BackpageOyo Tragedy: Regulatory Failure or..?

Oyo Tragedy: Regulatory Failure or..?

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Janaury 21, (THEWILL) – The deafening explosion that ripped through a bustling neighbourhood in Ibadan, Oyo State on January 16 has again left the nation grieving. As families mourn their loved ones lost in the blast, urgent questions emerge: How could such a devastating tragedy have occurred in a residential community? Why were explosives that claimed innocent lives so easily accessible? And most distressingly, how many more must perish before our law enforcement and regulators do their jobs? How many more deaths before those responsible for such catastrophes are finally held accountable?

Overhead images and first-hand accounts provide sobering evidence of the sheer force of the blast and the scale of destruction. Official reports state that at least five lives were lost, with over 70 injured and hundreds displaced as homes came crashing down. Yet, we cannot capture in statistics alone the true impact of this tragedy – the lives cut short, livelihoods destroyed, dreams dashed and childhoods scarred as a vibrant community found itself transformed into a scene from an apocalyptic nightmare.

Survivors have recounted the harrowing moment when the explosion occurred and there is not a single experience that is not heart-wrenching. Rescuers found some in dire need of medical assistance, which possibly saved their lives. Scarred by tragedy and uncertainty, they now face the uphill battle of rebuilding their lives from the ruins. Many families have been rendered homeless, with some left with only the clothes on their backs.

The state governor, Oluseyi Makinde, has promised to be of assistance as they rebuild their lives from scratch. But material support alone is insufficient for true rehabilitation. There must also be a restoration of the shaken sense of safety and security that comes from seeing justice served.
Seyi Makinde

Preliminary police investigations indicate that the Ibadan blast was caused by explosives stored by illegal miners operating in the area. The apparent ease of access to materials capable of such catastrophic destruction is profoundly disturbing, indicating grievous gaps within our security and regulatory frameworks. Commercial explosives designed for mining and construction in the wrong hands can wreak untold havoc. Dynamite sticks, for instance, can explode with pressures exceeding 600,000 pounds per inch, enough to raze buildings and cause human bodies to disintegrate.

How was such a lethal payload allowed into a bustling residential zone, placing thousands at risk? How were they procured in the first place? Were they legally sourced? Why were these dangerous materials not securely stored in fortified bunkers, far from human habitation? Where was the necessary oversight mechanism to ensure public safety severely compromised? We cannot afford to brush aside these glaring security lapses. Reforms to governance frameworks regulating explosives must be prioritised as a national imperative, especially with our living experience of terrorist acts. Stringent guidelines, swift enforcement mechanisms and robust surveillance systems are needed to detect threats before innocent lives are endangered.

The heart-wrenching scenes from Oyo State echo previous tragedies signalling a recurring cycle of disaster, mourning and impunity nationwide. In March 2020, a gas explosion occurred at Ado Soba in the Abule-Ado area of Lagos, leading to carnage and despair. The explosion resulted from an alleged truck accident and caused immense destruction with 23 citizens losing their lives and hundreds of buildings damaged across several kilometres.

Before then in Nembe, Bayelsa State, pipeline explosions linked to neglect and inadequate maintenance led to hundreds of fatalities and loss of property estimated in hundreds of millions of naira. Relatives speak of rescuing charred remains and entire families perishing as raging fires spread unchecked.

In January 2013, an explosion in a building storing fireworks set off a major fire and killed at least one person in Lagos. More than 40 people were reported to have been injured. The incident took place in the Jankara Market area of Lagos Island, a particularly densely populated part of the city, and the ensuing blaze spread to 15 other buildings.

With every devastating blast, the same troubling pattern persists – strident government pledges of investigation, which yield no definitive outcomes and no definitive accountability from responsible entities, whether state or private, a lack of requisite policy changes to forestall future occurrences and bereaved families left with an enduring sense of injustice.

Promises from authorities fade back into seeming indifference, while victims desperate for closure find none. This endless cycle of tragedy, pledges and inaction cannot continue unchecked. The deep scars of the latest Ibadan explosion provide yet another pressing opportunity for reflection, accountability and rectification so lives are preserved and destruction curtailed.

As rescue efforts continue, appreciation goes to the emergency response agencies at the frontlines managing the difficult aftermath. But while these agencies carry out their tasks, gaps within Nigeria’s wider national security framework persist, including challenges of inadequate funding, resources and delayed wages which strain even the fiercest commitment to duty.

Energised, empowered and accountable security forces are pivotal to national stability and safety. As such, budgetary allocations for all agencies involved in emergency response, counter-terrorism and public safety must be bolstered. More so, these disbursements must happen regularly to assure the welfare of our protectors. They in turn must reciprocate with a renewed commitment to duty devoid of corrupt influences.

Additional counterterrorism and emergency response training alongside advanced technical capacity will further consolidate their readiness to combat threats. Federal and State governments must make these investments, not just as lip service but as an unwavering commitment to supporting those sworn to protect Nigerian lives and property. Their vigilance and sacrifice are instrumental to public safety and welfare.

Our collective neglect has brought us yet again to the brink of disaster. Yet, out of adversity must come the resolve and mandate for change and accountability at all levels. As we support victims in Oyo State to rebuild, pursuing justice swiftly and transparently is paramount. State and Federal authorities must ensure no stone is left unturned in identifying the location from which the explosives were taken alongside the supply chain that allowed these dangerous materials into civilian spaces. All those found culpable whether directly or indirectly must face the highest penalties possible to signal the government’s unwavering commitment to protecting innocent lives. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Additionally, gaps identified in explosive regulations and monitoring must be addressed promptly nationwide to prevent another catastrophe. Rules safeguarding lives must be stringently enforced without excuse, negligence by oversight bodies punished and hazardous materials’ access severely curtailed. Explosives must be stored in fortified zones far from civilian spaces. Surveillance systems must be tightened to account for every ounce of explosive material including inventory tracking and transportation mechanisms to halt diversion. Loopholes allowing illegal mining must also be plugged with those caught facing prosecution as clear deterrents are urgently needed.

The bodies buried and tears shed in Oyo state plead for us to build from this tragedy, the framework for a safer Nigeria. Half-hearted measures cannot suffice and business as usual attitudes must end. We owe it to those lost and devastated by the explosion to bring the perpetrators to justice while enacting enduring reforms so such incidents do not recur destroying other families. Their lives lost must not be in vain. The time for deep reflection, accountability and change starts now.

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