Nigerians have had to go on and off panic mode in the last one month, following the emergence of the COVID-19 virus on the continent and the announcement of a visiting Italian being an index case increased this; leading expectedly to palpable fear until some section of the public began to come up with a conspiracy theory.
This recent development is anchored on the rumour that the decision of the health authorities in the country not to release the personal details of the said Italian, means that the case is non-existent. Thus it is an idea cooked up to loot the funds earlier earmarked for the prevention and containment of the virus.
Leveraging the strength of social media shares, retweets, reposts and status updates, the conspiracy theory may have reduced the tension, but that would only be for the Coronavirus. We are agents of fear by default in this ‘giant of Africa.’
You want to know why? There are too many things in the country that appear set up to sniff life out of the average Nigerian; arson in markets, collapsed buildings, stray bullets, police brutality, vandalised manhole points, pot-hole ridden roads, falling high tension cables, broken electricity poles, fallen petrol tankers, fallen container-laden trucks, pipeline explosion, etc. And so, that the citizens of this country gather in various places of worship every weekend to thank God for “preserving them,” you would be insensitive to fault such.
Concerning Sunday’s tragedy at Abule Ado area of Lagos, while some residents of the area and its environs have claimed that the explosions were more than ‘an ordinary gas explosion’ (bringing up another suspicion of more than it meets the eye), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) says the devastating explosion was caused by a truck after it hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near NNPC’s 2B pipeline right of way.
The NNPC may be telling the truth especially with a viral video we’ve seen explaining same, but the big question on our mind is “Wasn’t this avoidable?” Considering that this area is volatile because of the presence of pipelines in the area, could it not have been possible that the authorities in charge of the pipeline through its health, safety and environment department foresaw an incidence of this magnitude?
And with the aftermath, on-the-spot assessments will be carried out, victims and families of the bereaved will be visited and comforted, messages of condolence will be issued by the relevant authorities, the actions of the perpetrators will be condemned, committees will be set up to investigate the issue or distribute relief materials. We can issue blames here and there, but the sanctity of human lives by both citizens and government has to be upheld by the evaluation of our actions and inactions.
It is safe to say that fire at the site of the Abule-Ado explosion site has gone down, but the all-important question for authorities in Nigeria is still up on the air; “when will avoidable deaths go down?” We all must do better in protecting the lives and properties of our compatriots. For government, no other duty is more paramount than this!
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Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.