Sunday is regarded as the Lord’s Day but the last one, March 15, 2020, was the Devil’s Day. It was the day the Devil chose to pay an unscheduled visit to the residents of Abule-Ado, a settlement in Lagos State. It was a day an explosion precipitated by a truck, which smashed into some gas cylinders in a gas processing plant and ruptured the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline in the neighbourhood, brought death, sorrow, pains, anguish and lamentation to the residents of that settlement and the environs as the explosion killed about 25 persons, dislocated over 5,000 people, reduced over 50 houses to rubble, destroyed scores of vehicles and laid to waste goods valued at hundreds of millions of naira
As terrible as it might have been that some people lost their lives to the disaster, the dead are better off. The real casualties of the Abule-Ado disaster are the survivors. Some survivors will become permanently disabled, others will be permanently disoriented and the fortunes of others will be permanently destroyed. For many of the residents of Abule-Ado, the disaster was a life-thwarting experience.
The response of governments both at the state and federal levels has been wonderful. Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu visited the area and promised that the state government would set up a N2 billion relief fund for victims of the unfortunate incident. President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, at the site of the explosion, commiserated with the families of those who lost their lives in the disaster and prayed for the repose of their souls. He also promised to look into means of supporting the state government in rebuilding the area and ensuring provision of adequate medical supplies for those hospitalized as a consequence of the disaster. Philanthropists have also been providing succor to the victims.
While the nation mourns its loss and commiserates with the direct victims of the disaster, the question that keeps nudging the mind is: was the disaster not avertable? The incontestable answer is it was indeed preventable. The disaster could have been avoided and lives and property could have been saved had the gas processing plant which the truck hit not been built on the NNPC’s system 2B pipeline right of way. The disaster would not have been had people refrained from violating NNPC’s right of way by building houses close to the pipeline. So, the calamity would have been avoided had the people and the government done the right thing.
Though disasters are part of human reality, many of the disasters we experience in Nigeria are caused by human factors. That means they are disasters that shouldn’t have happened; they are disasters that could be prevented. The major culprit in the preventable disaster saga is the government. The law states that no structure should be erected within 25 meters of NNPC pipeline, yet all kinds of structure spring up within the NNPC’s right of way without the government taking any step to correct this. Flouting our own laws is invitation to disaster.
Now, what manner of government would see disaster looming and look the other way? What manner of government would wait for calamity to befall its people before finding a way to circumvent it? Why would any individual or organization violate the NNPC’s right of way without the government asking questions? Who approved those structures that violated the law of the land? If the government did not approve the plans why didn’t the government move against those who violated the law?
According to Albert Einstein, intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them. Our government at all levels need to up their game and become proactive rather than reactive. They should become reflective and not reflexive. Reflective leaders travel to the future, see problems before they become apparent and find solutions to them. On the other hand, reflexive leaders are so engrossed in daily activities that they wait for disaster to happen before engaging in mop up actions.
In this country, government acts more like lawbreakers and culprits than law givers and enforcers. Government will approve building plans on flood plains only to turn around later to commiserate with victims when flood takes over their homes. Government will see people violating the high tension setback rule and permit them to build only to issue commiseration messages when the Devil comes for his due.
The essence of government, apart from protecting lives and property, is to bring order into a society. If everyone does what catches their fancy, our society will not be better than a jungle. Government is supposed to rein in the people and curb their excesses. But in our country, government is an accomplice in the violation of the laws that govern the state. Rather than observe the law, many in government twist the law to suit their purpose. That is why the society appears to be a disaster going somewhere to happen. If we want to catch up with the advanced world, we cannot continue to run our society like a jungle. Without order development will be arrested while calamity will abound.