Sola Ojo, Kaduna
January 4, 2020, was undoubtedly a black Saturday for many residents of Kaduna State. It was a day a part of the city was razed by the angels of destruction following a gas explosion that rocked the area.
Sabo, a densely populated and business district community in Chikun Local Government was the destination of the recent inferno. It was at the community that a gas outlet exploded and despatched many to their early grave, apart from injuring several others. That was not all.
The explosion, which looked like the end of time, destroyed property valued at over N16. 4 million and left many business owners jobless and helpless. No doubt, the painful cries of the victims of that unfortunate incident were heard well beyond the state.
Mrs Blessing Ogpe, a young businesswoman, was a survivor. She told Daily Sun: “It was a gas explosion. I own and manage a boutique shop, which is the fifth to the gas shop
“I could not take a pin out of my shop. It was too much. I watched all I have ever worked for burn into ashes. Some people I know lost their lives their meats burnt to pieces. Some were given mass burial because we could not even recognise their bodies.
“My shop and others burnt into ashes. No one was able to take a pin out. I have planned for this year’s sales. I filled my shop with a lot of goods. God saved my life and that of my sales girl. She was inside the shop while I was outside when the gas exploded. The building fell on my sales girl but God kept her.
“I lost over N4 million. I divided my shop into two. I used the one in front as boutique where I sell clothes, shoes, bags and gold wristwatches. In the store, I stocked goods that I have not even opened- I had this plan to begin their sales this January.
“Apart from the boutique, I was also planning to diversify due to the need of this environment. So, I bought some computer hardware for the business centre with the intention of adding another shop to that.
“Everything just burnt into ashes including the sales I made between December 21 till this Saturday. I was hoping to take it to the bank on Monday.
«Now I am back to square zero. I am just staying at home. I really need help. I do not know where to start from. I really need help. Government should please help us. We are not lazy people. We have lost all our investments. We need help to begin again.”
Twenty-three-year-old Lilian Tarsu sells engine oil and car batteries. She was on her duty post when the gas exploded. She also shared her experience:
“It was just God that saved me. I remember very well that a customer came to buy gas. We just heard a thunderous sound. Then everywhere was dark. The next thing was fire all over. I just ran away.
“I sell engine oil and car batteries. My shop is the next to the gas shop. But, because there is a gate that separated us, that was what saved me and my sister. There is the gas shop, plumbing shop, barbershop, Rolex shop and the last was a boutique shop.
“The owner just came less than a month. I knew two boys working in that shop. The two of them were cut into pieces. There was also a young boy in the plumbing shop he too was not lucky. All the five other shops burnt, except mine. But, one of the cylinders flew and destroyed part of my shop. People lost so much and need help.”
A survivor, on transit when the explosion occurred, Micheal Ernest, who was among the names released by the police as deceased, is actually alive. The police had a day after the incident, released the names of the victims including Professor Mallam Simon, Wale Ajayi, Daniel Peter, Victor Asoegwu and Micheal Ernest who was later found to be alive.
Earnest told Daily Sun: “It was on Saturday, January 4, as I was leaving Kaduna Refinery and Petrol-chemical Company (KRPC) junction to Abuja junction to catch up with an appointment with my mechanic, the gas explosion happened.
“I was in the tricycle (Keke NAPEP) I boarded after Okoto Filling Station when a heavy explosion sounded, emitting extremely strong dusty-smoke and shooting out metal fragments that evidently pierced through my right hand and my chest.
“I managed to make it to the General Hospital, Sabo, which was the closest option for me under intense bleeding. I was bleeding profusely but no chemist could handle the kind of blood gushing out of my affected body parts around the scene.
“Bad enough, there was no road to ride to get to the hospital, so, we chattered another Keke NAPEP who had to manoeuvre our way to the hospital. I was unconscious as a result of the impact. I woke up after several stitches were done on my chest and my hand. I am presently having serious pains on my hand and cannot be able to use it very well.
“I don’t know who gave the report to the police that included my names among the deceased. These few words are what I can tell you now. Thank You Jesus that I am among the living and not among the dead.
“My sympathy goes to those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident. May the Almighty God console their families.”
Paul Jezhi of Safety and Standard, Department of Petroleum Resource (DPR), who was sighted at the scene of the explosion clarified the directive of Governor Nasir El-Rufai on immediate closure of illegal gas shops in residential areas:
“Our guidelines said you should not be cited in residential areas. The governor has given directive to close the illegal once like this one. We are also collaborating with government, giving them the necessary support. Though we don’t have much oversight function on industrial gases, ours is oil and gas and hydrocarbon gases, but we have been very instrumental to this.
“The retail shop deals mostly with industrial gases. From our preliminary investigation, the explosion must have come from industrial gas and not cooking gas as alleged.
“It is good to close the ones in wrong places, but total closure of all of them will be like creating another problem because they are the ones that supply hospitals. When there is emergency, you need oxygen and so many other gases. So, it is part of economy of many states. As we go out to lock shops as governor has directed, it has to be the illegal ones. Those that are legally owned and well placed should not be locked.”
Managing Director, Kaduna Environmental Protection Agency (KEPA), Lawal Jubril, said efforts are being put in place to guide against reoccurrence of the unfortunate incident:
“The governor has given us directive to close down all gas plants located in residential areas. We have already started doing that. But today, we came to the scene of the incident to evaluate and evacuate the remnants of the explosion. As you can see, we have evacuated all the cylinders here for further investigation.”