Search Site: OnlineNigeria

Close






Lagos Pipeline Explosion

Posted by BY MIKE JIMOH, EMEKA ENYINNAYA & KENNETH ODOEMENA on 2008/05/18 | Views: 934 |

Lagos Pipeline Explosion


The major cause of oil pipeline explosions in Lagos and elsewhere in Nigeria are vandals and saboteurs. So, when an NNPC pipeline boomed off at Ikotun/ Ijegun in Alimosho local government area of Lagos on Thursday, May 15, the blame naturally fell on those two. Even CNN and some local media reported it as an act of sabotage.

* Disturbing tales of missing persons and agonies of survivors


The major cause of oil pipeline explosions in Lagos and elsewhere in Nigeria are vandals and saboteurs. So, when an NNPC pipeline boomed off at Ikotun/ Ijegun in Alimosho local government area of Lagos on Thursday, May 15, the blame naturally fell on those two. Even CNN and some local media reported it as an act of sabotage.

Speculations were rife that belligerent Niger Delta militants intent on spreading their campaign of terror beyond the combustible coastal region were responsible. But Sunday Sun investigations show the avoidable tragedy was the stupidity of a caterpillar operator who ignored the advice of a shop owner’s warning that there was an oil pipeline where he was excavating. MIKE JIMOH, EMEKA ENYINNAYA & KENNETH ODOEMENA report:


Missing girl
To Nuratu Abdullahi, a petty trader at Ijegun market, the explosion and subsequent raging, roaring inferno made her listless and impulsive.
First, she abandoned her wares, darted out of the crowded, stampeding market. Like a headless chicken, she trampled around in and out of the market- trailing, tripping on snatches of what happened.
Wherever she ran and turned to, harassed faces, distorted images of the dead and injured greeted her.


Darkness at noon
The situation was further worsened by thick, billowing smoke and palpable darkness which suddenly turned day into night.
Her worries deepened and zeroed down on her three-year-old daughter, Latifat, she took do school in the morning. The school is close to the place is close to the centre of hell-the place the leaping flames began.
She ran to the school, emptiness and disorder welcomed her. She saw upturned school desks, half eaten lunch packs, small brown school sandals without the children who should be wearing them.


Where is Lati?
She called out her name but a distant echo and and the broken brick walls of the school, Local Government Primary School, Ijegun bounced the name back at her. Nuratu heard herself saying: “If Lati is dead, I’ll kill myself.”
Her thought raced to her other children and her husband. Inwardly she felt convinced that they would somehow romp through. But little Lati is too fragile and vulnerable. Now thinking she might be among the injured she heard were conveyed to General Hospital, Ikeja and Isolo, she raced to the two places. And to her shock, no child there woked like Lati. Reluctantly, she trudged home and sank wearily into a disturbed sleep.


Nightmare
While she slept, the explosion replayed in her sub conscious. She saw her little Lati rising out of the smoking and wailing for help. She tried to run to her rescue but strangely remained rooted on the spot. Sweating profusely, crying and shuddering, she woke up. And covered her tied face. With her hands and wept some more.

Tears of job
Not caring about her dissholved appearance, she ran to Lati’s school again. This time, she ran into the school’s head-mistress, Mrs. Okoro who propmpty told her she took.
Lati and some other children to her house. Without further discussion, the duo went the headmistress house. Nuratu saw Lati and burnt into tears and laughter at the same time.
As one would expect, she gathered Lati to her bossom and ran home.

“I warned the caterpillar operator and he said no problem, but there was problem in the end” – Mrs. Ademola, shop owner Minutes before an NNPC pipeline ruptured and exploded under a caterpillar belonging to Hiteck Construction Company in Lagos around mid-day last Thursday, May 15, Mrs. Ademola, a light-complexioned middle-aged shop owner on Isheri/ Jakande Road, Ikotun/ Ijegun, remembers approaching one of the caterpillar operators to caution him about the way he was scooping up the earth with reckless abandon.

“I cautioned him several times that the place he was digging was close to a petroleum pipeline. All he said was, ‘Madam, kosi problem’ (meaning Madam, there is no problem), Mrs. Ademola recalled when Sunday Sun met and spoke with her Thursday night at Ikotun Health Centre where she was receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the blast. But problem was not far off after the shop owner moved on. According to the woman, she gave up any effort at persuading the adamant operator.

The proud owner of two shops – one for gifts and cooking utensils and the other a wine and spirit shop – along the road being graded, Mrs. Ademola left the young man and engaged her husband’s vendour instead. “Somebody had reported her to me and I was trying to invite her to make peace with the other person. She ignored me, so, again, I moved on.”

