By Gilbert Ekezie
One year after the gas pipeline explosion at Abule Ado community in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, bereaved families and those whose property were affected gathered at the World Press Conference organised by the Independent Concerned Citizens Group of Nigeria (ICCG), in collaboration with Kehinde, Oteyi and Abule Ado communities, in remembrance of the 23 people that died. The bereaved families and victims explained that, one year after the tragedy, no consolation has come to them either from the state government or the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) even when the former was said to have donated N20 million to each of them.
Chief executive officer of ICCG, Comrade Wale Olabiyi, disapproved of the ill treatment meted on those affected by the explosion, as they have been frustrated due to neglect.
Having commended government’s quick response during the incident by donating items to cushion the effects of the explosion on the victims, Olabiyi wondered why the compensation had not arrived till date.
He said government, after making donations, set up a panel of inquiry on the cause of the explosion, but no tangible report has been released till date.
He said: “The government and NNPC have forgotten the victims after losing members of their families and property in the explosion. We are aware that the government, after making donations, set up a committee to look into the incident, but it is quite unfortunate that nothing has been done on that till date.
“Though shortly after the incident, COVID-19 pandemic set in, we expect that since after the lockdown the committee should have concluded the necessary investigations and compensation of those affected. But there has not been anything like that. Instead, NNPC is busy re-laying the damaged pipes. If you go there now, you will see them working. That is the reason we are intervening as concerned citizens of Nigeria to know what is causing the delay.”
Olabiyi called on government to intervene in the matter to know why result of the investigation is being delayed.
A member of ICCG, chairman of Fidelity Oteyi Community Development Association in the area, Hon. Chris Nzomiwe, expressed regrets that, after one year since the explosion, many of the victims were yet to be compensated accordingly. He noted that neglecting those affected by the tragedy has exposed them and their families to undue hardship.
“This is barely one year we lost our relatives, members and property to the explosion that rocked Abule Ado community and environs. It is too painful that, till date, the government and NNPC, who owns the pipeline, have not been able to help the children, wives and relations of those who lost their lives in the explosion. So, we are calling on them to do the needful,” he said.
Mrs. Elizabeth Uyammadu, who lost her daughter and only son and his wife, called on government, the NNPC and NGOs to come to her aid as life has become unbearable for her.
“The incident will remain indelible in my life because I lost my only son, an international businessman and his wife who worked in an oil company, my daughter, two cars and my house. What pains me most is that I travelled to bury my son, his wife and my daughter, but returned to see an empty land. My house was levelled and everything there were taken away by those I do not know. As I speak, I have been reduced to a mere tenant who can no longer live a normal life,” she lamented.
She appealed to government and NNPC to come to her aid financially, having lost all members of her immediate family.
Similarly, Mrs. Chioma Godfrey Brown, whose husband, a security man at the Bethlehem International Secondary School, Abule Ado, died in the explosion, lamented how difficult life has been for her and their three children.
According to her, taking care of three children without help, considering the hard economic situation of the country, is a big responsibility that is very difficult to bear.
She, therefore, called on the government to support her family so as to survive the present hardship.
She said: “My husband left me with three children to cater for. Though, I was given the sum of N2.5million by the government and after his burial, I was left with little sum, which cannot take care of our family responsibilities. As it is now, I can no longer pay my children ‘s school fees or take care of other things in the family. My daughter is in primary 4, the second is in primary 2, while the third is in KG class and all of them have stopped going to school.”
Another victim, Pastor Amos Adetoye whose church, Life Liberation Church, was destroyed, also called on government’s intervention to effect compensation of those affected in the explosion without further delay.
“After the incident, we were told that a committee was set up to ascertain the cause and damages done by the explosion. Thereafter, some people came to ask us to submit our details, which we did. But since then till date, we have not heard anything from the committee as regards compensating us,” Adetoye said.
He appealed to the authorities concerned to look into the matter and ensure that all those affected are taken care of.
A landlord and leader in the community, Mr Emmanuel Anaele, stressed the need for the government and NNPC to consider the plight of those who lost their breadwinners and property in the explosion.
He narrated: “In my own case, the roof of my building was shattered, but my friend, Mr Bestway Osse, lost his brother, Mr Festus Osse. On that day, Festus and his family were about going to church service. While his wife and children had stepped outside, he was busy locking the door when the explosion occurred and he died, while his wife and children survived.”