Lagos explosion: How elderly woman lost UK-based son and daughter who was to wed in six days

The cry of an elderly woman Amaka Okonkwo, caught the attention of the crowd were at the scene of the explosion which occurred at Soba, a community at Abule Ado, Lagos state on Sunday.

She cried aloud as the crowd gathered, she rolled on the floor, mindless of the specks of dirt and other particles scattered around. It was later revealed that she lost three grown-up children in the unfortunate accident. One of the three children just returned from London to attend the wedding ceremony of the second child scheduled for Saturday.

Like Okonkwo, loved ones were lost, no one had predicted that the Sunday would not be a regular sunny day, so many lives were lost as well as damaged houses and cars.

Victor Okoli, one of the residents, he said it was only the elderly mother who had gone to church at the time of the incident that survived the explosion.

“Three lives were lost, a husband who is the only son, his pregnant wife and another relative. They are four in this building but their mother was in the church. I was also in the church when I heard the sound” he said.

Emeka Eze, also recounted that three people died there.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) had said over 50 buildings were destroyed, counts done showed that at least 80 houses were damaged. Some of the buildings were shattered, while others had their roofs in terrible condition.

A secondary school in the area, Bethlehem Girls College, got some of its buildings shattered and its administrator killed, Michlom Schools, had its roofs in a terrible condition. Like buildings, motor vehicles in the area were badly burnt while some had their parts damaged.

Dolapo Fashare, director-general, Lagos State Emergency Protection Agency (LASEPA) said checks would be done to identify persons who might be trapped in the collapsed buildings.

NEMA had said 15 corpses, including a family of four, were recovered from the scene as of Sunday evening. Three other persons were rescued on Monday.

There have been speculations on the cause of the explosion due to the impact seen and the sound felt in the state. Some said the explosion was caused by either pipeline vandalism or bombing. But Ibrahim Farinloye, acting coordinator, Lagos territorial office of the agency, had said it might have occurred in a factory located in the area.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the explosion happened when a truck hit gas cylinders around the corporation’s pipeline right of way. The cylinders were said to be stacked in a gas processing plant located near the corporation’s system 2B pipeline right of way.

A former chairman of Soba residents association said the fire was caused by the pipeline in the area, which according to him, was not well placed.

There is either a gas emission through that gas pipeline or it was not well-laid because the contractor worked on it last year. So we had an understanding that every pipeline should be at least five to six feet deep, it should be wrapped in concrete and buried into the ground. So there is no way it will be ignited by fire,” he said.

Samuel, who had resided in Soba community for 10 years, gave an account of the incident. He said that a granite truck which found it difficult to pull its way through hit a diesel pipeline, leading to the explosion.

“A truck carrying about 30 tons of granite was about to enter the street when some guys demanded money from the driver. The driver stepped down and paid them,” he said. The driver tried to move the truck, but it had sunk into the muddy grounds since it rained a few days ago. As the driver was primming, the truck got on the diesel pipeline and then it burst it. There was a guy who sold noodles around the school, so the diesel in the air caught fire from the guy’s cooking, and a blast occurred.”

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos, has set up a multi-sectoral committee to investigate the cause of the explosion and give a report in two weeks. The committee is headed by Obafemi Hamzt, deputy governor, and co-chaired by Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, the state commissioner for special duties.

At the scene of the incident on Monday, Sanwo-Olu said the explosion turned the community to a war zone, adding that he has never seen anything of such magnitude before.

Sanwo-Olu said a N2 billion emergency fund has been established to grant relief to victims of the explosion as the state government could not single-handedly address the effect of the incident. He said the state government will immediately put N250 million in the fund, adding that other members of the public are encouraged to donate.

Kalu Okafor lost only his house burglary and louvres in the incident. He is in shock as he has as to the loss recorded and says hope seems to be far from Soba residents at the moment. “I have lived in Port Harcourt and I have seen pipeline go off. But this one is different, I don’t know what to say about it,” he said. He advised that the only hope for the resident is for them to seek succor elsewhere as the building which sheltered them was gone.

Residents pray that the emergency fund as announced by the governor would be well utilised to bring relief to them.

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