscent of the impact of a high-powered military-level ordnance.
According to Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Deputy Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Agenda/Friends of the Earth, ERA/FoEN: “There is something suspiciously different about this explosion. The scale of destruction is nothing like any of the pipeline explosions we have monitored and documented for several decades.
“The Sunday incident’s scale of destruction could only be likened to military grade explosions or aerial bombardments. We can’t treat this casually as an accident caused by a truck”.
We are reassured that the Lagos State Government is spearheading an investigation of this sad incident, with the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat in charge. The panel has two weeks to unravel the mystery.
Though we commend this step, we prefer a forensic investigation which will go beyond merely sampling the opinions of eyewitnesses. We need to know if these are innocuous accidents or the nation’s economic capital is under security threat.
The N2 billion fund set up by the State Government is a step in the right direction. We commend Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for releasing N250 million into this fund and urge the Federal Government and all the state governments and public-spirited individuals to support it to assist the victims.
The greater work, however, lies in two directions. Number one is to ascertain the real causes of these pipeline blasts.
The second is to summon the political will to permanently keep people safe from pipeline accidents. This will definitely entail demolishing all structures situated within the pipeline and power line rights of way.
More importantly, we must address the intense criminality that is associated with our oil pipeline networks. These are major sources of danger to our people.