Yesterday, Lagosians woke up to a gas explosion at Abule Ado in Festac Town.
In the era of the Coronavirus, a preventable disaster like this was unexpected and unanticipated. 15 lives were lost, including a family of 4 and many had their properties irreparably damaged. Among the victims of the explosion were the students and minders at a secondary school, where an act of heroism from a nun saved many lives but cost her her own. The pipeline, one of the few still functional relics of Nigeria’s past as an oil refining nation had been overrun with private properties, built by citizens who were either not informed of the dangers of situating residential buildings so close to a fire hazard like a pipeline, or knew and chose to ignore warnings. Either way, the tragedy that occured was avoidable.
As many of us contemplate the needless loss of life and property that occured in Abule Ado, it is hard not to think of residents of Tarkwa Bay, who were evicted from their homes earlier this year by the Nigerian Navy, who claimed it was forcefully evicting the residents because of pipeline vandalism and oil bunkering. Perhaps, if the force that was deployed in Tarkwa Bay, which is dozens of miles away from the nearest pipeline, was deployed towards ensuring all residential buildings were situated a safe distance away from the pipelines, we would be less distrustful of the government and its policies.
One thing is clear, we cannot self isolate or insulate ourselves from the rot and incompetence that exists in Nigeria. We cannot plan or pray against a pipeline explosion. It was such a force that the explosion was heard and felt in Ikeja and Surulere, both miles away from Festac. We cannot build a fence big enough to protect us from a pipeline explosion, we cannot save enough money to come to our aid in a sudden disaster if our healthcare systems aren’t properly funded and our roads are so bad, we have to use motorcycles to navigate certain parts of our great city.
We must begin to hold the government accountable, and punish those who do not perform by voting them out and impeaching them if we do not want to wait 4 years before we take action. The alternative is avoidable death.