Major transport and other accidents; environmental and other humanitarian emergencies

Tanker explosion in Lagos, 3 killed, 39 vehicles burnt

On 18 February, three people were killed and 39 vehicles burnt, as a fuel tanker exploded at about 1 am, causing a massive blaze at the Mile Two area of Lagos.

The tanker, with registration number XB 370 ATN and fully loaded with 33,000 litres of fuel, was said to have lost one of its tyres. Its driver thereafter lost control and the tanker fell on its side and exploded. A mighty fire spread fast through the entire area.

Three people who were fast asleep in nearby structures were trapped in the inferno and burnt to death. One of them was a local official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), who was sleeping inside the union’s office; the other two were a driver and an attendant in the park. The charred remains of all three were taken to a mortuary in an ambulance at about 3 am.

The fire also razed many vehicles, mostly commercial cars and buses parked by their operators at the close of work the previous day. These included eight Toyota Hiace mini buses (each estimated at N6 million), two Space wagons, eight LT buses, a towing vehicle and 16 salon cars. It took several hours before a team of the Lagos State Fire Service, with nine fire-fighting trucks, eventually subdued the inferno.

The General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, confirmed that three people died. The Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Jaiyeoba Joseph, a Superintendent of Police, said 39 vehicles were burnt.


Richard Mofe-Damijo, Nollywood veteran and Delta State Commissioner, survives car crash


On 17 January, Nollywood veteran and Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State, Mr Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD), was involved in a car accident in Delta State. He survived the crash.

Details of the accident are still sketchy, but Mr Mofe-Damijo and his driver were said to be travelling to Warri, when the accident occurred somewhere between Urhonigbe in Edo State and Warri in Delta State. The Toyota Prado jeep in which they were travelling somersaulted, after another vehicle rammed into them.

RMD, as he is fondly called, was rescued from the vehicle and taken to a hospital where he was treated for his injuries. Sources close to him said his injuries are not life-threatening.

However, his driver, who suffered more serious injuries, is said to be in critical condition at the hospital. The SUV in which they were travelling is said to have been damaged beyond repair.

An online statement reportedly issued by Mr Mofe-Damijo today, 18 January, said: “Contrary to the rumours yesterday that I was in a coma, unconscious and even dead, I am alive and well. God kept us (my driver and I) alive by His hands”. The statement thanked his fans, friends and the general public for their prayers and good wishes, and urged continued prayers for his driver.

Twenty-five die in trailer accident in Kogi State

A pick-up truck conveying travellers

On 6 January, at least 25 people were killed in a motor accident that occurred near Obangede junction in Adavi Local Government area of Kogi State. Many others suffered serious injuries.

The cause of the accident, which occurred at about 9am, is not yet established. Local sources said it occurred after the truck in which the victims were travelling suffered break failure, as a result of which the driver lost control and plunged the vehicle into a deep gully. Officers of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) rushed to the scene and helped in evacuating the casualties to the mortuary of the specialist hospital at Obangede. There were fears that some of the wounded, rushed to a hospital at Okene, may not survive.

The sources said the victims were all northerners. One account said they came from Onitsha in Anambra State, and were returning to their homes in the north, as directed by the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram. The sect, which issued an ultimatum for southerners and Christians to leave the predominantly Muslim north of the country, had also urged northerners resident in the south to come home.

Another account said the victims were actually fleeing from the ethnically Igbo Southeast zone of the country, to avoid reprisal attacks by Igbos, following the killing of their kinsmen in some parts of the north.

Six children choked to death by generator fumes in Ebonyi State

Map of Nigeria showing Ebonyi State

On 27 December, six children, all members of one family, died of suffocation after inhaling fumes from an electricity generating set, while six survivors were rushed to the Presbyterian Joint Hospital, Uburu, in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

Local sources said the incident occurred after the family had gone to bed without switching off the generating set they kept along a passage in their house. The sources said the parents went to bed first, as the children were still praying for one among them who was ill. After the prayers, they went to bed without shutting the door connecting the room where 12 of them slept and the passage where the generator was left running all night. By the next morning, six of the children had died, while six others lay helpless. The six survivors were rushed to hospital.

