The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Africa Eye Investigation on the Abule Ado explosion is revealing and has reinforced the conviction of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) account of the cause of the March 15, 2020 blast was questionable.
CAPPA, in a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday, September 27, 2020, said that with the spate of pipeline breaches and gas explosions across the country, including the most recent incident on Thursday, September 24 in Iju-Ishaga, there was also need for the introduction of adequate and stringent regulations on how and where Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and petroleum products are stored and conveyed throughout the country.
When the blast in Abule Ado occurred, its vibration shook many parts of Lagos including Iba, Okokomaiko, Badagry, Agege, Egbeda and Surulere. Among the casualties were Reverend Sister Henrietta Alokha, the Principal of Bethlehem High School, Abule Ado and a newly wedded couple and their unborn baby. A family of four on their way to church also died. In all, there were 23 fatalities from the incident.
According to a statement issued by CAPPA’s Director of Programmes, Philip Jakpor, the NNPC claimed that the explosion was caused by a truck that hit an assemblage of gas cylinders near one of its petroleum pipelines. But the BBC Africa Eye Investigation contradicted this claim and relied on forensic investigations and the analysis of specialists who insisted that the gas cylinders found at the site had nothing to do with the incident.
The specialists, whose fields cut across LPG Safety, Petroleum Pipeline Safety, and Explosions Analysis, also examined video footage from vapourised liquid observed coming from the exact location where the NNPC high-pressure petroleum pipeline runs beneath the ground within the same vicinity. The video was recorded five minutes before the blast.
CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “The BBC report clearly aligns with our view that there was something suspiciously different about the Abule Ado explosion. The investigation also exposed the fact that the myriad of government agencies and security outfits that descended on the epicenter of the blast to investigate what happened only fed Nigerians lies.”
While extolling the BBC for the strenuous efforts its team of journalists put into digging out the facts of the incident, he lamented that the findings have further exposed the culpability of NNPC in the myriad of pipeline explosions across the country,
According to him, “BBC Africa Eye has exposed a case of criminal negligence against NNPC officials who allowed a truck to be on the pipeline possibly for several days. What happened to those billions NNPC budget for pipeline surveillance every year?
“Nigerians are entitled to the truth; they deserve to know and see justice done in cases like this. That was why we called for forensic investigation of the blast when it happened. The BBC has graciously conducted that investigation the government refused to do. Nigerians are, however, waiting for the government to act on these startling revelations.
“Those who caused such manner of deaths and destruction as a result of their negligence must be prosecuted. Nigerians must know the owner of the truck that caused the incident and what the truck was doing atop a gas-conveying pipeline owned by the NNPC.”
While commending the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration for setting up a N2 billion relief fund for victims of the blast, the CAPPA boss urged the state government to operate the scheme more transparently so that Nigerians can easily verify those contributing to the fund, and the beneficiaries.
Reinforcing the need to hold the NNPC accountable for the Abule Ado incident, he insisted that “too many lives have been lost due to the carelessness of the corporation in communities where oil and gas pipelines traverse.
“The Abule Ado incident is one incident too many. Now is the time to hold the NNPC accountable. Lying to cover up its criminal negligence is totally unacceptable,” Oluwafemi insisted.