Three months after, life returns to Abule-Ado amid safety concerns
The explosion that rocked Abule-Ado community in Amuwo-Odofin Council of Lagos State on Sunday, March 15, this year, may have been overtaken by recent events and developments in the state and the country, but wreckages from the tremor that shook even distant communities still littered the immediate surroundings.
About three months after, many residents, particularly those that lost one thing or the other, including loved ones, were still sorrowful.
Nevertheless, driving into the community through Otunba Gani Adams Road from Abule-Ado bus stop, off Mile 2-Badagry Expressway, a first-time visitor could assume nothing had happened in the area, as the road was a beehive of commercial activities, which spilt into the expressway.
From sellers of pepper to fruit, fish, food items and clothes, the hustle and bustle indicated that life has returned to the community.
Approaching the Omo Onile area, it was obvious how powerful the explosion was, as the roof of some houses and block works were still in shambles, especially the worst affected ones, such as Bethlehem Girls College, which lost its Administrator, Rev. Sr. Henrietta Alokha, and a female security guard while trying to ensure the safety of the students.
While most houses, which hitherto were close to the main access road that leads into the community have been demolished due to the severe impact of the explosion on them, others partially affected have been renovated and reoccupied.
The buildings, mostly duplexes and flats, have received the touches of bricklayers, carpenters and painters, going by the structure and kind of aluminium roofing sheets used, which depicts the class and taste of their owners, especially those on Basil, Linus Anameji, Umeorah, Bishop streets in the Oteyi Garden Estate.
However, marks of ‘discontinuation and stop work’ by an agency of the state government were seen on some buildings and fences.
There have been growing calls for the conduct of integrity test on these structures, considering the magnitude of the explosion, with the Nigerian Institution of Building (NIOB) tasking the Lagos State Government to ensure compliance with the standing rules for infrastructural setbacks from pipelines and other high-tension facilities across the state.
In a telephone chat with The Guardian, a civil and structural engineer with Ove Arup and Partners Nigeria Limited, Adekunle Adebajo, expressed worry that some property owners may have, on their own volition, decided to go ahead to renovate and repair their buildings without due diligence.
“The process of renovating with approval from the state government, to the best of my knowledge, is yet to commence. There is a high expectation, especially with the fact that professionals are going to be involved. So, even those that have been renovated will still be assessed and where it is not fit, they will still be informed of the situation,” he stated.
The former president of Nigeria Institution of Structural Engineers (NISTRUCT) lamented that Nigerians don’t make rules and regulations serious, noting that people do all sorts of things until something bad happens.
“Unfortunately, it is usually not without implications, either casualty or loss of properties or one thing or the other. Rules are rules; they are meant to be followed and obeyed. People often flout rules and have been getting away with it and it seemed as if it is no problem, as other people have continued with such acts. With the Abule-Ado incident, people can now understand why these rules must be obeyed.
“Government on its part should spend more time enlightening people and explaining why the setbacks are devised. You will be surprised to know that despite the March 15 tragedy, some people will still not comply.
“In a nutshell, the government needs to enforce the rules and in doing that, they need to let the people understand why the rules have been made. Hopefully, when they understand, they would not disregard such rules,” he said.
He further stated that the Lagos State Government has set up a committee, headed by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, to look at the entire situation, including the stability and structural integrity of the buildings affected, saying: “The government engaged the NISTRUCT to assist in that exercise and I think that is very much coming on stream.”
When The Guardian visited the community again last week, the staff of an electricity distribution company, which supplies power to the community were seen pulling cables overhead high-tension poles to re-energise the affected parts of the community that had been in darkness since the explosion.
Some residents who spoke with The Guardian said they had not been compensated as promised by the Lagos State Government. They, however, added that those that lost relatives had been compensated, just as the hospital bills of those who suffered major injuries from the explosion were paid.
They revealed that data about those whose buildings were affected by the explosion had been collated about four times, while a fresh attempt was made about two weeks ago when officials of the state government visited the community to interact with them, with their details and pictures taken.
A landlady, who did not want to be named, said she had been very reluctant to put down her name, fearing that compensation might not come.
“The governor called for donations and support from corporate organisations, and wealthy Nigerians donated. What was made from it, we do not know! Governors across Nigeria came here and promised to support us, but months after, nothing has happened,” she said.
But a young woman, who identified herself as simply Blessing and whose shop was among the destroyed properties, told The Guardian that most landlords have received some form palliatives from the government; hence the repairs/renovations being carried out on their properties.
According her, only those who acquired shops from the landlords directly were compensated, while those who had makeshift shops (containers) were not, as the landlords claimed that they didn’t rent shops to them.
Speaking in Pidgin English, she said: “Some of the landlord dem don collect money. I hear say government don pay dem, but dem no give people wey their shop no dey for their building. Dem says no be dem give us to shop, say make we go meet omo onile dem, say dem no get business with us.
“This place wey I dey now (container), na my brother borrow me N30, 000 join the one wey I get to take do am and him don dey worry me say make I pay him money.
“I just dey manage myself and I believe say God go help pay the money finish. Na every day him dey come ask me for the money.”
When The Guardian sought clarifications and authenticity of Blessing’s claim from the landlord/residents association leadership, the Chairman, Chief Gani Adams, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, via telephone, said he was no longer residing in the community.
However, the acting Chairman, who identified himself as simply Maduka, in a telephone chat, said everything about the community was being politicised, lamenting that the silence of most property owners was not helping matters.
All efforts to get officials of the state government to comment on the development proved abortive, as calls and SMS sent to the commissioners for Information, as well as Physical Planning, and directors general of Lagos State Material Test Laboratory (LSMTL), Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) were not replied as at the time of this report.
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