• Presents documents, hands over the allocated land to Bethlehem Girls College
By Neta Nwosu
Consequent upon our special edition of last week on the first anniversary of Abule Ado explosion, more revelations have emerged from the Lagos State Government. Responding to The Catholic Herald newspaper enquiries, the Lagos State Government in a written reply dated March 16, 2021, stated categorically that the Abule Ado explosion was caused by pipeline leakage. This latest revelation contrasts with the position of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that attributed the explosion to gas cylinders hit by a truck. The Lagos State Government’s finding also corroborates the BBC Africa Eye that faulted NNPC’s explanation on the cause of the blast that decimated over 100,000 meters of the city. A 17-minute forensic investigation released by BBC Africa Eye September last year, uncovered how a leak of vapourised flammable liquid from an NNPC pipeline ignited and caused the explosion in March. New evidence of a video filmed at the explosion site, five minutes before the blast, shows a catastrophic leak of vapourised liquid at the exact location where the NNPC high-pressure petroleum pipeline runs under ground.
The BBC found that there was no gas processing plant at the explosion’s epicenter. Moreover, analysis of gas cylinder found at the site after the blast indicates they could not have been at the centre of the explosion when it occurred. The investigation revealed that the NNPC pipeline was not maintained and protected. The graphic details corroborate eyewitness accounts earlier published in newspapers such as Saturday Sun. The facts as presented by NNPC did not add up. The BBC documentary brought a fresh perspective to the tragedy. Subsequently, the cause of the catastrophe was easy to deduce: negligence in pipeline monitoring and maintenance by the NNPC. But the government parastatal has refused to own up to its killer lapses that occasioned the March 15, 2020 explosion, one of Lagos’ worst catastrophes in recent years.
Recall barely a year ago, the Lagos State Government paid N57, 500,000 to families of the 23 deceased persons. “The family of each of the deceased persons was presented with a cheque of N2,500,000. Thus, the state government gave the families a total of N57,500,000.00. Aside from that, 102 internally displaced persons from the Abule-Ado explosion were accommodated at the LASEMA Relief Camp, Igando for six months. The cost of this accommodation and the feeding of these persons was borne entirely by the state government. Also on exit from the camp, each family and individual was given cash stipends to ease their integration into the society,” recollected Engr. Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, Honourable Commissioner, Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations. Reacting to the issue of Lagos State government compensating all those who lost their properties to the blast, Bamgbose-Martins said that the property owners have instituted a court case against NNPC, and as such the state has to wait for the outcome of the case.
“The property owners have instituted a court case against NNPC and as such we as a state have to wait for the outcome of the case. The state is cooperating fully with the house owners, and is doing the much it can within the confines of the law. “The Abule-Ado pipeline explosion was an unfortunate event that was not planned for. It was devastating for the state government, families that lost loved ones and those that lost properties. In all, 315 buildings were affected with varying degrees of damage. In order to ensure that those affected are not unnecessarily burdened again, the Lagos State Government engaged a team of professionals to do an assessment of the structural integrity of the buildings. This was done at no cost to the owners of the buildings, the entire cost for the 315 buildings was borne by the government. The results indicated the buildings that had to be demolished and those that can still be salvaged. “Aside from this, the State Government has expended funds on other activities to alleviate the distress of the residents in this locality.
For example, the power grid was severely affected and the entire area had no power for months. The affected areas include the Abule-Ado town and also neighbouring towns such as the Ije-Ododo, as they share the same grid line. It was the State Government through the Ministry of Energy that paid the Eko Electricity Distribution Company Lagos state govt replies The Catholic Herald on Abule Ado explosion… (EKEDC) the sum of N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira) for repairs and replacement of the damaged equipment. Now the entire area apart from the zone still at risk, has electricity supply. “In order to prevent injuries to persons, the government paid experts in carrying out a controlled demolition of buildings that pose a danger to the residents as they carry out their daily activities.
“We all know that the government does not have infinite resources, which has even been made more difficult with the COVID-19 pandemic, but nevertheless the State Government is in contact with the Federal Government seeking for possible means of financial aid to those that lost their properties,” the Commissioner of Special Duties and Inter-Government Relations stated. The destruction wreaked by the pipeline explosion was spread over a two-mile radius in every direction, but the worst of the havoc was at Bethlehem Girls College, which recorded the highest casualty figure of eight dead, including the administrator of the institution, Reverend Sister Henrietta Alokha, SSH, who died in the melee. “The population of the students was 358. Some of the students sustained injuries while few had severe shock from the experience. All were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment. Most were discharged same day while others were discharged the following day. However, four of the students that sustained serious injuries had to remain on admission,” recounted Reverend Monsignor Jerome Oduntan, Director of Education, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.
“After a painstaking calculation, we arrived at over N2 billion loss in terms of the infrastructure,” Monsignor Oduntan clarified. The boarding school with 358 students had a big hostel, three blocks of classrooms, a dining hall, a big chapel, the convent, an administrative block, a well-furnished library, an ICT laboratory, typing pool laboratory and a science laboratory. “We had nine structures, and everything is gone. We lost all. The convent is still standing on one leg, but the roof has been blown off,” Oduntan explained. The Director of Education avowed:“We spent more than N2b on the school; so, even if the state government gives us the whole money, we are still in deficit.” And to rebuild the school, according to him, requires huge financial re- sources, “because so much money has been poured into the project gradually over the years.” Despite the odds, the Archdiocese still did not relent in its effort to salvage the situation. “We have our plan to rebuild the school,” affirmed Monsignor Oduntan. Nonetheless, in the aftermath, the government had asked all to vacate the area. In the words of Oduntan: “We were asked to bring the particulars of the land. And we submitted ours. Based on that, the Lagos State Government has apportioned another land for us within that axis but far away from the pipeline. We have been shown the plot of land.” Almost one year after, precisely on Thursday, March 18, 2021, the Lagos State government handed over the land and its particulars to the Archdiocese of Lagos, owners of Bethlehem Girls College. On specific measures, the Lagos State Government is putting in place to ensure that owners of the pipeline, NNPC, comply with best global practices in laying pipelines across Lagos State urban and sub-urban areas, she disclosed that the State is working through a committee consisting of representatives from NNPC and the private oil and gas sector, led by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources to evolve measures on how to prevent such occurrences.