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The rising catalogue of avoidable tragedies that has suddenly become the lot of Nigeria has once again brought to the fore, Nigerian’s crude and unenviable stoicism to pain and horror.
The country, still battling to exculpate itself from global rebuke for obvious deficiency in aviation management that led to the crash of the DANA Aircraft which terminated nearly 200 lives, the petrol tanker explosion at Okogbe in Ahoada West of Rivers State, resulting in the untimely death of another 200 people is definitely a terrifying occurrence in the annals of what could be described as unwitting display of human immolation.
As if invaded by the incubus of blood and tears, the country’s roads, air and the sea have turned to annihilating straits. According to reports, a truck laden with fuel ran into a deep gulley on the road, lost control and upturned, thereby attracting the villagers who rushed to the scene of accident to scoop fuel. It was during the melee for fuel that a spark occurred causing a big outbreak of fire and consequent explosion that killed the scoopers and maybe innocent passersby.
That some Nigerians could put their lives on the line for the sake of few liters of fuel despite the lethal risks, clearly shows the low and unfortunate level to which the barometer of human esteem has dropped due to hopelessness and acute pauperisation.
A chronological antecedent of fuel pipeline explosions and deaths in Nigeria, give a lurid tale of sadness and despondency. For instance, on October 18, 1998, the country was jolted with the news of the petroleum pipeline explosion in Jesse, Delta State, which precipitated a conflagration that raged for ten days before it was put off with the United States assistance after the loss of over 1,000 lives. As if suffering from irreversible amnesia, the Jesse village experienced a similar misfortune in July 2000, when the villagers were again scooping fuel from burst pipelines resulting in the loss of about 300 people. It was the turn of Warri city just two weeks later when more than 100 people died scooping fuel from a ruptured pipeline that exploded.
Again in Lagos, a leaking pipeline caught fire in November 2000 decimating over 60 persons. 125 villagers were also killed in a village near Umuahia, Abia State, through an explosion from a punctured oil pipeline. In May 2006, it was another harvest of deaths and sorrow as a pipeline at Atlas Cove in Lagos exploded and killed 150 persons.
Not done, in December 2006, tragedy again struck in Ijegun, Lagos State, where at least 500 people lost their lives when scooping oil as usual, from a burst oil pipeline. There is another gory story of a petrol tanker in the Ganigaku village, Demsa Local Government of Adamawa, whose driver lost control, leading to the upturn of the vehicle and subsequent spilling of fuel which attracted the villagers that engaged in oil scooping. The explosion that occurred at the scene of the accident killed dozens of the fuel scavengers.
It is shocking that just as Okogbe people were still mourning the victims of the July 12 disaster, another tragedy struck at Elechi Beach on Monday, July 16, 2012 when a tanker explosion occurred, killing another 30 people, as a result of the carelessness of a technician who chose to embark on a welding job beside a fuel laden tanker.
Considering the sad litany of pipeline and fuel tanker explosions in the country, coupled with the heavy causalities that normally accompany each occurrence, there is the strange irony that people still embrace the scooping business and pipeline vandalisation even when there are visible and horrific scenarios that should deter Nigerians from the worthless harakiri.
A reporter was said to have once called the attention of a fuel scavenger to the inherent risk therein, but was shocked by the reaction of the scooper who retorted that he was not bothered as his hellish existence makes the risk of being consumed by the “hell fire” from fuel scavenging a lesser evil.
The government cannot be exonerated from this dastardly incident in Okogbe village, as the huge gully on the road, according to reports, actually caused the accident, making the tragedy quite avoidable.
Aside this, most tanker drivers are overworked by their employers, making them weary and sleepy on the wheels, thus posing enormous risk to themselves and other road users. Also, is the lifestyle of the tanker drivers sufficiently sterling to qualify them for handling articulated vehicles? Experience has shown that some of the drivers most young men nowadays, are in the habit of taking alcoholic beverages and energy enhancing drugs. We wonder if the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) officers still evolve strategies as in the past, to curb the excesses of the tanker drivers who more often than not turn themselves to the ‘kings’ and virtual outlaws on the roads. Are the vehicles routinely checked and certified by the FRSC as most accidents on our roads are said to be caused by these tankers which normally break down on the roads without adequate sign posts to warm other road users? We also wonder why the petroleum pipelines are not properly serviced to ensure that ruptured pipes are replaced thereby making it difficult for pipeline vandals to puncture them at will.
WE also want to highlight that the down stream sector of the petroleum industry must be reorganised by encouraging the construction of more mini-depots that will discourage the current long distance haulage by tanker drivers. It is also important to advise on the revival of rail system towards enhancing the transportation of petroleum products with minimum stress and cost in addition to providing greater safety.Share