Five dead in Lagos pipeline fire, Nigeria
A fire on a pipeline owned by Nigeria’s state oil company in Lagos killed five people on Sunday evening, 19 January 2020.
The blaze broke out in the Abule-Egba district of the megacity. Five persons died in the incident, while 11 buildings, 17 shops and 36 vehicles, including 33 trucks, were consumed by the inferno, which started around 20h30. Various emergency agencies were still on the ground the following day, while the residents, who lost their properties to the inferno, lamented their losses.
The Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, urged the residents of the community to key into the safety measures of the state government. He said, “We received a report about the fire around 20h30 and we moved in with all the key stakeholders that are important in managing emergencies in Lagos State. We were able to curtail the spread of the fire by 21h30 and around 23h00, we extinguished the fire.
“We have commenced the enumeration of the buildings and vehicles affected and we want to ensure that this place is 100 percent safe. We treated 20 persons on the spot and discharged them, while five people lost their lives. Eleven houses, 17 shops, 33 trucks, three cars and three tricycles were affected.”
He said the inferno has been completely put out with details revealing that the valve where the vandalised petroleum products emanated from, had been stopped, cutting off supply totally from source at the NNPC Station. “This collaborative act by the NNPC eased the entire recovery process in no small measure, as supply of the highly inflammable fluid was cut off at source which contributed immensely to curtailing the resultant fire from acts of the pipeline vandals. Though preliminary report on the Ilepo fire outbreak had it that it was a pipeline fire which cause could not be ascertained, however, situational report from further investigations later revealed that the inferno was as a result of pipeline vandalism.”
A vehicle spare parts dealer, Feyintola Ajiboba, told journalists that she held a service in her shop on Sunday to pray for a successful year, adding that she was packing the items used for the service when she heard the explosion. She said, “That was how I had been hosting the service for years. We prayed and ate until around 18h30. I was packing the chairs and the tables we used when we suddenly heard the sound of the explosion; before I realised what was happening, the fire had engulfed everywhere, including my shop and I lost goods worth N7m. I don’t know where to start from; everything I laboured for has gone down the drain. My life is ruined. I have been nurturing the business from infancy to what it is today. I put my trust in God.”
The Chairman of the Truck Drivers Association in the area, Ibrahim Ariyo, who attributed the incident to a compromise on the part of the personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), noted that the body lost three of its members to the inferno. He said, “What happened was a compromise on the part of the NSCDC with the vandals because the NSCDC security post is close to where the pipeline was punctured. “My question to the NSCDC personnel is why can’t they stop the vandals from carrying out the operation? From what I observed, the commander of the NSCDC sent to man the post was removed because he was accused of working with the vandals. Last week Monday, the man was relieved of his duty at the post and a former commander, who was working with the vandals, was brought back on Friday and the explosion occurred on Sunday; that is why I said the NSCDC personnel were working with the vandals. We have lost millions of naira worth of vehicles to the incident; I don’t know where our people will start from, because the burnt trucks are our only sources of livelihood. The government should come to our aid because we don’t know where to start from.”
A resident of the area, Abiodun Olusola, who lost his two-bedroom house to the inferno, urged the government to come to the aid of the community. He said, “We were inside the house when we heard the sound of the explosion and ran out and saw the raging fire. We had to run for our lives. It took about 45 minutes for the fire to get to our house; we had to sleep in one of our church members’ house; the clothes we have on now were given to us by people. We were unable to salvage anything from the house. We just bought a new freezer and two televisions and everything was burnt. I don’t know where to start from now; we want the government to come to our aid.”
Another resident, who simply identified herself as Mama, noted that the fire gutted all her goods, adding that she had no hope of survival. She said, “I was about preparing food for my family when I saw people running helter-skelter and when I tried to find out why they were running, someone just told me to run to the bus stop and I started running. I did not know that the fire would get to our house; I only came out with my phone. All the clothes that I sell at the Katangowa Market got burnt together with the house. I don’t know where to go from here; all the items and money that I kept at home were burnt to ashes.”
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu commiserated with the affected families on his Twitter handle. He tweeted, “My thoughts and prayers are with the families and businesses affected in the unfortunate incident at Abule-Egba. We are thankful for the brave members of LASEMA and our fire service that swung into action, working all night to reduce the impact. Pipeline vandals will be shown no mercy. We must work together to ensure man-made incidents like the Abule-Egba fire incident are avoided. Security and information gathering along volatile corridors will increase and a stronger synergy with communities must happen. We all have a role to play.”
A former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, said on his verified Twitter handle that he was saddened by the loss of lives and properties to the pipeline explosion. He tweeted, “My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost a dear one in the pipeline explosion at Ile-Epo around the Abule-Egba area of Lagos in which scores of property were also destroyed. -AA.”
The member representing the Lagos West Senatorial District in the Senate, Senator Adeola Olamilekan, said the explosion in his constituency would not have occurred if the officials of the NNPC and the NSCDC were alive to their responsibilities. Olamilekan, in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by his media adviser, Chief Kayode Odunaro, lamented the loss of lives and valuables by his constituents as a result of the incident. He stated, “It is regrettable that another one has occurred in less than a year in the same area, while the report of the committee is before the Senate for consideration and action. I want to commend the emergency services of the Lagos and the Federal Government for their efforts in always rising to the occasion in curtailing the magnitude of the destruction that would have resulted from the explosion. Without their efforts, it is possible that many lives would have been lost beyond the reported cases of about two or three persons. The NNPC and related agencies should also look for a lasting solution to monitor, detect and prevent these explosions.”
The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mele Kyari, while speaking to journalists at the scene of the incident, noted that the corporation was collaborating with security agencies to reduce the activities of vandals in the community. He stated, “An unfortunate incident has happened in which we lost five lives and many people are in hospital receiving treatment. What is happening around the pipeline from Atlas Cove to Ilorin is an act of vandalism along the right of way and what the vandals do is to make insertions in our lines to tap petroleum products and at the end, this results in this kind of disaster.
“We are working with the security agencies to see that this act is reduced to the barest minimum. Nigerians must know that this activity is happening within the community, the people are aware of what is happening and if we allow these vandals to continue to do what they are doing, they will kill us all.”
“We are working with the security agencies to take out all the bad elements in our midst. We know that there are compromised people within the NNPC and the security agencies and the communities. We need the help and cooperation of members of the community to expose these vandals and we are hoping and counting on Nigerians to help resolve this, because this is a major national security concern.”