About 30 persons, including school children, died yesterday in a petrol tanker explosion that also razed several cars and other properties around Felele area of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.
Among the casualties were five students of Kogi State Polytechnic, three primary school children who were being taken to school by their father and a woman with her two kids. Although eyewitness accounts put the casualty figure at 30, the Federal Road Road Safety Commission, FRSC, said 23 persons died in the explosion.
Several persons who also sustained injuries in the explosion are receiving treatment in different hospitals in the city. Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday said the death of 23 people confirmed by the FRSC represented another disturbing and saddening incident in the litany of tragedies that have befallen our country.”
Reacting to the explosion, President Buhari said: “I am seriously worried about the frequency of these unfortunate and large scale tragedies in the country which cause needless deaths.” The President in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said, “these frequent incidents that result in loss of lives and property are a national scandal caused by our indifference to safety standards.”
He said: “Many accidents are preventable if proper proactive and precautionary measures are put in place or properly observed as routine policies.”
It was gathered that the tanker fully loaded with premium motor spirit, PMS, which belongs to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, suffered brake around 8:30am and rammed into five cars, two motorbikes and three tricycles, popularly known as Keke NAPEP, killing all the occupants. Also killed in the inferno was a businessman, identified as Pastor Samson, his wife and three children, who until his death was a member of Baptist Church, Felele.
Samson, a dealer in sewing machines was said to be on his way to drop his children off at school when the explosion occurred. An eyewitness said: “I was about crossing the road when I noticed the tanker driver signalling to motorists to steer clear, but before I could say Jack Robinson, the tanker was on its side falling on all vehicles beside it. Immediately the tanker fell, fire started and incinerated all vehicles along its way.’’
Men of the FRSC who arrived the scene around 10 am came with an ambulance from rescue/rehabilitation team to evacuate the corpses burnt beyond recognition, while locals made frantic efforts to identify them. Pigued by the sad development, some students of the state polytechnic, Lokoja, whose colleagues were involved in the accident, almost mobbed the FRSC rescuing team. However, the sector commander of FRSC, Idris Fika Ali, said 23 persons were killed in the explosion, while one child escaped with injuries.
President Buhari regretted that “ours is a country where we move on whenever tragedies occur instead of taking preventive safety measures to forestall future calamities.” He called on the county’s transport authorities, traffic and road management agencies as well as law enforcement officials to sit up and enforce safety standards with more seriousness, adding that “refusal to do the right thing can cause potential tragic problems that harm innocent people.”
According to him, “Nigeria is not having a shortage of laws and regulations, but our problem is lack of zeal to enforce those laws and regulations for the sake of public safety.” He condoled with Kogi State government and the families of the victims of the tragedy. Reacting yesterday, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, expressed shock and sadness over the fatal tanker explosion.
A statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Onogwu Mohammed, read: “Governor Bello is very sad to learn of the tragic loss of lives, many vehicles, property and other valuables in the petrol tanker fire, while expressing his deepest condolences to the family of those affected by the ugly occurrence.
“This unfortunate accident is a sad development and I share the feeling of those who lost their loved ones in this incident.” The governor also urged the students of the state polytechnic to remain calm and peaceful, stating that he equally shared in their grieving moment over the death of some of their colleagues in the disaster.