Abule Egba pipeline explosion
Blood, tears, losses aptly describe the mood at Abule Egba and its environs following yet another pipeline explosion two nights ago. The sad incident has left families sad, communities bereaved and the nation grieving. TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE, who was at the scene few minutes after the explosion occurred and left when the fire fighters left around 3:30am, reports the lamentations of the survivors.
Like every resident in Abule Egba, a suburb in Lagos, Iya Mariam and her family had welcomed the beginning of the week with faith that luck had something better in store for them. Her husband, Papa Mariam, had left home in the morning, far flung in search of resources to cater to the need of his family. It was Sunday, January 19, 2020. Iya Mariam therefore had to oversee activities at the home front. Their four-year-old son, Aliyu, played, unmindful of the worries that daily plagued the world. For this Lagos family, there was no inkling that any misfortune lurked around.
Then came the catastrophe…
In the evening, while many were settling down for the night, the disaster struck. There was an explosion at the popular stretch of pipelines at Abule Egba. Blinding smoke, a raging inferno was followed by shattering screams. People ran in the dark of the night, unclear where they were headed. Screaming mothers grabbed their children; fathers shouted orders to members of their families and neighbours. Traders picked what they could from their merchandise. Abule Egba was on fire.
But as Mr Christian Obiaya told Nigerian Tribune, his neighbours, Iya Mariam and her son, little Aliyu did not make it. The raging inferno caught up with them, consuming them in its ire.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, Obiaya narrated the ugly incident. “It was not long after a friend of mine who came visiting left that my wife told me that she wanted to cook rice for the night and I consented. She came out of the premises to take water when she discovered that people were running for safety.
“Before then, I had perceived the odour of petrol. It became stronger. I had assumed a neighbor wanted to refill his generating set considering the lack of electricity. My wife ran inside the house to tell me what was going on outside. She carried our baby and ran outside. That was how I ran out too without minding that I was not properly dressed,” Obiaya narrated as he betrayed emotion and cried.
He recalled how Iya Mariam and her son met their death.
“But what baffled me,” he continued, “is that I still do not understand how Iya Mariam and her son could not escape like other residents at least on the street. While I ran, she also ran behind me. But I do not know what actually brought her back to the spot where she and her son were caught by the fire. The woman was a full housewife and lived with her husband with two children: Mariam and Aliyu. It was painful that the woman died together with her son but Mariam survived unhurt.”
“We ran, knowing death was pursuing us”
Obiaya who told Nigerian Tribune that he just moved into the area barely four months ago stated that “We ran, knowing death itself was pursuing us. Though, I didn’t know where my wife ran to with our baby. It was after a while that we communicated on phone and then knew that we were all alive. I am fed up of living here because it is prone to incessant pipeline vandalism. I just moved in to this vicinity about four months ago.”
Aside the reported deaths of five individuals, including Iya Mariam and her son, Aliyu, 11 residential houses, 33 vehicles, mostly trucks, three tricycles were consumed by the inferno which was reportedly caused by the activities of vandals who were stealing fuel from the government- owned pipeline at Abule Egba.
Abule Egba and a long history of pipeline explosions
Fuel otherwise known as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) has been a major earner for the Nigerian economy, the third largest world producer of oil but with about 70 per cent of its 200 million population wallowing in abject poverty.
Areas like Abule Egba, in Lagos, where these oil pipes stretch are usually veritable spots for vandalism where criminals siphon oil. On December 26, 2006, Lagosians woke up to the devastating news of a pipeline explosion in Abule Egba which led to deaths and destruction of properties.
On December 18, 2018, there was another pipeline explosion occasioned by vandals who had destroyed some pipes to siphon fuel. No less than 100 houses, 320 shops and 77 cars were consumed in that sad episode.
Casualties from the January 19, 2020 incident were made up of two male adults, a girl, a mother (Iya Mariam) and her son, Aliyu, both residents of No 12 Ahmed Sodiq Street.
The two male adults were said to have just returned from a long trip and were sleeping in their trucks when the furious fire caught up with them, consuming them. The little girl was in one of the nearby shops napping when the fire killed her.
Many churches including Love Assembly Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Celestial Church of Christ, Landmark Christian Mission, all at Joel Nnadede Street were also torched by the fire.
Only God can save us from pipeline vandals in Abule- Egba—Residents
Residents of Abule Egba have called on both federal and state governments to help in stopping another recurrence.
For Mufutau Sekoni, a businessman and resident of Abule Egba, the activities of vandals should be stopped.