That was what saved her. Soon after she left the vendour, there was a loud boom, and the shop owner was hurled forward - by the force of the blast.
“When I looked back, the caterpillar was engulfed in flames. So I ran as fast as my legs could carry me.” Even as she ran, she tripped and fell. “Two people fell on me as they tried to escape from the scene of the fire. That was how I sustained these injuries.” Though there are no visible burns on her body, Mrs. Ademola has minor scratches on her hands, biceps and chest, making her one of the luckiest survivors of the mid-day vroom that shook Ikotun/ Ijegun and beyond last Thursday.

Before the loud bang, the only sound heard by those around was that of a bulldozer at work, part of the project commissioned by the Lagos state government to grade the Isheri/ Jakande Road. Though many eyewitnesses admit the explosion occurred before mid-day, minutes later the inferno had spread its havoc up and down and around the stretch of newly graded road. From afar, the only ominous sign that something was amiss was the thick pall of smoke snaking its way several metres in the air and blackening the Lagos skyline.

According to reports, many of those that died included students from nearby Ijegun Primary/ Secondary School, traders, artisans and restaurateurs who operated within a respectable radius of the centre of explosion. Ijegun Primary and Secondary School was the worst hit, as students in the school were consumed in the raging inferno. Dozens of cars parked in the mechanic workshops around were completely burnt. Even a tree in bloom was scorched in places because of the intense heat from the fire.
By 6pm when Sunday Sun visited, the fire was still raging from the centre of explosion. On hand were a handful of firemen trying their best to put it out, ably assisted by young men and boys hurling water, sand, broken cement blocks and just about any handy missile at the fire. Most of the dead had been taken to the mortuary at Ikeja General Hospital while those with mild burns were taken to nearby private hospitals for first-aid treatment.

As at press time, the accurate figure of those that died in the mid-day blast is still a matter of conjecture. Government sources put it at about seven. Eyewitnesses say the number is higher. But the first two to die were the bulldozer operator and his colleague. Both were in the caterpillar when the explosion occurred, says Michael Paul, a machine operator working at 18, Omoledun Street, Ijegun, whose office is a glancing distance away from the scene of fire.

“I passed here around 10 am today,” he tells the reporter, amidst charred vehicles and shops, surrounded by hundreds of young people who had come to see for themselves the unexpected tragedy, “and I saw them digging up the road with the caterpillar.” He considers himself lucky in that hardly had he passed by than the explosion rocked the entire area. “Who knows what would have happened if I had passed here a little later than when I did.”

Like countless others living nearby who survived the fire, Michael says the cause of the fire was not an act of sabotage contrary to initial press reports that the fire may have started because of vandals looking to scoop fuel from the burst pipe. For one, where the fire occurred is a busy road, an open place that only the most brazen of vandals would have dared approach with jerry cans and containers. Michael maintains there was never a burst pipe when he passed by.

“We heard on the radio and television that the explosion started because of the vandals who had come here to scavenge for fuel. Next, we heard the place was bombed. I can tell you that they are all lies. The caterpillar operator started the fire. He probably thought it was an immovable object, so he kept striking at it repeatedly until the burst pipe exploded.”

Corroborating Michael’s views is Femi Olaosebikan, a security personnel living nearby. Fresh from night duty in the early hours of May 15, Femi had just lain back in his room to sleep awhile when he heard an unusual boom. “I ran outside my room only to discover that a caterpillar was on fire and the fire was spreading.” In one dash, he reached his room, removed his power generator and then salvaged whatever he could of his and his spouse’s belongings and took them to a safe place.
By the time he returned to snatch more of his properties, the fire had reached his room. The only option was to run back to safety. Femi’s house is less than a hundred metres from the core of the explosion. “There was nothing like vandals coming here for fuel,” he insists. “It was an accident that should not have been.”

Though Dr. Joseph Ademola was far from the fire, he says the fire could have been avoided, too. The medical director of Ikotun Health Centre and the husband of the shop owner who’d earlier warned the bulldozer operator, Joseph claims he’d just spoken with his wife before the fire started.
“Barely five minutes after I spoke with her, somebody called me to come and take my wife that she was involved in a fire accident. It was hard to believe since I only just spoke with her.” Hard as it was to swallow, Joseph called his wife’s cell phone. There was no response. By then he knew something was wrong and had become really apprehensive. When he got to the site of the explosion, Joseph met his spouse bruised and injured like many others.

“Thank God she is alive and well,” Joseph told the reporter in his consulting room several hours after the accident. “As you can see, her injuries are not as severe as some others. We really thank God for that.” But one thing the medic isn’t too pleased about is what he considers negligence on the part of NNPC. In his words, “there should have been a staff from the oil corporation to stand by the bulldozer operator to direct him. If a staff of NNPC were on the ground, this would not have happened.” Still, Joseph is not unmindful of the miracle that happened to his wife.