Reacting to the tragedy, the Chairman of the Ohaozara Local Government Council, Mr. Ogbuefi Akpa, said he was saddened by the incident and had visited the survivors in hospital. He said the deputy governor of the state, Mr Dave Umahi, had also visited the hospital and donated N100,000 to the victims.

NEMA ambulance crashes while rushing bomb victims to hospital in Abuja

The crashed NEMA ambulance

On 25 December – Christmas day – an ambulance conveying some victims of the bomb blast which occurred near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla earlier in the day, to a hospital in Abuja, was involved in a road accident.

A statement by the Head of Media and Publicity at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Yusha’u Shuaib, said three officers of the agency were transferring 27 persons wounded in the Madalla blast, from the National Hospital to the State House Clinic, both in Abuja, when the ambulance crashed.

The ambulance somersaulted after the crash, but information on the circumstances of the accident remains sketchy.

Mass burial for victims of boat mishap in Rivers State

On 15 December, about 30 corpses recovered from the waters where a boat mishap had occurred in Rivers State two days earlier, were given a mass burial close to the river. The mishap involved a wooden boat, overloaded with about 45 passengers, which capsized on the Mgbuodohia waterway in Rumuolumeni area of Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State.

The Chairman of the Rumuolumeni Community Development Committee, Mr Chima Amadi, said the families of some of the victims had requested that they be buried by the riverside, as their local traditions forbade the burial of such corpses within their communities. He said the victims were mostly “strangers” and that none of them hailed from the immediate community in which the tragedy happened.

The Rivers State Police Command however reported that, as at mid-day on 15 December, 26 corpses had been recovered by the search and rescue team. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Ben Ugwuegbulam, said the police were still searching for more bodies.

The Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr Samson Parker, visited the scene of the incident and went on to the palace of the Nyenweli of Rumuolumeni, Eze Ndubueze Wobo Olumeni (JP). Speaking on behalf of the State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, he expressed the condolences of the state government. He said the government will investigate the remote and immediate causes of the unfortunate incident and take steps to prevent a re-occurrence.

Boat mishap in Rivers State: 40 feared drowned

Wooden boats: Still common in the Niger Delta

On 13 December, about 40 people were feared dead in a boat mishap on the Mgbuodohia waterway in Rumuolumeni area of Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State.

Eyewitnesses said the mishap occurred at about 8pm, and that the boat was carrying between 40 and 47 passengers, mostly traders and market women, between Eagle Island and Mgbuodohia. Local divers led the rescue operation, but their efforts were hampered by the darkness.

By the next morning, Chima Amadi, a community leader in Mgbuodioha, said only 5 of the passengers on board had been rescued. The five included a child and a pregnant woman who reportedly gave birth hours after she was rescued. Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), later reported that 20 bodies had been recovered, but their identities were still not known.

On the possible cause of the mishap, Shuaib said the boat was overloaded with passengers, with some standing. It also had bags of foodstuff and other goods, as well as live goats on board.

However, some community members have blamed the tragedy on the poor state of roads which had forced people to use the Mgbuodohia water route in getting from one part of the sprawling city to another. Amadi told the French news agency, AFP, that the boat was the only reliable means of transport to central Port Harcourt, because of the bad condition of roads.

Only two days earlier, Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi had said he was acutely aware of citizens’ complaints over the state of roads in the metropolis, many of which are currently being reconstructed or repaired by the state government.

Speaking at a Thanksgiving Service organised for him and for Supreme Court Justice Mary Odili by the Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt on 11 December, Amaechi said: “I hear your complaints, and I know you are angry about roads. For the Ada George Road, it will be completed. The contractor is slow, he gave us March, let us be patient. The only thing I will assure you of is that (the next) rainy season will not meet us on that road again. Another road you people complain of, is the Rumuepirikom road. It is being worked on”.