Sekoni, a landlord, said he would want the Federal Government and its agency, especially the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to be alive to their responsibility of protecting citizens’ lives and property.
He said there were many occasions when residents of the community had drawn the attention of the government’s security agencies, especially the police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) to the activities of vandals in the area.
“At times, we see men and officers of the NSCDC and the police patrolling the area. They always pretend as though nothing illegal goes on around the pipeline in the area,” he said.
Another survivor, Mr. Muyiwa Owolabi, told the Nigerian Tribune that although his house was not torched by the fire, his father-in-law’s house was not fortunate.
According to him, it was only his grandma, in her late 70s that was around at the time of the fire.
“I particularly was catching fun in a friend’s house far away from here when I was called on phone and told of the incident. Then, I quickly rushed here but I was surprised that the fire jumped over our house after destroying the one before it and then went to the next one. It was a miracle,” he said.
“It was as if we were watching a horror movie”
Another survivor, who gave his age as 68 but spoke on condition of anonymity told the Nigerian Tribune that “Members of my family and I were all outside the corridor when a female neighbour was calling her husband to come out. Her shout attracted all of us. She said the petrol pipeline had burst. That was how I jammed my door and began to run for dear life. And all this while, I didn’t even remember that I was not with my walking stick. It was as if we were watching a horror movie. I just give God the glory. It was His doing that we are alive. We returned home around 3.00am.”
Residents of communities around Katangowa Market and Ekoro road including Pipeline Estate Community Development Association, Igoke, have also continued to count their losses following the explosion.
More than 200 residents have been reportedly displaced and over 15 houses, schools, church, hospital, and an eatery were affected.
The immediate past chairman of the estate, Lawal Idowu told Nigerian Tribune that vandals had been operating in the area for long. The current chairman of the estate, Alhaji Owolabi said his house was burnt in the inferno.
Nevertheless, putting out the fire was herculean for firefighters from both the federal and Lagos State governments as well as officers from the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA). The fire was eventually put out around 3:30 am on Monday.
Similarly, officials from the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation (NNPC) also finished sealing up the spot of the punctured oil pipe where the fuel was stolen at exactly 4:00am.
However, the General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA), Dr Femi Oke-Osanyintola as well as the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kolo Kyari, confirmed the death toll while speaking separately with newsmen at the scene of the incident on Monday morning, noting that their bodies had been deposited in the morgue.
He however, pointed out that only three persons were confirmed dead at 1.30am while the death of Iya Mariam and her son were confirmed in the morning. He also confirmed that 11 houses, 33 trucks and some with containers, three cars and three tricycles were also destroyed by the raging fire .
Similarly, several others who sustained various degrees of fire injuries were said to be receiving medical attention at various hospitals.
It seems vandals connive with NNPC workers to burst pipes—Lagos Commissioner
The Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism and Culture, Mr Usmat Akinbule Yusuf and a member of the state House of Assembly, Mr Bisi Yussuf, both from Alimosho Local Government Area of the state expressed displeasure at the frequent manner at which fuel pipeline vandals ruin lives and properties of residents of Abule Egba area.
They made the comment separately yesterday while addressing journalists at the scene of the fire incident.
According to the commissioner, it was high time the Federal Government and especially NNPC protected all its pipelines and ensured people living at such neighbourhoods are not put at risk.
The duo however commiserated with the families that lost dear ones and properties to the inferno as well as the entire residents of Abule Egba community for their huge loss.
We are working seriously with security agents to forestall pipeline vandalism—NNPC GMD
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kolo Kyari, has said that the organisation is working seriously with security agencies especially the Navy and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), to prevent fuel pipeline vandalism across the country.
This is just as he commiserated with the families of the five persons who lost their lives in the Abule Egba, Lagos fuel fire that engulfed the area on Sunday.
He said incidents of fuel pipeline vandalism were becoming too many and that the corporation would do everything humanly possible to address the menace. He also urged residents of the affected communities to report suspicious movement of strangers around them.
According to him, “it would be difficult for outsiders to carry out illegal operations especially of this magnitude without the connivance of the locals. So, the responsibility of security of lives and property is for all and sundry and not for government alone,” he said.
DPR commences investigation into the explosion
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) said it has commenced an investigation into the pipeline explosion. According to a statement by its spokesman, Paul Osu, “The Department wishes to commiserate with all who were affected by this unfortunate tragedy, which has been attributed to sabotage and vandalism by unscrupulous persons. In line with our regulatory oversight to the Nigerian oil and gas industry, as enshrined in the Petroleum Act Cap P10 LFN 2004, the DPR has commenced investigations with other relevant stakeholders.”