Kunle Alabi is one other man who is similarly grateful to God for the miracle wrought in his life. A businessman dealing in supply of science equipment to universities and secondary school, Kunle’s wife was not anywhere near the explosion that day. But the 1998 graduate of accounting from Ibadan Polytechnic however went to his mechanic that morning to service his baby Benz.
“I was with my mechanic very close to the bulldozer when the explosion happened,” the smallish, dark-complexioned father told the reporter. He ran as if pursued by the furies, leaving his car behind. “Nobody could stand the heat. We all ran away and I didn’t even think of my car at that time. I gave it up for good.”

Seven hours later, Kunle was there again. Near his Benz were other vehicles turned upside down by the force of the blast. Most were burnt beyond recognition. Kunle’s car was thoroughly covered in soot such that you couldn’t see through the windscreens. But when he got in and turned the key, it came alive, thereby eliciting a spontaneous shout from onlookers, some of who now ran after the smiling Kunle as he drove off the desolate premises. Needless to say ,his car was quickly dubbed miracle baby Benz – the lone survivor among the charred remains of dozens of cars after a mid-day pipeline explosion.


Femi Olaosebikan, a security personnel, another survivor
Femi Olaosebikan lives near the scene of explosion. Fresh from night duty in the early hours of the day, Femi had just laid down in his roon to sleep awhile when he heard an unusual boom. ‘I ran outside my room only to discover that a caterpillar was on fire and the fire was spreading.” In one dash, he reached his room, removed his power generator and then salvaged whatever he could of his and his spouse’s belongings and took them to a safe place.

By the time he returned to snatch more of his belongings the fire had reached his room. The only option was to run back to safety. Femi’s house is less than a hundred metres from the core of the explosion. “There was nothing like vandals coming here for fuel,” he insists. “It was an accident that should not have been.”
Residents of Ijegun, a rustic community in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos state, are yet to come to terms with the sad reality of what could be best described as ‘Black Thursday.’ Aside losing properties running into millions of naira, several lives including that of some school children were also lost in the fire incident caused by the pipeline explosion.


Family mourns loss of two kids
One of the victims, George Akugbe, lost two underage children and he spoke with Sunday Sun, “The teachers are responsible for the death of my children and they must die too. If they were not careless my two children- Esther, and Samuel, both three and five years respectively, would still be alive today. I learnt that when the incident happened the teachers locked the gate against the students thereby preventing them from escaping until they were trampled upon by the older students.”


‘As God wants it’
Another mother, Laide Oduntan, is yet to know the whereabouts of her 10-year-old son,Boluwatife (As God wants it) several days after. According to her, the lad left for school on that fateful morning and since has not come back home. “ I cannot find my son since he left home on Thursday. I have been to all the hospitals in Ijegun and even the general hospital, he is not there. My own is finished ,please help me.But if God wills it Boluwatife will still be found.


Pupils commend teachers
While some students of Ijegun Comprehensive Junior High School commended their teachers for helping them to safety others simply condemn them for abandoning them to their fate when they needed them most.


Miracle church
However, just like the story of the three Hebrew boys in the Bible who were thrown into the furnace of fire but came out unsathed, a Jehovah Witness church situated at 20 Isolo Road, Ijegun, miraculously escaped being burnt. Sadly, the surrounding building were completely razed down. According to the wife of the G.O, of the church, Mother Felicia Edalere, “ This goes to show that we are serving a living God here. That is why he spared His house from being consumed. My advice is that people should stick to God and nothing else.”

Read Full Story Here.... :
Leave Comment Here :



Add Comment

* Required information
1000
Captcha Image

Comments (13)

Gravatar
New
Ikheloa Ezekiel(Ekpoma, Edo, Nigeria)says...

Ikheloa is a Nigeria native name it given to people from esan in edo state which means caretaker

Gravatar
New
Willemsays...

No freaken way, how the hell do i hear the airtime balance update on my phone from the other caller, or maybe it was put on loudspeaker

Gravatar
New
Ulunma akor(Imo, Lagos, Nigeria)says...

Ulunma means beautiful second daughter

Gravatar
New
PAPA JAMES(US)says...

Do You Need A Powerful Africa Native Doctor? I Mean A Spiritual Herbalist

With Great Spirit Connected To Ancestors. Call +2349053014785 Dr omonzokpia

James Is A High Voodoo Priest Master. He is a Spell Caster, Native

Doctor, Spiritual Herbalist, Powerful Sickle cell Healer, Spiritual

Astrologer, Psychic Reader, Multi Guru, Witch Doctor, Priest Of Africa

Money Ritual

Gravatar
New
Kim Worley(Greeley, Colorado, US)says...

I heard this in a song and had no idea what it meant. Googled it and this came up. Very Cool. ????????????????