By Kunle Adedoyin
A massive fire from an explosion of a loaded petrol tanker threw the Pipeline Road area of Ipaja, Lagos State, into confusion on Monday.
In the aftermath of the inferno that occurred in front of the Honeyland Schools, three vehicles and some property were burnt before the intervention of emergency management workers from both the state and federal agencies.
Residents said the incident occurred when as the tanker, loaded with bunkered petrol from the vandalised pipeline, was being driven out of the pipeline area an electric wire fell on it.
A spark from the wire was said to have ignited a fire, which led to the explosion around 3am.
It was gathered that the hoodlums, who vandalised the pipeline, had successfully driven six fuel-laden tankers away from the community without any incident, but the seventh tanker exploded and caused the inferno.
Residents lamented the complicity of security agents and oil workers, claiming that a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) hose was used to siphon the fuel from the broken valve into the tankers.
The scene was cordoned off by security officials.
A former Chairman of the Ipaja motor park, Saliu Mustapha, whose Toyota Picnic was burnt, said the vandals were heavily armed.
“Some loaded tankers had already gone with fuel. This tanker was the last. However, the tanker ahead of it mistakenly ran into a wire across the road, snapping it in the process.
“That was how the wire fell on this tanker, which was following closely behind. There was a spark and then an explosion.
“People wanted the driver to get to the main road to reduce the damage to property, but the fire was too much and everybody ran away.
“When security operatives attempted to apprehend the driver, he brought out a gun and threatened to shoot anybody who came near him.”
He noted that aside from his vehicle, a Toyota Camry and Hyundai car were also burnt.
The driver lamented that his source of livelihood was gone and wondered how he would survive.
He added, “The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps officials were around when the hoodlums came. They said they could not face those boys because of their sophisticated weapons,” he said.
Another eyewitness, Oladokun Idowu, said the vandals had been coming to the community for the past three days.
He explained that they were backed by some men, who appeared to have military training.
Idowu stated, “There was power supply at the time the fire started. We called the fire service and they extinguished it. We don’t know the owner of the burnt tanker. It does not even have a number plate.
“The government is to blame for what is happening. If the government had brought soldiers here, this would not have happened without anybody challenging the vandals.”
However, a volunteer emergency worker told newsmen that the truck had a number plate, which was removed by some persons. He said the number was embossed in certain parts of the truck.
Also a membership sticker of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), was conspicuously pasted by the passenger’s side of the tanker.
The spokesperson for the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Nosa Okunbor, said the agency’s Dolphin Squad in Lagos West responded to the incident around 8.18am.
He said no casualties were recorded as residents rallied round to control the fire before the arrival of the combined response team of LASEMA and the Lagos State Fire Service.
Okunbor stated, “On arrival, the residents readily gave way for the combined response team of LASEMA and the fire service to perform their duties.
“After extinguishing the fire and commencing the blanketing process of the entire area, LASEMA is conducting a post-disaster assessment.”
Okunbor said the recovery of the remaining fuel in the burnt tanker was ongoing.
The Public Affairs Officer of the Lagos State Fire Service, Muinat Adeleke-Ashimi, who spoke for the acting Director, Margaret Adeseye, said the agency was alerted to the incident around 4am, adding that the fire was extinguished around 6.30am.
“Firemen were mobilised from the Ikotun, Agege and Abesan fire stations. They were also joined by the Federal Fire Service officers,” she added.
A senior official of the NNPC, who asked not to be identified, said security officials around the area had been arrested.
The official said, “The fire has been extinguished and the asset restored. The security operatives around that area have been arrested. I am sure this will serve as a deterrent to others.
“We don’t joke with the security of all our pipelines across the country. It is just unfortunate that people, who want to perpetrate crime, will go to any extent to do it.”