…threatens to beat up journalists
Residents of Iyana Odo in the Isheri-Olofin, Igando area of Lagos State, who were supposed to be mourning their dead following the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline that exploded on Thursday, have turned their anger to journalists. It was a narrow escape for the Saturday Telegraph team who visited the scene of the explosion and the community to get a firsthand story on the explosion. Right from the entrance of the street that leads to the explosion site, the residents, who claimed to have been maligned by the press, suspects any unfamiliar face to be a reporter.
They claimed that journalists had not been fair in their reportage of the deadly incident. The grouse, our reporter gathered from a source, who preferred to be anonymous, was what the community perceived as an expose that could put them on a collision course with the state government. It was further gather that the burnt wooden bridge, which link Iyana Odo to Diamond Estate and its neighbours, such as Gloryland, Peace and Idowu Egba estates, is the main source of income to many in the neighbourhood. The people, according to our source, have vowed to protect what they see as means of livelihood with the last drop of their blood.
Apart from that, the site of the explosion, according to the information gathered, had also been a conduit pipe for siphoning petroleum products by youths of the community.
“This is our farm and any attempt by anybody or group of person to take overe our farm will be highly resisted. We don’t want government presence here as we are comfortable with the way we leave in this community. We don’t have another means of livelihood and if the reports are geared towards drawing government attention to this community, it won’t succeed. “Explosions happen everywhere, ours should not be seen from a different light. We don’t want your useless report on this issue, as we are capable of taking care of the damaged wooden bridge,” said one of the angry men, who confronted our reporter. The burnt wooden bridge links the community with Diamond and Gloryland estates. It was gathered that motorists pay N100 as toll fee while pedestrians are made to cough up the sum of N50 if they must make use of the bridge. However, the incident that left the bridge partially burnt have not deterred the residents from collecting money from whoever that wishes to make use of it. Though motorists now take the Expressway because the bridge is broken into two. Pedestrians who use it has to meander to avoid falling into the river.
The fire, which was said to have started around 6.30am on Thursday, was said to have badly injured one person and killing another. The burnt bridge was made of planks in the area. While the residents said that a pastor had gone to the river beneath the wooden bridge with another member for spiritual cleansing, another version said suspected vandals, who frequent the vicinity to siphon fuel had ruptured the NNPC pipeline for several days without covering it up.
The bridge, which links Idowu Egba and Ayobo communities, was also gutted. The fire spread from Iyana Odo to Idowu Egba Road to Baruwa, Ipaja and Ayobo areas. Other places are Isheri Pako area inside Peace Estate. It was gathered that the men, who were not aware that petrol from the vandalised pipeline had flowed into the stream, lit a candle and were engulfed in flames.
A resident, who craved anonymity, said upon sighting the fire, the pastor conducting the cleansing, attempted to escape but was caught up by the fire. “Those caught up in the inferno were having a spiritual bath around a stream in the area.
The pastor sustained serious burns while his second was burnt beyond recognition. However, the pas- LAGOS EXPLOSION tor was admitted to the Igando General Hospital for treatment.” At the Alimosho General Hospital, Igando, the Medical Director/CEO, Dr. Madewa Adebajo, confirmed that the hospital received one patient on Thursday that was severely burnt. He said: “One person was brought in here with high degree of burns. After we administered first aid and what he needed at the time, we had to refer him to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUCOM), Ikeja, because we do not have burns and shock equipment here to manage the case. “We did all we could at the time and promptly referred the patient for better management in the teaching hospital.
The little information gathered from the patient indicated that they were two at the time of the incident and that the second died immediately. We were shocked by reports, which have been quoting that two, some actually said that three persons died in the inferno. We can’t confirm that here because we don’t have such information,” Adebajo said. Men of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Rapid Response Squad and policemen from neighbouring divisions were said to have responded promptly to the disaster. A police source, according to reports, also said that pipeline vandalism appeared a popular venture among the residents of the area.
The source added that sacks used to convey stolen fuel were recovered in the bush. “That place is where they siphon fuel regularly. The residents cannot say they don’t know what is happening. We found kegs and sacks. Inside the sacks were nylons, where they pour the fuel.
They use the sacks to conceal and convey the fuel,” the source was quoted to have said. But in quick reaction, another source in the community, who refused to give his name, alleged that policemen were the ones actually aiding the vandals.
“They come to the site every week to collect their share. We learnt they collect N500,000 every week from the vandals to conceal the crime. We are in trouble in this community,” the source added. The Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Nosa Okunbor, who confirmed one death, said the second victim was in a critical condition. “What we gathered from bystanders was that the victims were performing a spiritual cleansing when the fire met them there and burnt them. But the pastor escaped. We saw the sponge they used for the spiritual exercise at the scene,” he said. And the Public Affairs Officer of the Lagos State Fire Service, Jamiu Dosumu, also quoted by Punch newspaper, had said that two fire stations deployed men in the scene to extinguish the fire.
Dosumu said: “The fire started from a pipeline, went through a canal and met some people undertaking a spiritual bath. One of them died, while the other suffered severe burns. Fire stations from Ikotun and Abesan responded to the emergency.” Meanwhile, another report by The Punch quoted the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Bala Elkana, to have said that a pastor and one other suspect, identified as Smart Adeyemi, had been arrested. Elkana, according to the report, explained that the pastor had denied knowledge of the activities of vandals in the area, but when his premises were searched, kegs of stolen fuel were recovered.
“The fire started deep in the bush. The only building close to the scene is owned by a pastor. Looking closely at him, you will know he is aware of what is happening. The police interrogated him, but he denied the knowledge of anything. The police decided to search the vicinity and found a lot of kegs of siphoned fuel, all of them hidden in his house. He is already in custody.”