By Okeke Douglas
IT was another day of agony and fury as residents counted their losses in the pipeline explosion that ravaged some communities in Agbado-Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area of Lagos State on Sunday night.
The explosion, which started around 8 pm, reminded them of past horrible moments.
Like the previous explosions, the Sunday disaster did not go without casualties.
Five persons were confirmed dead, while 11 houses, 39 vehicles and 17 shops were lost to the explosion.
The number of those who sustained injuries could not be ascertained and scores of them have been taken to various hospitals.
When The Nation visited the scene on Monday, many burnt vehicles, buildings and electric poles littered the road.
Some residents said the fire started a few minutes after the vandals had filled over 24 fuel tankers of 33,000 litres.
They said the vandals covered the point from which they siphoned the petroleum product with sand.
According to them, the vandals operated almost daily with no one to challenge them.
A plank trader, Alhaja Bukola Balikees Afuwape, said an old man popularly called Baba Araokanmi died in the incident.
“Baba just moved in here last year when his house at Oju-Irin collapsed. This morning, we were looking for him before we discovered that he is at Ikeja Mortuary,” she said. Keji, the daughter of the deceased, said she was still in shock over the incident.
A resident, Taiwo Odugbesan, said: “I heard people saying ‘put off the light, don’t turn on your gas, don’t strike matches.’ Immediately I got outside not long before that, we saw fire coming from the gutter and that was the end. All I had have been lost. The cloth I’m putting on was bought for me. Everything is gone.”
Another resident, Moses Olasunkanmi, said he lost everything to the fire. “You can see for yourself, my bedroom, my clothes, everything I have got burnt. The cloth I am wearing was given to me by a colleague who came to see me this morning… People were running up and down and I was in the compound asking myself where should I run to?
“We need government assistance; I mean financial assistance, because so many people lost their properties to the incident.”
According to Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Dr Femi Oke-Osayintolu, “five persons, including three adult males, one adult female, and a five-year-old child were found dead. Also, 20 people were treated for minor injuries and discharged at the scene, while 150 people, including children were displaced.
“The buildings affected are a storey building at No 18 Musa Erimo Street and four buildings, including a storey building and three bungalows on No 1, 2, 7 and 20, Joel Nnadede Street in Ekoro. Also, on Hamed Sodiq Street, a two-storey building on No 2 and two bungalows on No 4 and No 8 were affected, while on the NNPC power line road, three bungalows at Nos 45, 47 and 49 were razed.
“Seventeen shops and 39 vehicles including 33 trucks, three cars and three tricycles were also affected. We will continue to keep members of the public abreast with updates,” he said.
Oke-Osayintolu continued: “We were informed by 8.30 pm and by 9 pm we have curtailed it and by 11.30 pm we have put it off.
“Having contained the area at 11.30 pm, we have commenced an enumeration of the vehicles and properties that were involved this morning. We appeal to all to remain calm and report suspicious activities to curtail the instances of these unfortunate incidents. In line with Mr Governor’s greater Lagos agenda, the government will do its part, while the citizens need to do their part. We will continue to keep members of the public abreast with updates.”
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group Managing Director Mele Kyari said the corporation was working with security agencies to reduce incidents of pipeline vandalism to the barest minimum, describing the problem as a major national security concern. Kyari spoke when he inspected the scene.
Kyari said: “Unfortunately, this incident has happened and we lost five lives and there are many people who were injured, and that is very pathetic for us. More importantly, what is happening around the System 2 B Pipeline from Atlas Cove to Mosimi to Ilorin are acts of vandals of all nature along our right of way. What they do is that they make insertions into our pipelines, tap petroleum products and at the end, it will be disasters we have seen like this. This is happening daily.
“What this portends is a danger to all of us. If this incident had happened under a windy condition yesterday, then we would have been talking of thousands of people dying.”
He said beyond working with security agencies to curb such incidents, the cooperation of all Nigerians, especially those residing close to the pipelines, would be required to achieve desired results.
“These activities are happening within communities. People are aware of what is happening, and if we allow them to continue doing what they are doing, they will kill all of us and everybody along this corridor will be affected.
“Therefore, we do need the help and cooperation of all members of the community to expose these people when they come.
“It is no secret because as you can see, the point this fire started is in the visibility of everybody around here. That means that we saw it and did not do anything, and this is the result we are seeing. We are counting on Nigerians to help us resolve this because it is a major national security concern,” he said.
Kyari said the affected line, which was shut down as a result of the inferno had been restored.
“We are happy that we have restored the line. After the break, we shut down the line to contain the damage it can cause but now we are back on stream. Petroleum products are flowing from Atlas Cove to Ilorin as we speak now,” he said.
The NNPC boss, who also visited the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, solicited the support of traditional and community leaders in tackling the menace.
Also speaking, Rear Adm. Oladele Daji, Staff Officer, Western Naval Command, said the security agencies were cooperating to restore sanity to the pipelines and apprehend the vandals.
He said the Nigerian Navy had so far taken out over 300 houses on the right of way across the state with the support of the Lagos State Government, and the exercise was still ongoing.
Akiolu assured the NNPC boss that the traditional rulers would intensify efforts to protect pipelines and other infrastructure within their respective domains.
He said the upsurge in pipeline vandalism was due to the greed of some individuals desperate to make money without considering the implications of their actions.
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) said it was investigating the incident. The DPR, which is the regulator of the petroleum industry, announced in a statement posted on its website.
The statement reads: “The Department wishes to commiserate with all who were affected by this unfortunate tragedy, which has been attributed to sabotage and vandalism by unscrupulous persons.
“In line with our regulatory oversight to the Nigerian oil and gas industry, as enshrined in the Petroleum Act Cap P10 LFN 2004, the DPR has commenced investigations with other relevant stakeholders into the incident.
“We assure the public that the safety of all Nigerians is of paramount concern in the discharge of our regulatory mandate for the oil and gas sector.”