However, while the state government is visibly working on improving the roads, Mr Francis Bruno, chairman of the Rivers State branch of the Maritime Workers Union, said the government should also pay necessary attention to marine transportation, in order to avoid further mishaps. For now, many observers say marine transportation across the Niger Delta is very poorly governed by local authorities.

Explosion in Kaduna, over 7 feared killed

Map of Nigeria showing Kaduna State

On 7 December, an explosion in a motor parts market left several people dead in Kaduna, capital of Kaduna State.

The explosion occurred a little after 9am, along Danmusa Road by Ori Akpata, an area housing mostly non-indigenes, many of them vehicle spare parts dealers. Local sources said the blast went off near cylinders of highly inflammable natural gas.

 The spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Yushau Shuaib, said at least seven people, including a three-year-old child, were killed. But other sources have reported casualty figures between 10 and 15. The severed head of one of the victims was flung about 100 metres away from the point of the blast. Several other persons were severely wounded. About 10 shops and property worth millions of naira were destroyed.

The blast caused panic in many other parts of the metropolis. Personnel of the Kaduna State Emergency Agency, soldiers, police, the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps all rushed to the area, battling to evacuate victims and put out the fire.

The cause of the explosion has not yet been established – indeed it is not yet clear whether it was one explosion or several. The Commissioner of Police in Kaduna State, Mr Bala Nasarawa, said investigations are underway, but that he suspects it could be an accident caused by items within a shop.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Aminu Lawan, also said the police initially thought it was a bomb explosion, but that “our preliminary assessment has shown that it was an accidental explosion from a repair shop dealing in car batteries and gas cylinders”.

However, shop owners in the area insist that none of the wares in their shops could have caused such explosion. Some of them believe the blasts were detonated by suspected members of the militant Islamist sect, widely known as Boko Haram. One of them claims two bombers came riding on a motor-cycle, that one was consumed by the blast while the other was severely injured; but this is yet to be officially confirmed.

In recent months, there have been series of bomb and gun attacks in several northern cities, mostly in the north-east zone. Some of the incidents had been blamed on Boko Haram, while the sect had in fact claimed responsibility for others.

Four children of Air Force officer burnt to death in Calabar

On 16 November, four children of a Nigerian Air Force officer (comprising three boys and a girl), were reportedly burnt to death in his apartment at the Air Force officers’ quarters along Ediba Road in Calabar, capital of Cross River State.

It is not yet certain what caused the fire; but some sources said the tragedy may have been caused by a candle the officer’s wife lit in their apartment during a power outage that evening, before going to a vigil at the Apostolic Faith Church. She left the four children sleeping inside. The sources said three of the children were burnt beyond recognition; the fourth, who suffered serious injuries, was rushed to hospital where he died.

However, the sources said the combined efforts of members of the Cross River State Fire Service and the Cross River State Emergency Response Service stopped the fire from spreading to other apartments in the multi-storey residential building.

The officer whose children died, was said to have been transferred to Abuja recently, but his family, still at his former location in Calabar, was yet to join him at his new post.

Two fuel tankers explode in Abuja

The scene of the explosion

On 16 November, two fuel tankers exploded in the federal capital of Abuja, sending massive black smoke over parts of the city, as frightened workers and residents scampered to safety.

Residents report that around 3.30pm, the two tankers laden with fuel, caught fire at different filling stations, in different parts of the capital city.

One happened at the ASCON fuel station on Adetokunbo Ademola Street in the upscale Wuse 2 District, opposite a popular fast food shop known as Chicken House. The other occured behind the old Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) building, at Area 11 in Garki District.

The cause of the explosions has not yet been established conclusively. One resident said they appeared to have been caused by “accidents with the tankers off-loading fuel”; but this was yet to be confirmed by security authorities.

There was yet no comprehensive report of injuries and no indication of casualties, but witnesses said at least one man suffered serious burns. A police spokesman said the blasts were being investigated.

The explosions caused serious traffic problems in Wuse and other areas of the city.

%d bloggers like this: