Two of the many incidents, which occurred in the country in the last couple of days, have made it crystal clear that life has lost its last vestige of value in Nigeria, a nation which prides itself as having the largest concentration of blacks in the world.
The first of the incidents was the fuel tanker explosion in Kogi State where official figures show that at least 23 ives were lost in the twinkling of an eye. The victims of the explosion, which occurred on the Felele axis of Okene-Lokoja-Abuja Road, included students of the state-owned polytechnic, nursery schoolchildren and artisans, among others.
Also lost to the avoidable but heartrending accident were a businessman, his wife and their three children. The man was said to be dropping off his children in a school near the road when the explosion occurred. Pathetic. Apart from those who lost their lives, several other people were injured, while houses, vehicles among other valuables were consumed by the incident.
As if that was not enough disaster for a country still reeling from the excruciating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to about five months’ lockdown nationwide, another explosion occurred in Lagos barely 24 hours after the Kogi incident.
In the incident at the Ajuwon area of Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, a gas truck, leaking gas, caught fire and exploded. The truck was said to be at an intersection and was about to link the major road when the lower part housing the gas discharge pipes got hooked to a portion of the bad road, the pipe cut off at the flanges and the gas started leaking. In the resultant explosion, at least 30 people suffered different degrees of burns.
Outside that, 23 buildings, among them a church and an event centre, and 15 vehicles of different makes were burnt. While not ruling out human errors on the part of the two drivers, a common causative factor in the incidents cited above is bad road. That the Nigerian roads are bad is being economical with the truth. The roads are terrible. In the 1980s, the payoff of an auto maker was: “Built for Nigerian Roads,” which was a subtle reference to the quality of the country’s roads.
But today, no auto maker could be that daring because the Nigerian roads are no longer “vehicleworthy”. This much was attested to by Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State while commenting on the tanker explosion. Bello blamed the accident on the bad condition of the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja Road.
According to the governor, all federal roads in his state are in deplorable conditions. Bello, during a visit to the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, because of the accident, said the Federal Government needed to urgently fix the road and others across the state. According to him, the deplorable state of all federal roads across the state has led to recurrent accidents in Kogi State.
Apart from lives lost to the two incidents, property and other valuables consumed by the explosions are believed to worth millions of naira. The accidents came at a time the victims, and other Nigerians, were still smarting from the devastating effects of the lockdown to check the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. As Governor Bello said, the Federal Government needs to fix the federal roads across the country.
But this is not limited to the Federal Government; the government at all levels – local, state and federal – must wake up to the responsibility of urgently fixing the roads. Outside that, we call on the Federal Government to reduce the transportation of combustible materials such as petroleum products, among others, through the road. These materials are better transported through the rail. It is cost effective and safer.
This will not only reduce the wear and tear on the roads, but will also reduce the carnage on the nation’s roads. We also call on the government to put in place a regulatory framework on the sitting and location of gas plants across the country. Gas plants ought to be sited on the outskirts of towns and less populated areas. Although some states, among them Ogun, banned the location of gas plants in fuel stations, today, almost half of the stations have gas plants.
Also, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) once made a feeble attempt to control the sitting of gas sales outlets in residential areas. But in almost all the major towns, particularly in the South-West, almost every street has a gas sales outlet. Government needs to strengthen and ensure the implementation of the regulations on the location of gas plants and sales outlets to save the lives of the hapless Nigerians.
We also call on the government to ensure the victims of and the families of those who lost their lives to the two explosions as well as other disasters across the country get adequate compensation. This is the least the government could do to mitigate the effects of the loss.