The current corona virus has taken over discourse across the world so much so that I have written on it twice to underscore its severity. This has made us oblivious to the local tragedies around us and has sort of lowered our level of humanity.
The tragedy at Abule Ado in Amuwo Odofin local government on the 15th of March 2020 was rather unfortunate. At the last count, some 20 people, including a family of four, some students of Bethlehem Girls College, their principal, and two other staffers, reportedly having morning devotion, lay dead according to the Thisday Newspapers Editorial of March 20, 2020.
According to an eye witness account, a truck hit some gas cylinders in a gas processing plant near the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s 2B Pipeline’s Right of Way. Over fifty cars, domiciliary edifices and businesses were consumed in the inferno. It was so heart wrenching that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu likened the blood bath to a theatre of war as his heart sank in anguish which his verbal expressions portrayed.
The country is still awaiting an official report of the root cause of the incident but the avoidable tragedy was as a result of the NNPC pipelines that lie close to residential buildings and businesses in different parts of the country. The laxity in the management of these pipelines led to accidents in places like Ijegun near Amuwo Odofin, Arepo in Ogun state among numerous others in other parts of the country.
The first question that any discerning Nigerian should ask is why should the NNPC construct pipelines close to residential houses or offices where many people are domiciled? It is a gargantuan hazard and risk which is part of the failure of our policy makers to secure the lives and properties of those that they govern. Why can’t these pipelines be constructed far away from the residential areas so that they do not only constitute an environmental hazard but a life threatening one as well?
What happened to the activities of the town planners in the various states who are on the payroll of honest and conscientious tax payers? Aren’t they supposed to plan the cities and towns in such a way that the pipelines do not end up harming the residents there? Were bribes collected by these bureaucrats from unscrupulous landlords or property developers? Why did the government turn a blind eye when these pipelines were being constructed near residential buildings? What happened to the investigations that were done in Ijegun and Arepo and the resolutions for implementation to avoid a re-occurrence?
All these are nagging questions begging for urgent and speedy answers as we cannot continue to toy with the lives and well being of millions of Nigerian citizens and residents. The culprits should be speedily brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others and there should be the feeling by the citizens of a robust government presence in their lives in the bid to keep them safe from harm’s way of the explosions and fires that occur more out of administrative negligence.
The vandalization of these pipelines by greedy Nigerians is another source of concern and worry. These short sighted people burst the pipelines in order to sell the petroleum products to make quick money without sparing a thought about the lives and properties of those around them. In many cases it has been established that some government officials connive with these criminals to perpetrate the heinous offences against the State. Why haven’t any culprits being found and adequately sanctioned?
The NNPC has an annual ritual of spending billions of naira on pipeline vandalization repairs. In 2015, about 103 billion naira was spent while in 2016, about 116 billion was spent and yet the crisis has not abated. It is high time the government took a sturdy measure against this malady.
The government must show its Big Brother status by showing up to alleviate the economic plight of those who lost their means of livelihoods in the blast as they mustn’t be left to their respective fates. The usual ‘I don’t care attitude’ of the government must cease here.
To those who lost their lives, may their souls find perfect rest in the Lord’s Bosom. The government also has the responsibility to ensure that their loved ones left behind don’t go through hell and high water to keep their heads above water.
Let this latest incident signal a dawn of a new era in disaster management.
Tony Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com