NNPC’s flag on the ruins of Abule Ado

CHEWING the cud is not a human’s thing. We learnt in our elementary agricultural science those days that ruminants do, and the goats in our villages and around us today show us how, most vividly. Since I am not a goat, I am not going to chew the cud. But that is literally speaking. “Chew the cud and have a few beers” is a common slang among the British. It is their own way of ruminating on issues that demand a serious contemplation. Humans would have to chew the cud when events demand a second look or a deep reflection. We chew the cud for issues for which the Yoruba advice that you are to call the Aro and Odofin of your inner self.

One of such is the explosion that destroyed life and property in multiple layers, at Abule Ado, a suburb of Lagos State, one year ago. The Abule Ado disaster occurred on March 15, 2020, meaning that it’s been one year since Nigeria witnessed one of the most devastating catastrophes in the history of Lagos State and Nigeria. After the morning blast, 23 people were killed. A school, Bethlehem Girls College owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos was left in complete ruins. The school recorded the highest number of casualties of eight people. There were 358 students in the school. The administrator of the school, Reverend Sister Henrietta Alokha, SSH, and seven others died in the incident.

Also, homes and businesses etc in 100,000 square meters of the explosion were flattened along with the people inside them. The shock wave of the explosion was felt up to six kilometers radius and the reports of its aftermath showed a devastating loss of life and properties.

To have an idea of the extent of loss and damage, the Lagos State government paid amounts totalling over N57 million to the families of the 23 people who died in that incident. Mr. Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, said apart from the payment of N2.5 million to each of the families, “102 internally displaced persons from the Abule Ado explosion were accommodated at the LASEMA Relief Camp, Igando for six months. The cost of this accommodation and the feeding of these persons were borne entirely by the Lagos State government. Also on exit from this camp, each family and individual was given cash stipends to ease their integration into the society.”

Fingers were pointed at the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) pipeline in the area as the cause of the explosion. The NNPC, people claimed, had not been doing what it was supposed to do in terms of maintenance of its pipelines in the area and, perhaps other areas across the country. They insisted that the pipelines were old and worn out and that this was the source of the disaster. But the NNPC said it was not its pipeline that ruptured, and clarified that it was a gas shop that caused the disaster. According to the NNPC, a truck collided with gas cylinders at a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), thereby setting off the fire. 315 buildings were affected with varying degrees of damage, some of which have been demolished “in order that those affected are not unnecessarily burdened again”, according to the Lagos State government.

The NNPC left everything about the disaster at the doorstep of its unsound alibi. One year after, there is nothing from the behemoth state corporation to show that it has either done anything about the problematic pipeline or done something about the grave danger it poses to the entire citizenry. The corporation was high on its gas cylinder excuse when the BBC Africa Eye came up with a report based on forensic findings to show that the fault is squarely NNPC’s. The report by the BBC with a video that went viral showed how a vapourised inflammable liquid from a leaking pipeline caused the fire. So far, there has not been a response from the NNPC on the evidences about the faulty pipeline.

One non-governmental organisation (NGO) Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr. Oluwafemi Akinbode, said “the investigation also revealed the fact that the myriad of government agencies and security outfits that descended on the epicentre of the blast to investigate what happened only fed Nigerians lies.” Many of us, like Akinbode, wonder where all the billions budgeted annually for the surveillance, monitoring and maintenance of pipelines sink into. The criminal negligence on the part of NNPC and the attempt to trivialise this monumental tragedy is not just sad, it is tragic. Monsignor Jerome Oduntan, the Director of Education of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos said the land on which the school was built was acquired on September 4, 1992 from the Federal Housing Authority and that “going by the Oil Pipeline Law of the Federation of 1990, Cap 338, setbacks for pipelines is pegged at 27.5 meters to the building line. The school was far outside the trespass zone.” However, following the disaster, the government has asked all to vacate the area, Oduntan stated.

The property owners in the affected area have instituted a court case against the NNPC. The Lagos State government is waiting for the outcome of the case. In essence, the government agency directly involved in bringing the life of many to ruins and rendering many others impotent, has carried on as if nothing happened. At best, it is waiting on the courts to take an action it is supposed to take ordinarily as a goo corporate citizen.

It is pertinent that Nigerians should know the truth of what happened on March 15, 2020 at Abule Ado in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State. The aloofness of the NNPC and its relevant subsidiary is not just a show of brazen injustice, it is criminal and should be prosecuted. Or, is it for nothing that some people would cause death and destruction of property of citizens? One year after the destruction of Abule Ado, will the NNPC just keep dancing galala on the graves of people innocent Nigerians?

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