From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
The serenity of Abeokuta, Ogun State, was recently shaken to its foundation by series of gas explosions that rocked the city. Before the incidents, people were used to hear and witness gas explosions caused by either cooking gas or gas leakages from the LPG skids.
The recent accidents, however, were caused by explosion from oxygen gas bottles used for refrigerators and air conditioners. Since the first incident on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, where three persons, including an infant, were blown off as a result of explosion from oxygen cylinder being used to fill gas into a refrigerator, at Oke Igore, four others occurred in different locations.
At Oke Igbore, an eyewitness informed the Daily Sun that the explosion occurred when a technician was topping up gas of a faulty refrigerator at a residence in the area: “In the process, there was an attraction of fire from someone cooking with firewood and there came an explosion.”
Director of Ogun State Fire Service, Fatai Adefala, said: “We received a distress call at 3:15pm at Oke-Igbore. We learnt it was a spark of fire. On getting there, we discovered it was a gas explosion.
“What really happened was that they were cooking outside with fire and unfortunately the gas exploded. They were trying to top the gas in the fridge in the process, it exploded.
“Three lives were lost, one infant was among them. For now, the bodies are still lying there. It was those who are living in that house that were affected. It was an ancient building.”
Babatunde Akinbiyi, spokesperson, Traffic Compliance and Enforcement Corps (TRACE), said seven injured victims were rescued and taken to the Federal Medical Center (FMC), Idi Aba, Abeokuta.
As residents were grappling with the tragedy, another refrigerator technician in Onikolobo, had its right arm blown off while topping gas into a refrigerator. He later lost his life at the General Hospital, Ijaye, Abeokuta.
When people thought the “gas fury” had subsided, a technician and a student of Tai Solarin University of Education, Jamiu Bakare, were killed in another gas explosion that rocked Conference Hotel, Presidential Boulevard, Abeokuta. The hotel is owned by former governor Gbenga Daniel.
Three others were reported to have sustained serious injuries. Facility Manager of the hotel, Tunde Osinubi, said: “A routine maintenance of the automatic revolving door at the entrance of the hotel reception, which involved the use of oxyacetylene gas to weld the door hinges was being carried out.
“The oxyacetylene gas cylinder suddenly exploded, killing the technician and one other person. The gas cylinder purchased at the open market may be fake and unable to withstand gas pressure.”
Two days after, the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), adjacent to the Conference Hotel, had its own share of the gas explosion. It occurred at the Marque Events Centre in the premises of the library, claiming a life and fatally injured another person.
Managing Director of OOPL Ventures, Vitalis Ortese, said the explosion emanated when a pair of technical vendors were conducting routine servicing of the air conditioning units:
“The emergency team of the library immediately took action to prevent further damages and subsequently moved the injured to the hospital. Visitors into the complex were temporarily limited to contain fallouts from the explosion.”
The incidents prompted government to convey a meeting of players in the gas sector on May 21, 2021. Governor Dapo Abiodun then warned that anyone found guilty of selling adulterated gas products or violating safety protocols would be visited with the full weight of the law.
He directed law enforcement agencies, environmental and safety personnel to move round all the nooks and crannies to investigate and bring to book, those found culpable of any sharp practices or negligence that could have caused the gas explosions.
As the stakeholders meeting was about to commence that Friday morning, the fifth gas explosion rocked Onikoko in the Abeokuta metropolis. The incident occurred inside a construction company yard, located few metres to a fire service station. It damaged vehicles, shattered glass panel of a nearby electronic shop and partially damaged roof of a building.
The Special Committee on Gas Explosion led by Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Femi Ogunbanwo, was able to trace the outlet where the gas that caused the fifth explosion was purchased at Omida and sealed it up. The two main factories that supplied gas and oxygen to retailers at Idi-Ori and Obada-Oko axis were equally sealed.
Ogunbanwo described the incessant gas explosions as a serious challenge that must be addressed as a matter of urgency. He maintained that the safety and well-being of the people was non-negotiable:
“Government is determined to get to the root of the matter.” He directed that retailers of gas to air-conditioners technicians and welders should stop selling till further notice.