By Tayo Ogunbiyi
It was a Black Sunday. A day when darkness forced its way through the cloud and enthroned despair. The day began gloomily and ended tragically. Ironically, Sunday is generally considered a day of rest. Not Sunday, the 15th of March. It was a Sunday of great turmoil. It was one Sunday that residents of Abule Ado and Ado Soba in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State wouldn’t want to remember in a hurry. It was a day of sorrow, tear and blood. It started early in the morning. First, there was a sudden bang. But it was not an ordinary bang. It was a bang that shattered lives, buried dreams and constricted hope.
By the time the dust it raised died down, lives were lost, properties were razed to rubbles, persons were displaced and billions of naira lost. Such was the magnitude of the damage caused by the fury explosion that the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, declared he had never witnessed such level of destruction before. It was that terrible. In-fact, as at the time of putting together this piece, emergency workers were reportedly still searching for the body of a man who was declared missing by family members, days after the murderous explosion.
According to the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, 276 persons were displaced as a result of the explosion, while 57 others, who were trapped under the rubbles, were rescued.
According to him, three others were still being treated at various hospitals across Lagos. “One is on admission at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), another is being treated at the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital Ojo, and the third is at Gold Treat Hospital.
“Twenty bodies were recovered, 40 cars and three articulated trucks were destroyed, 170 buildings were affected, which included seven schools, three churches, one hotel and one shopping complex; 93 buildings were categorized as mildly affected, 44 buildings as moderately affected and 33 buildings as severely affected. All the unstable buildings would be brought down.”
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, who paid a visit to the explosion site, described the incident as devastating beyond description. Farouq was in company of the Director-General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Maihaja and the deputy governor of Lagos, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.
She noted that had she not visited Abule-Ado, she would not have understood the magnitude of the effect of the explosion, saying that the Federal government would work with the state government to forestall future occurrences.
As Mr. Governor promised when he visited the site of the horrible incidence in company of his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat and members of the State Executive Council, there is a need to get to the root cause of the explosion.
Naturally, various fashions of the cause or causes of the incidence are already flying at the public space. For instance, one report blamed it on gas explosion which occurred after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near a Pipeline Right of Way. Another report has it that the resulting fire later spread to the oil pipeline passing through the area which aggravated the explosion.
Yet another fashion likened the explosion to some military aerial bombardment, claiming it does not sound like pipeline explosion. Proponents of this school of thought are of the view that the scale of destruction was nothing like any of the pipeline explosions we have experienced of late. They, thus, likened it to military grade explosions or aerial bombardment.
For now, nothing really concrete has been established as the cause of the depressing event. Many questions are still left unanswered. Fortunately, Mr. Governor has put in place an all-encompassing Committee to look into the cause(s) of the event and make necessary recommendations. One can only wish the Committee the best of luck as it carries out this all important assignment.
Meanwhile, it is important to commend the Principal of Bethlehem Girls College, Rev. Sr. Henrietta Alokha, who reportedly lost her life in the explosion while trying to save the lives of her students who were trapped in the blast.
As in the case of the deadly Ebola Virus, when Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh sacrificed her life to free a whole nation from the pang of the deadly virus, the late Principal has also taught us a lesson in sacrifice and selfless service. She has shown us the true meaning of life. She remains one of the shinning lights in the annals of our nation. In a country where selfishness and greed reign supreme, she has chosen to be different. She chose a different path. A path of pain, but full of gains. The gallant woman could have escaped the inferno and live, but she decided to sacrifice her life so her students can live. What a woman! What a heart!
Something must be done to keep the memories of this amazing amazon alive. She must not die in vain. One way of ensuring this is to unveil the root cause of the explosion and make certain that those culpable do not escape the wheel of justice.
It is commendable that the State government has established a N2 billion Emergency Relief Fund for victims of the sad incidence. It is even more gratifying that the government has equally gone ahead to immediately donate N250 million into that Fund. In the words of Mr. Governor: “The process of rebuilding this place is beyond what the Government, either at the national level or state, undertake on its own”.
It has, therefore, become imperative for all our compatriots to donate into this good cause. Already, some individuals and organizations have heeded the call by making their contributions into the Fund. That is the Nigerian spirit that we grew to identify and it is quite commendable. In as much as we cannot bring back the dead, we can give hope to those still alive. The stark reality is that it could have been anybody. Some of the victims woke up that fateful day as landlords and ended the day homeless. We need to give them a thought.
For donation, please pay into the following accounts: Polaris Bank (4030017510), Zenith Bank (1017184516) and GTBank, with (0568615688). The name of the three accounts is Abule Ado Emergency Relief Fund.
While commemorating with those who lost loved ones and valuables to the ill-fated episode, kudos should be given to operatives of the Nigerian Police, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA; Lagos State Fire Service; the state’s Ambulance Service; Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, the Federal Road Safety Commission among others who worked tirelessly and endlessly to coordinate rescue and emergency operation that mitigated the effects if the gory episode.
Finally, our compatriots need to be more passionate about preserving human lives, especially in times of grievous emergencies. It is absurd seeing that a few people were more interested in taking selfie at the scene of the gory Black Sunday event rather than taking steps to assist in saving lives. This is wrong and inhuman.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.