Nigeria’s leading opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has challenged President Muhammadu Buhari and Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fasola, to leave the comfort of their offices in Abuja and immediately visit the Kogi State road crash scene as well as undertake a tour of the country’s highways to witness the sorry state of infrastructure under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
Not less than 25 citizens including five students of the Kogi State Polytechnic and three children on their way to school were reportedly killed in a road crash – involving a petrol tanker in Felele, along the Lokoja-Abuja Highway.
The tanker, which was loaded with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was said to have experienced brake failure around 8 am.
As a result, the tanker fell on five cars, two motorcycles, and three tricycles popularly called Keke – killing all occupants. Those killed and burnt beyond recognition according to reports were five students of the state-owned polytechnic, three nursery school pupils, and passersby.
The Punch reports that a businessman identified simply as Samson, his wife, and three children were trapped. According to the newspaper, he sells sewing machines in Lokoja, the state capital and set out to drop his children off at school as he usually does.
An eyewitness account explained that the tanker brake failed during an attempt to manoeuvre and in the process, fell on its side, trapping five vehicles trying to overtake it.
“I was about to cross the road when I noticed the tanker driver signalling to motorists to steer clear, but before you could say, Jack Robinson, the tanker was on its side, falling on all vehicles beside it. Immediately, the tanker fell, the fire started and incinerated all vehicles along its way”, the eyewitness said.
Officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), who arrived the scene around 10 am came with an ambulance from Rescue/Rehabilitation team to evacuate the corpses while residents made frantic efforts to identify them.
FRSC Sector Commander, Idris Fika Ali, says 23 persons were killed in the explosion while one child escaped with injuries.
The state Governor, Yahaya Bello, has expressed shock over the fatal explosion. His Chief Press Secretary, Onogwu Mohammed, said:”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 families of those affected by the ugly occurrence.”
Bello also urged the students of the polytechnic to remain calm and peaceful, noting that he shared in their grief.
PDP is, however, demanding that the Buhari administration should put instant traffic measures to forestall such accidents as well as immediately establish emergency facilities in the area, adding that the recklessness of the state government has also increased the fatalities of the number of victims affected in the ugly incident.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement says, ‘’our party is shocked by the response of the Kogi State Deputy Governor, Edward Onoja, who, instead of assuring of a definite step to safeguard the lives of the people in the area, dwelt on lame excuses, when he visited the scene of the accident.’’
According to him, the opposition party ‘’is shocked and deeply grieved by the devastating petrol tanker accident that claimed the lives of no fewer than 25 compatriots including a whole family, students and school children in an inferno in Felele area of Lokoja.
‘’Our party is extremely distressed by this horrid and traumatising incident, which, in a very painful manner, cut short the lives of hardworking compatriots, brought instant anguish to families and painful material losses to many.
‘’It is even more disturbing that the fire raged without any intervention by authorities, which would have helped mitigate the effect. Indeed, the absence of fire and other emergency facilities around the area, despite the frequent occurrence of such accidents in the past signposts the failure and insensitivity of both the Federal and Kogi state governments towards the dangers that daily confront the people.
‘’Also, the major theatre of medical intervention in the state, the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Lokoja, had been under locks over a needless controversy on COVID-19. Our thoughts and prayers go to the families of the victims of this accident as well as others who have perished in various road accidents due to the horrible state of our roads.’’
Ologbondiyan says his party commiserates with the families of the victims, the state polytechnic, parents of the school children as well as the entire people of Kogi, adding, ‘’our party prays God to grant the bereaved families the fortitude to bear their grief as well as speedy recovery for the wounded.’’