Nigerians in anguish, despair over incessant petrol tanker fire
Nigerians were again treated to a horror scene this week as a petroleum tanker went up in flames in Ogun State on Thursday.
Ogun, Lagos and Anambra States have become synonymous with such ugly incidents, which usually left in its wake tears and agony over unquantifiable loss of lives and properties.
In the latest incident in Ogun, at least two persons were burnt to death beyond recognition, with rescue workers just able to pack their remnants into a body bag.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) confirmed that the incident left three other persons with severe burns and several vehicles completely razed.
FRSC spokesperson in Ogun, Florence Okpe, told newsmen that the tanker was ascending the Ilo Awele slope, adjoining the Abeokuta-Lagos section of the expressway, when it fell around 1:30am, spilled its content and went up in flames.
This is not the first time Ogun has experienced such a tragedy this year. It has happened over and over again in other States as well.
Nigerians are, however, worried that the government has been unable to take drastic measures in order to at least reduce the frequency of this calamity.
Recall that on November 1, 2019, the administration of former governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano banned the movement of tankers and other articulated vehicles by day.
The ban came shortly after a major fire incident involving a petroleum tanker, which fell at Upper Iweka road in Onitsha, spilling its contents. The oil spill ran through the drainages, spreading fires in various parts of the city, from Upper Iweka to Ochanja market, a distance of about five kilometers. Houses, shops, cars and other properties went along with it, just as people lost their lives too.
The then State Commissioner for Information, Mr Don Adinuba, who signed the release banning the movement said: “The Anambra State Government has decided to restrict the time which vehicles laden with petroleum products can move in the state.
“With effect from Saturday, November 2, 2019, such vehicles can be allowed to move within Anambra State from only 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. The restriction is to enable agencies like the Anambra State Fire Service, the Nigeria Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Civil Defence, the Anambra Traffic Management Agency and indeed all other security, law enforcement and safety agencies to respond effectively and in good time to emergencies created by such accidents.”
Three years after the ban, petroleum tankers and other articulated vehicles still ply Anambra roads in the daytime.
On Wednesday, a tanker conveying kernel oil lost control at the popular Aroma junction in Awka and fell. It could be said to be a stroke of luck that no one was affected, considering that Aroma Junction in Awka is usually very busy, both with vehicular and human traffic.
The fall caused a huge scare as motorists, traders and passersby who saw the tanker spilling its content, took to their heels for fear of possible explosion. It took some time before everyone noticed that it was kernel oil and not petroleum products.
The incident happened at about 3pm, when the area is usually busy. No one could have been able to fathom the damage if the tanker had petroleum products and had gone up in flames.
Also, Another tanker fell within the week at Nkwelle Ezunaka, near Onitsha last Saturday. DAILYNewscover reports that a petrol tanker carrying petroleum product fell into a ditch.
A source said the tanker driver lost control and fell into a ditch, spilling its content, resulting in a massive outbreak of fire in the area.
Residents of the area reportedly fled their homes for fear of being engulfed in the flame.
Our correspondent gathered that fire fighters who were deployed to the area were chased back by an irate mob, who protested their delay in arrival, attacking them with stones and other dangerous weapons.
The firefighters who feared for their lives made a U-turn and left the area for fear of their equipment being destroyed too.
However, the chief fighter in Anambra State, Mr Martin Agbili while reacting to the incident said: “It is very unfortunate for the ugly actions of people towards firefighters and the Fire Service.
“My men and the first fire trucks got to the Fire Scene of T-junction Nkwelle and people started throwing stones at them. People should understand that the Fire Service is only coming to render help when there is a fire outbreak and is not the cause of the fire.”
He said that police operatives and members of the Nkwelle Ezunaka community vigilante were able to render assistance that helped the fire fighters to return and do their job. He added that two persons who were involved in pelting stones at his men have been arrested, while others have fled.
“Having engaged the Nigeria Police Force and the Vigilante, two persons among those that threw stones on my men have been arrested and some identified ones are still on the run. The team of Nigeria Police and Local Vigilante led my men back to the fire scene.
“Our Firefighters and fire trucks are back to the fire scene again to complete the fire fighting operation, and finally the fire has been controlled,” he said.
Meanwhile, some Anambra indigenes have reacted to the incidences of petroleum tanker disasters, urging the Anambra State government to do something about the menace, to avoid tragedies that have happened in the past.
Mr Chibuzor Nwabueze, a trader at Aroma junction, who witnessed the tanker disaster at the junction said: “It is high time the government did something about the movement of tankers and other articulated vehicles in the State. There was a time we had a disaster like this in Onitsha, and it claimed lives and properties. I can remember that a lot of politicians visited the place and turned it into a pilgrimage centre where they went to look for votes.
“The then governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano had then made a law stopping all these big lorries from moving at daytime. Even though he was unable to enforce the law, now that we have a new governor, we are looking up to him to do something.”
Another respondent, Mrs Regina Ebere, who sells bananas at Aroma junction, also regretted that the menace of tanker brake failure was getting out of hand.
She said: “We are thinking that the reason for the building of this flyover was so that big lorries could use it and free the ground roads for vehicles moving within the city. Can you imagine what would have happened here if the driver of the tanker had not decided to hit the kerb? If he had gone right, many people would have died.
“We have a motor park here, we have market people like myself here, and we also have steady traffic here. It’s even by chance that no one was hurt. The Government should not wait until what happened in Upper Iweka happens again. They can enforce the Obiano law, which bans lories from moving at day, or they can make a new law that can stop the occurrence of this disaster.”