Some residents of Abule Ado community in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State have condemned the plan by the Federal Government to acquire the community that was devastated by an explosion on Sunday.
Twenty persons, including the Administrator and workers of the Bethlehem Girls College, lost their lives to the explosion, which also destroyed over 50 buildings.
While the corpses were recovered from the rubble of the collapsed buildings, the fire which followed the explosion ravaged the community and burnt some other buildings.
Hundreds of residents were rendered homeless as a result of the tragedy.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had on Monday set up a N2bn relief fund for the victims of the explosion.
The acting Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Federal Housing Authority, Umaru Buntu, had said during an assessment tour of the area on Tuesday that Federal Government acquired the land from the Ojo Military Cantonment to the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex area in 1973, adding that it would come back to take over the area.
Reacting to the statement, a resident of the community, Emmanuel Umeh, who noted that the residents and the FHA had been in a good relationship, said he was shocked to hear that the area would be taken over by the Federal Government.
He stated, “We expect the government to come to our aid but I’m highly disappointed by the statement of the FHA boss, because we have been to the FHA several times and we have an agreement with it. We are not here illegally.
“We sent people to the FHA to work on the documentation of our land and what the FHA told us was that the state government took it to court, because Lagos wanted to recover the land from the Federal Government.
“The FHA told us that it could not develop the place and that it had stopped the development of Festac Town on the Seventh Avenue and that we should develop here and when it settles with the state government out of court, we would have our survey plans and title documents and rectify the land and the state would give us Cs-of-O. So, we are surprised now that the agency is denying us.
“When we had issues with the pipeline, the NNPC officials came to demarcate the land and we observed the 40-metre setback they said we should stay away from. We have been in good relationship with the government and now that we have a problem, the government should come to our aid and not take what we have; the government should support us. I lost property worth over N130m to the explosion.”
Another resident, Prophet Uche Festus, while condemning Buhari for not visiting the community, stated that some of the residents bought the land from the Federal Government.
He said, “I bought this land from the Federal Government and I have documents to that effect and many people here are not strangers; so, it’s not about documents.
“Last year, soldiers came and cleared this place and told us that we should go and repurchase the land from the Federal Government, which we did and we have the receipts. If we have a government that loves its people, the things we are saying here now are not what we should be talking about; many lives were lost and the FHA is talking about reacquiring the land.”
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has said his administration would partner the Lagos State Government to bring succour to the victims of the explosion.
During an assessment tour of the area on Wednesday, the President, who was represented by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, said the Federal Government would partner the state to bring succour to the victims.
While expressing concern over the impact of the explosion on the community, the minister said, “This is a very unfortunate incident and I will say that seeing is believing. If we had not come here, we would not have understood the extent of the devastation and damage here.
“We are here on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari to commiserate with the government and the people of Lagos State over this very unfortunate incident and we pray that God Almighty will give the families of the dead the fortitude to bear the loss; and for those who have lost their property, we pray that Allah will provide them with more than what they have lost.
“I am here with the Director-General of NEMA and other relevant agencies and we are going to join hands with the state government to see that we bring succour and relief to the affected victims in terms of food and non-food items and medical supplies to hospitals, where the victims are admitted.
“We are also going to be part of the committee (to probe the incident) and I will come up with a strategic way of addressing this issue so that we don’t see this kind of unfortunate incident occurring ever again in our country. On behalf of the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and the good people of Nigeria, we offer our deepest condolences to the government and people of Lagos State.”
The Deputy Governor of the state, Obafemi Hamzat, while commending the efforts of the emergency responders, said the community would be rebuilt, but noted that the primary concern of the government at the moment was the injured victims.
He stated, “We have said it before, we will do whatever it takes to bring succour to every family that is affected; the community will be rebuilt and there is no question about that. We just want to make sure that we take care of everybody that is in hospital first; human beings are more important than property.
“Property is key, but human beings are more important. We are gathering the data of everybody that used to live here; we will make sure that everybody is accounted for and from there, we will take decisions. We also appeal to people to move out of this place so that those working here can do their job diligently.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has resolved to support the N2bn relief fund established by the Lagos State Government for the victims of the explosion.
The resolution was made as the House unanimously adopted a motion moved by members of the Lagos State caucus, including the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, at the plenary on Wednesday.
The lawmakers, however, did not disclose how they would support the fund.
Adopting the motion, the House resolved to partner the state government to “find the root cause of the explosion with a view to averting a reoccurrence in the future and assist with the relief fund set up by the state government by providing financial relief for the victims of the national disaster.”
Also, the lawmakers mandated the National Emergency Management Agency to give material assistance to the “over 5,000 people, who suffered various degrees of injury, those whose relatives died and those whose houses and property were destroyed in the gas plant explosion.”
The resolutions were based on the motion on “the need for the government to come to the aid of over 5,000 families of Abule-Ado near the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex in the Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency, Lagos, where a gas plant explosion killed over 30 people, injuring over 200 people and destroying over 500 buildings worth billions of naira.”
The leader of the caucus, Mr Enitan Badru, who moved the motion, said, “The House is alarmed that the explosion was so horrific that the epicentre of the blast created a gory cave and sent tremor and inferno into its immediate and far surroundings, which resulted in the destruction of lives and property.
“The House is worried that about 50 buildings that housed more than 5,000 people were destroyed in the gas plant blast and thousands of people have been rendered homeless.
“The House is concerned that besides those that died, more than 200 people, who were injured by the explosion and suffered various degrees of injury, are receiving treatment in different hospitals and many people are still trapped underneath the wreckage of collapsed buildings.
“The House is conscious that several vehicles parked in the area were destroyed and the pupils of Bethlehem Girls College, who were trapped underneath the wreckage of their hostel and chapel, were being pulled out of the rubble during which the Administrator of the College, Rev. Sr. Henrietta Alokha, lost her life as she attempted to rescue the pupils.
“The House is aware that the Lagos State Government has set up a relief fund of N2bn, with an initial deposit of N250m paid into the fund by the state government.”