…victims include students, dad, wife, children
Greatest tragedy in recent times -Bello
Sympathisers wailed profusely yesterday as 30 people lost their lives when a petrol tanker crashed and exploded into flames on the Felele-Lokoja-Abuja Highway. The victims included students of the Kogi State Polytechnic, nursery schoolchildren and artisans among others.
However, the state Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Idris Fika Ali, who confirmed the incident, said 23 people were killed, while one child escaped with injuries. The petrol laden tanker belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was said to have lost its brake and rammed into the densely populated area of Felele about 8a.m. It crushed five cars, two motorcycles and three tricycles popularly known as Keke. It killed all the passengers.
Members of an entire house were also killed from the raging fire which spread to houses in the area. A businessman identified simply as Samson, his wife and three children were burnt to death. Samson, who was selling sewing machines in Lokoja, was said to be dropping his children off at school when the explosion occurred. Also killed were five students of the stateowned polytechnic, three nursery school pupils and passers-by. A witness told New Telegraph that the tanker had a brake failure and fell on five cars, which were trying to overtake it.
“I was about crossing the road when I noticed the tanker driver signalling to motorists to steer clear, but like a flash, the tanker was on its side, falling on all vehicles beside it. Immediately the tanker fell, it burst into flames. All vehicles near it were burnt,” the witness said. The FRSC officials, who got there about 10a.m. arrived with an ambulance from the Rescue/Rehabilitation Team to evacuate the victims’ bodies while the local residents made frantic efforts to identify them. Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has expressed shock and sorrow over the tanker explosion.
His Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Onogwu Mohammed, said in a statement that the governor was very sad to learn of the tragic loss of lives, many vehicles, property and other valuables in the petrol tanker fire. Bello expressed his deepest condolences to the family of those affected by the ugly occurrence. He said the incident was sadly the greatest tragedy the state had witnessed in recent times.
The governor also urged the students of Kogi State Polytechnic to remain calm and peaceful, saying that he equally shared in their grieving moment over the death of some of their colleagues in the disaster. On his part, President Muhammadu Buhari said that the explosion “represents another disturbing and saddening incident in the litany of tragedies that have befallen our country.”
The president made his feelings known in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu. Buhari said he was seriously worried about the frequency of these unfortunate and large scale tragedies in the country which cause needless deaths. “These frequent incidents that result in loss of lives and property are national scandal caused by our indifference to safety standards.
“Many accidents are preventable if proper proactive and precautionary measures are put in place or properly observed as routine policies. “Ours is a country where we move on whenever tragedies occur instead of taking preventive safety measures to forestall future calamities.
“However, refusal to do the right thing can cause potential tragic problems that harm innocent people,” he said. The president, therefore, called on the county’s transport authorities, traffic and road management agencies as well as law enforcement officials to sit up and enforce safety standards with more seriousness. According to him, Nigeria is not having a shortage of laws and regulations, but the nation’s problem is lack of zeal to enforce those laws and regulations for the sake of public safety.
He condoled with Kogi State government and the families of the victims of the tragedy. Meanwhile, Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State has condoled with the government and people of Kogi State over the accident. In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mary Noel-Berje, the governor, who is also the chairman North Central Governors Forum, described the incident as unfortunate, colossal and heart breaking, being that innocent children whose lives would have been beneficial to the general society had been untimely terminated.
He said: “It is heart breaking that these young and vibrant youths, including innocent children who their destinies would have better the lot of our nation in future have been forcibly existed from life. The painful way to which they left the world is very disheartening.” Bello prayed to God to have mercy on the souls of the departed and give the state, immediate families and friends of the victims the fortitude to bear the colossal loss.