Sunday, January 19th, was not the first time vandalised pipeline would explode at that same suburb in Abule Egba, Lagos. However, that would be the very first time it would ignite fire and clam lives and property.
It was a weekday; I was in my finals in High School. That was in 2006. I was just returning from school when I saw my neighbourhood in panic.
Housewives ran out almost half-naked, landlords/landladies forgot their landed properties, everyone was running helter-skelter!
Right in front of our compound, a pipeline vandalisation had occurred in the wee period of the day.
The ‘small’ danger turned big by afternoon. If I am not exaggerating, the raw petrol flowed for good three days – the source – Pipeline Junction, Oke-Odo!
People from as not-too-close as Command area need not come to where the burst happened before they were able to collect the petrol.
I know someone who filled his 274 KG drum to the brim! Amazingly, and as God would have it, in spite of fear of inferno, nothing of such happened!
Later that year, a day after Christmas, it was a period of fuel scarcity, and vandals struck again! This time, at Awori, Abule-Egba side, just a few kilometres from the site of the first incident. This didn’t last 48-hours and it was ‘boom’! This incident was a complete disaster!
From our Pipeline Junction, we could see the thick smoke up in the air. People came all the way from Oshodi because their thought was that this would be another ‘smooth petrol evacuation’.
Official reports had it that over 250 were burnt to death, while unconfirmed reports put the death toll at roughly 1000. In my hood, we lost people; one of them is a guy popularly called ‘Abija’.
Prior to this latest explosion, which happened on Sunday night, it is an open secret in the community that vandals do operate in collaboration with security officials.
Or how do one explain the presence of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) at Pipeline Junction, yet some residents still claim they sight petrol-laden tankers emerging from discreet areas in the midnight? What are the NSCDC officials stationed there to protect?
In November 2018, when one Taofeeq Abdul-Quadri, an unarmed civilian, was fatally shot dead by Osho Kehinde, an NSCDC official, a resident had disclosed to Sahara Reporters: “It is an open secret in our community that the NSCDC, who are supposed to be guarding against vandals, are the vandals themselves.
“The NSCDC invite tankers in the middle of the night to scoop petrol. They are doing nothing here, absolutely nothing. We don’t need them here again.”
Expectedly, while reacting to the allegation of murder by one of it’s men, Kehinde Bada, Public Relations Officer of the corps, lied brazenly that “it was actually a case of an attempt to disarm the officer.”
Bada added then that: “The corps is known for its integrity and uprightness in carrying out its duties.
“Protection of national infrastructure is one of the core mandates of the corps.
“As such, the men of the corps would not engage in such practices. This allegation is aimed at tarnishing the image of the corps and to undermine the efforts put in fighting and combating oil pipeline vandals. It is false and unfathomable.”
Just over a year after that episode, a vandalised pipeline very close to their base claimed five lives, 33 vehicles and 150 people including children displaced.
Corrupt individuals causing havoc on innocent residents may have an expanded syndicate. Who knows?
Thus, this sad recurring story of putting people’s lives at risk through pipeline vandalisation is the result of three things: POVERTY, IGNORANCE and GREED – in that order.
May God’s protection be with us always (amen).