The morning before two persons died in a deadly pipeline explosion at Gloryland Estate, dangerous cloud had gathered on the sky above Idimu, a community in Alimosho Local Government Area, referred to as one of the most populous areas in Lagos.
As the night started to give way to dawn and traders were getting ready to go out early for business, little did they know what was ahead of them. The day passed like any other one. But about 4:30 am the next day, security operatives patrolling the area started to spot small crowds gathering around an isolated area, not too far from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline right of way.
From close observation, they witnessed a crowd of persons who engaged in their usual business of siphoning petroleum products from deliberately ruptured pipelines into trucks and jerry-cans.
The presence of few policemen and operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was not surprising as they allegedly always provided the vandals a cover-up to do their illicit business.
Suddenly, the quiet morning gave way to confusion as residents – men, women and children – started running in different directions.
Minutes later, the enormity of what had happen began to dawn on them – a fuel-laden had exploded.
The second blast, which was followed by a thick, dark smoke, further threw the residents into panic.
An estate surveyor, Tolulope Tijani, who resides in the estate, said the sight on that fateful day was horrible, adding that he saw lots of people screaming and crying as the blast scattered the crowd in all directions.
Unfortunately, a pastor of a white garment church was baptizing some new converts inside a stream close to the pipeline. The candles they lighted by the side of the stream were soaked by fuel and subsequently caused more fire.
While a man who sustained a high degree of burn died on the spot, the second victim was said to have been admitted at the Igando General Hospital.
The secretary of the estate, ThankGod Julius, said they had written several letters to the police at Idimu and the NNPC about the activities of vandals in the area, but they would only walk around the length of the pipe, pretending as if they were doing any meaningful repair.
“Security operatives are also neck deep in the business as they provide vandals a cover-up for their activities. Residents are now afraid to talk as they have been threatened severally by vandals; after all, nobody wants to die. So we kept quiet,’’ he said.
He said a 13-year-old boy, simply identified as Sampson, died as he fell down and was stepped upon by those running to save their dear lives.
Another resident, Johnbusco Ikeh, whose house is located close to the pipeline, said he had never been that scared. “I was gripped with fear and could not do anything until my wife jolted me into consciousness. We were just getting ready to go out as my two children were preparing for school when we heard the first blast. I thought it was a bomb because the sound was very loud. Before we knew what was happening, a second blast occurred.
“When we came out, people were running away from the area before the fire would begin to spread. Quite unfortunately, we heard that an old man died in the fire while a second person sustained wounds,’’ he said.
A resident, Bernard Okeke, also said, “We knew this would happen because on a daily basis, vandals came to scoop fuel in the area. We knew we were sitting on a keg of gunpowder; now it has happened. At least two persons have been killed. We are appealing to the government to do something urgently. We reported to the NNPC many times, but they did not do anything.’’
Our correspondent learnt from some of the residents that Isheri, Idimu and Ijegun are notorious with the activities of vandals.
Speakin on the incident, the police public relations officer in Lagos State, Bala Elkana, said the pastor of the white garment church and one other suspect identified as Smart Adeyemi, had been arrested.
Elkana explained that the pastor had denied knowledge of the activities of vandals in the area, but when his church premises was searched, kegs of stolen fuel were recovered.
According to the pastor, “The fire started in the bush. The only building close to the scene is owned by a pastor. When you take a closer look at him you will know that 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 hidden in his house. He is already in custody.”
In the stampede that followed the explosion, which occurred at 8am on December 5, 2019, cars reportedly ran into one another as some residents tried to escape the inferno.
In his response, the director-general of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said emergency officers had been deployed to the scene of the incident.
“In response to the outbreak of fire at the back of Diamond Estate, along Isheri/Lasu-Igando road, suspected to have been caused by pipeline vandalism, I have activated the Lagos State response plan. All key stakeholders have moved to the scene,” he said
Also, the public affairs officer of the Lagos State Fire Service, Jamiu Dosumu, said two stations deployed men to extinguish the fire.
“The fire started from a pipeline, went through a canal and met some people undertaking spiritual bath. One of them died while the other suffered severe burns. Fire stations from Ikotun and Abesan responded to the emergency,” he said.
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