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Black Wednesday in Lagos as pipeline explosion razes over 50 vehicles, 100 houses

By Odita Sunday, Bertram Nwannekanma, Gbenga Akinfenwa, Tobi Awodipe and Kenneth Okpara Kenneth
20 December 2018   |   4:00 am
It was a tragic Wednesday for residents of Awori, Abule-Egba, Oja-Oba, and Abattoir area of Oko-Oba, Lagos State yesterday, as buildings, vehicles and other property running into millions of naira were burnt to ashes in an early morning inferno.

The raging fire

It was a tragic Wednesday for residents of Awori, Abule-Egba, Oja-Oba, and Abattoir area of Oko-Oba, Lagos State yesterday, as buildings, vehicles and other property running into millions of naira were burnt to ashes in an early morning inferno.

Many of the residents in their thousands have gone to bed on Tuesday night counting down to a merry Christmas and a brand new year 12 days away.

All hopes of having a memorable yuletide went up in flames that roused them from sleep in the early hours of yesterday.

By the time the dust settled, over 50 vehicles, including 19 parked in a car port belonging to a dealer, Usman Hamzat, as well as about 100 houses and shops were completely razed in the pipeline explosion that stretched from Abule Egba to Abbatoir in Agege.

Though there was no record of any life lost as at 12 noon, The Guardian learnt that the explosion, which started at about 3:00a.m. was as a result of activities of bunkerers from the Awori end, which triggered fire from an ignitable source at the abattoir end.

It was learnt at the scene of the incident that based on the activities of the bunkerers, the pipeline at the spot burst and the petrol flowed through the drainage, which passed through the affected areas to the abattoir end.

So, when a fire erupted, it raced through the drainage in a blaze, burning everything in sight.

This incident is coming 12 years after a similar incident happened in the area, which killed over 260 people, with several homes and property destroyed.

The December 26, 2006 incident will for a long time remain indelible in the minds of the people in the area, especially survivors, who escaped by sheer luck, and watched helplessly as relatives and loved ones were burnt alive.

When The Guardian visited the scene yesterday, it was a sorry sight as victims in their thousands mourned their losses. Many of them could not salvage any of their belongings as they lost all to the fire.

Surprisingly, two churches were not affected despite the force of the fire. It was only a celestial church that had its fence lightly torched by the fire.

Auto mechanics operating in a workshop in Wamon Street, were inconsolable as 10 vehicles, including those they were repairing and others meant for sale, were completely razed.

When approached, one of the distraught mechanics, Mr. John Ishola, who was still in a state of shock, said three of the vehicles belonged to an individual.

He appealed to the government to assist him and other victims.

The Guardian learnt that but for the prompt response of officials of Justrite, a mega store, the fire would have consumed the mall and a petrol station nearby, as night guards used their fire extinguishers to avert what would have being a big loss.

But the car dealer beside the mall was not so lucky as the fire gutted all the 13 cars displayed beside the road.

It was gathered that when the dealer, Adeosun James, heard about the extent of the inferno, he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital to be stabilized.

The manager of Pillar Automobile, Usman Hamzat, said the loss was too much for the company to bear.

“We lost many cars and most of them are expensive ones like 2017 model Honda Accord worth N9 million, Mercedes Benz worth N12 million among others,” he said amid tears.

The Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, who was at the scene, blamed residents for not doing the needful by reporting illegal activities of bunkerers to the police.

He also faulted the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the area, H.E. Ndubuisi, for not paying attention to the pipeline communities that needed adequate security.

The fire began in front of a private school at 4, Segun Akinola Street, opposite Tipper Garage, near Awori bus-stop. It was gathered that about five persons including a widow, Ruth Joseph, and her son, Samuel sustained severe burns.

Narrating how she was burnt, the widow said they were sleeping when she heard a loud sound and people screaming.

“I woke up and saw fire inside my home with plenty heat. The first thing that came to my mind was to rescue my children. I was able to get the other two out unhurt but when I went for Samuel, the fire caught up with us.”

According to residents, the vandals who dug a hole to connect their hose to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines had dropped the hose inside the gutter without shutting the valves.

The PMS was said to have circulated through the gutter to Abbatoir where it sparked fire apparently as a result of activities of early morning butchers. 

What followed was sounds of explosions with fire gutting every property along the path the PMS traversed.

Areas affected by the inferno included Arowolo Street, Shogbawole, Adefegba, Katonwi, Santos, Taiwo Adewole, Wamon Taofeek, Owode, and Akinlere streets. It passed through Justrite Shopping mall, Samar Filling Station to the canal near Agege Abbattoir.

Others include Charity Road Junction opposite Oko Oba Market and parts of Ile-Epo.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS) yesterday blamed the incessant pipeline explosions in major cities on government inability to allow surveyors handle survey content of engineering projects in the country.

Chairman of the Lagos branch of the association, Adesina Adeleke, made the remark in response to the explosion during the institution’s 33rd annual general meeting in Lagos.

He said if survey of the pipelines were done, government could easily detect any failure any time, which will lead to repairs of the affected ruptures.

He urged government as a matter of urgency separate the surveying content of all infrastructural projects and allow surveyors to do their works to avert the ugly reoccurrence in the country.

On whether such important infrastructure like the pipeline should be located within a residential community, Adeleke said although, it is not good but the Abule Egba case was different because it was located in the bush before development reached the area.