‘No pupil died in Lagos blasts’

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Precious Igbonwelundu

None of the 268 pupils of Bethlehem Girls’ College died in Sunday’s multiple explosions at Abule Ado, a Lagos suburb, the Catholic Archdiocese’ Education Director Jerome Oduntan said on Tuesday.

He said all the students were rescued and 50 of them who sustained injuries taken to the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital (NNRH), Ojo.

Of the 50 pupils, Oduntan said only three were still on admission at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Golden Cross Hospital, Festac and NNRH.

He gave their identities as Chidinma Agubuisi (LASUTH), Chidera Oku (Golden Cross) and Ogochukwu Nnaji (NNRH).

“None of my students died. They have all been accounted for. Yes, the three bodied recovered on Monday were from the school premises and were workers,” he said.

A memorial will be held on Monday for the school’s headmistress Sister Henrietta Alokha, who died while rescuing the students.

“There is no burial date yet but a memorial for her has been fixed for 11 am on Monday, March 23, at Maryland,” Oduntan said.

Our reporter learnt that the number of those affected in the explosions has surpassed 340.

This is as the state government opened the Igando Relief Camp for displaced persons.

Lagos Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Director-General, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the camp would accommodate over 500 persons.

He said: “Julius Berger and CECC have joined efforts in the rescue process while the fire has been extinguished. Damaged pipelines are being repaired by the NNPC teams.

“We urge calm. Residents should keep away from the scene and to refrain from sharing fake news.”

The Alado of Ado, Oba Lateef Olayinka, said the community should be carried along in the investigation.

The monarch, who spoke through Aare Oladotun Hassan, said the committee set up to investigate the disaster should get input from the community and affected residents.

“There should be short-term and long-term relief and emergency resettlement of affected persons in the community. It must be ensured that no single victim of this disaster is left out.

“In view of the devastation we have seen in this place, there is need for the National Security Adviser to move in and ensure that within 72 hours the cause of this explosion should be ascertained.

“If it was a bomb that was attached to the pipeline, we should know,” he said.

Also yesterday, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) said the impact of the explosions could be likened to aerial bombardment.

It urged the Federal Government to carry out a forensic investigation on the blasts.

The agency, in a statement by its Head of Media and Campaigns, Philip Jakpor, said: “Vibrations from the blast shook many parts of the state and was felt as far as Iba, Okokomaiko, Agege, Alimosho and Surulere, among others.

“Lagos State government had earlier stated the incident was not in any way linked to pipeline vandalism but could not provide details on the cause of the incident but the NNPC insisted it was caused by a truck that hit some cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near the corporations’ system 2B Pipeline right of way.

“The Federal Government should not be too casual to conclude that the incident was an accident. The accounts of the NNPC on the real cause of the blast is unconvincing and raises some questions.”

ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, added: “There is something suspiciously different about this explosion.

“The scale of destruction is nothing like any of the pipeline explosions we have monitored and documented for several decades.

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“The incident’s scale of destruction could only be likened to military-grade explosions or aerial bombardment. We can’t treat this casually as an accident caused by a truck.

“With the current security challenges facing this country, it is extremely premature to draw conclusions without conducting a forensic investigation of this particular blast.

“Not even the accidental detonation of bombs at the Ikeja cantonment caused this scale of destruction and ruins.

“The government must conduct a comprehensive investigation to establish if this was a crime or an accident.

“And there are questions begging for answers: Who drove the truck? What is the truck doing on a pipeline on Sunday morning? Was the gas plant opened on a Sunday? Was the content of the truck weaponised?

“And for the NNPC that has admitted some level of culpability by confirming that the primary explosion came from its gas truck, it should immediately initiate the process of providing remediation for the affected families and businesses while its officials found to have through negligence orchestrated this massive destruction, should be made to face the law.”

While commiserating with the families of those who lost their lives and those that lost properties and businesses, the group urged the governor to immediately set up a task force on pipeline security.

“It is unfortunate that the federal agencies saddled with the protection and security of pipelines have failed woefully.

“The governor as the chief security officer of the state needs to act in a way that will put an end to these perennial deaths and destruction since Lagos sits on a web of oil and gas pipelines.”