The Abule Ado tragedy – Thisday

It is yet another avoidable tragedy

Last Sunday’s multiple explosions at Abule Ado in Amuwo Odofin local council of Lagos State was yet another avoidable tragedy. At the last count, some 20 people, including a family of four, some students of Bethlehem Girls College, their principal, and two other staffers, reportedly having morning devotion, lay dead. Many others were seriously wounded. The extent of physical damage was bewildering. The series of explosions and fires, said to have been triggered after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant near the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s 2B Pipeline’s Right of Way, consumed over 50 cars, dozens of residential houses and businesses. “I must confess I have not seen anything of this magnitude,” said Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu after inspecting the scene. “It’s like a war zone.”

Even though the details of the accident are still being awaited, it is safe to say that the disaster is yet another attestation to the prevalent laxity and inadequate surveillance on the pipeline corridor across the country. It is a failure to enforce building codes and safety standards. In view of repeated pipeline explosions in various parts of the country over the years and tragic situations that followed, the nation ought to have come up with strategies aimed at containing the menace.

We are worried that pipelines owned and operated by the NNPC are increasingly easy source of pains and cheap deaths. From Arepo in Ogun State, to Ijegun in Lagos, and then Osisioma in Abia, the tales of pipeline fires from NNPC’s facilities are numerous. Countless lives had been lost while property, including that of the corporation, had also been consumed and wasted. Documents from the corporation showed it spent over N112 billion in 2016 to repair vandalised pipelines. A year earlier in 2015, some N103 billion was spent by the corporation to also fix vandalised pipelines. Yet, the problem persists. In the past decade, more than a trillion naira that could have been used to develop the health or education sector was expended on repairing pipelines.

Ordinarily, if we live in a society where the government views human lives as sacred, places like Abule Ado, Ijegun, Abule Egba and other places with the presence of such deadly pipelines ought to be provided with maximum security. But various incidents of this kind had been investigated in the past with hardly any redeeming effect.

Constrained by this unending menace and costs to the nation, we hope the outcome of the investigations into the Abule Ado tragedy will be made public. Besides, we will suggest that the corporation should carry out a comprehensive study of the integrity of NNPC’s pipelines across the country to ascertain the level of their operational credibility. And in tune with modern pipeline management trends, it should commission and deploy standard processes to monitor and guard its pipelines from potential intrusion.

Most importantly, the NNPC should aim at cultivating the cooperation of pipelines host communities and villages where pipelines pass through, to help it identify and deal with intrusions on its lines. We believe that when local communities are genuinely part of the process of securing pipelines, incidents like the Abule Ado tragedy or indeed the vandalism of pipelines in some cases, will be reduced to the barest minimum.

Whatever the outcome of the final investigation, people must be made to pay for their dereliction of duty – which has caused human lives and property.

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