The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Federal Government to carry out forensic investigation of the immediate and remote cause of the Abule Ado, Lagos explosion of Sunday, March 15, 2020 which killed scores and led to devastation of epic proportions.
The group, in a statement issued in Lagos on Monday, March 16 by its Head of Media & Campaigns, Philip Jakpor, also called on the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu, to immediately set up a Special Task Force on pipelines security with the purpose of preventing ceaseless pipeline accidents in the state.
The Sunday morning blast occurred near the popular ASPAMDA market and Mechanic Village in Abule Ado, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area. Vibrations from the blast shook many parts of the state and was felt as far as Iba, Okokomaiko, Agege, Alimosho, Ijegun-Ikotun and Surulere, among others.
The Lagos government had earlier stated the incident was not in any way linked to pipeline vandalism but could not provide details on the cause of the incident but the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) insisted it was caused by a truck that hit some cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near the corporations’ system 2B Pipeline right of way.
Among the casualties of the explosion were a Reverend Sister, Henrietta Alokha, who was the Principal of Bethlehem High School, Abule Ado and some students of the school she was trying to rescue.
Members of a family of four that were on their way to church also died, as well as a newly weded couple who were said to be expecting a child. Many are still reportedly unaccounted for and suspected to be under rubbles in collapsed houses.
ERA/FoEN, however, cautioned the Federal Government not to be too casual to conclude that that the incident was an accident, noting that the accounts of the NNPC on the real cause of the blast is unconvincing and raises some questions.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “There is something suspiciously different about this explosion. The scale of destruction is nothing like any of the pipeline explosions we have monitored and documented for several decades.
“The Sunday incident’s scale of destruction could only be likened to military grade explosions or aerial bombardment. We can’t treat this casually as an accident caused by a truck.
“With the current security challenges facing this country, it is extremely premature to draw conclusions without conducting forensic investigation of this particular blast. Not even the accidental detonation of bombs at the Ikeja cantonment caused this scale of destruction and ruins. Government must conduct comprehensive investigation to establish if this was a crime or an accident.
“And there are questions begging for answers: Who drove the truck? What is the truck doing on a pipeline on Sunday morning? Was the gas plant opened on a Sunday? Was the content of the truck weaponised?
“And for the NNPC that has admitted some level of culpability by confirming that the primary explosion came from its gas truck, it should immediately initiate the process of providing remediation for the affected families and businesses while its officials found to have through negligence orchestrated this massive destruction, should be made to face the law.”
ERA/FoEN commiserated with the families of those who lost their lives and those that lost properties and businesses. The group however urged Governor Sanwo-olu to immediately set up a task force on pipeline security.
“It is unfortunate that the federal agencies saddled with the protection and security of pipelines have failed woefully. The governor as the Chief Security Officer of the state needs to act in a way that will put an end to these perennial deaths and destruction since Lagos sits on a web of oil and gas pipelines,” ERA/FoEN added.