Sunday, March 15, 2020, would remain a black day for the residents of Ado Soba in the Abule Ado Abule Ado community of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State.
This was due to the early morning gas pipeline explosion that rocked the peaceful community and levelled to the ground, high rise buildings, bungalows, school, shops and led to the sudden death of many people there within a twinkle of an eye.
The aftermath of the devastation was seen and felt within the community and its environs but Ado Soba suffered a large chunk of the natural phenomenon in which no fewer than 23 people allegedly lost their lives.
Most buildings around the explosion site were reduced to rubbles. Those that withstood the impact had their roofs, doors, windows, railings blown away and glasses shattered.
Scavengers, trying to make quick money, were seen carting away iron rods and other materials salvaged from the collapsed buildings.
Most of the victims then could hardly talk about their experiences as they were either recovering from injuries, mourning their deceased ones or counting their losses.
However, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) visited the community a year after the ugly incident and met a completely different scenario and a transformation that will make as anyone marvel.
Indeed, any visitor to Ado Soba community one year after will hardly believe that it suffered a serious setback and devastation a year ago.
The residents believing in the saying ‘when there is life, there is hope’ took the bull by the horn and began rebuilding their community and thus making it look better than what it was before the pipeline explosion of last year.
Most of the houses in Ado Soba are now wearing a new look; roofs have been replaced and most buildings wearing fresh coats of paint, courtesy of the residents.
An excavator was seen working at the explosion site.
However, a building that is still standing out like a sore thumb and looking desolate because of its state of disrepair is the Bethlehem Girls College (BGC), a reminder of the incident.
The landlords, residents and business owners had rebuilt, parked into their homes and started their businesses, and thus putting behind them the traumatic experiences of last year.
Some of the victims, however, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that forgetting the incident had proved difficult because they are still struggling and living daily with the aftermath of the explosion.
Damilola Oyerinde said that she was in the family sitting room that morning with her then 18 months old daughter when the force of the explosion threw her from the sitting room to the bedroom.
“I was carried from the sitting room to the bedroom and my neck was trapped inside the glass. I couldn’t bring out my head,” she recalled.
The 25-year-old hairstylist said that she was admitted at the Navy Town Hospital, Ojo, where she received stitches to close her cuts.
She also said that her face, neck and body were also stitched from the cuts she got from the shattered glasses.
“It was there a doctor discovered that I couldn’t see any longer. Then, I was referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for an eye surgery.
“During the course of the treatment, I was also referred to the National Orthopaedic Hospital (NOH), Igbobi.
“While carrying out an x-ray, they discovered that I still have pieces of glasses in my body.”
Mrs Oyerinde said the experience had left her physically, financially and emotionally traumatised because of the agony she has to live with.
According to her, seeing the scar tissues all over her face and body daily, leaves her depressed.
She added that she had been jobless since her recovery because her shop also collapsed during the explosion.
“I still live in fear because not even in my wildest dreams would I have believed something like this will happen to me.
“I was told at the Orthopaedic Hospital to go for plastic surgery but how will I pay for it? So I didn’t even pursue that option.
“I still go for the regular eye check-up every month.
“I spend about N13,500 on treatment not to talk of the silicone gel I apply on my body daily. Each tube costs N5,000 and that is just for one week,” she added.
She disclosed that all the hospital bills incurred during her treatment were paid by her husband, adding that she had not received any compensation from any institution.
“I have tried so many times to reach out to the Lagos State Government (LASG). I went to the Lagos State Secretariat at Alausa because I heard there is a relief fund set up for those who sustained injuries.
“They promised that they will call me. It is almost one year now I have not received any call from them,” she told NAN.
She urged LASG to live up to its promises to compensate the victims, to help alleviate some of their sufferings.
NAN recalls that LASG set up a N2 billion Emergency Relief Fund with an initial donation of N250 million, after the incident, to assist the victims. Also, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) donated N200 million into the fund.
Just a few houses from Mrs Oyerinde, a landlord, Francis Duru, recalled that his family of four were awake and were observing their morning prayers and devotions when they heard the blast.
“Our house was shaken to its foundation and badly damaged. The roof, walls, doors and windows were blown away and destroyed.
“My wife and children were injured,” he said.
Mr Duru, who is also the Secretary of Soba Landlords and Residents Association, said he and other residents still live in fear and would always run out of their homes, sometimes naked, at the sound of sudden loud noises.
According to him, 23 people died and about 300 houses, including businesses, were destroyed.
He expressed his displeasure with the LASG and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for not paying compensations to the victims of the pipeline explosion.
The secretary explained that the landlords and business owners who had rebuilt or renovated their buildings were able to do so through loans accessed from banks.
“After waiting for the promises from LASG and other agencies and nothing was forthcoming, we had to approach banks and other institutions for help.
“Some of us used our goods as collateral. Many of us are still servicing these loans and if we don’t pay, the banks will seize our goods.
“The banks even come from time to time, threatening to seize the buildings” he added.
Mr Duru, however, commended the LASG for giving N2.5 million compensation to relatives of those who lost their lives in the explosion.
The secretary commended LASG and the Amuwo Odofin Local Government Council for helping to restore electricity supply to the community.
He urged the governments to hasten the process for compensation for those affected during the explosion.
“The state opened three accounts after the incident and Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the money realised from the accounts would be for compensation, rebuilding and for the lives that were lost.
“Let them release those funds so that people here can have some relief from debts,” he said.
Mr Duru also urged the NNPC to compensate for the damages that happened in the community and ensure that the pipeline is fixed and covered in order to avoid any future recurrence.
For Alani Korodo, owner of a block manufacturing industry in the community, the incident came as a big blow, which not only set him 30 years back but also negatively impacted his health.
The businessman, popularly known as Korodo in Abule-Ado, said that his business; including trucks for transporting materials, concrete cement blocks meant and building materials for sales were completely destroyed.
“It has not been easy for me since the incident happened. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years. I started having negative thoughts so much so that it has begun to affect my health.
“It has also affected my eyes and I cannot see very clearly now. I had to undergo two surgeries to regain my sight,” he said.
He added that he had been so hopeful for a compensation but after waiting for almost a year without anything, he had decided to put his trust in God and move on with his life.
Also, Mummy Precious, a businesswoman and a distributor of drinks and ice blocks to retailers in the community, said that she had decided to forget about the incident and move on with her life.
According to her, she used to have a big and thriving business outfit before the explosion but the incident reduced it to a wooden shop.
She said, “I keep praying and hoping that someday, she would pick up again. I’m thankful to God that I lost just my business.
“What about those whose buildings collapsed, those that sustained injuries and worse still, those that lost their loved ones?
“I had talked about it severally in the last one year, yet nothing came out of it. I am tired and really want to move on with my life,” she said.
NAN also recalls that the Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, Mele Kyari, while commiserating with victims on March 15, 2020, referred to the incident as “unfortunate but completely avoidable.”
“It is very obvious that people are building on our right of way, which constitutes a serious danger to lives and property.
“The incident happened as a result of overcharged air, resulting from gas leakages from activities around the pipeline.
“Unfortunately, there was an ignition which led to a chain of events, CONCLUDING igniting our pipeline,” he said.
Mr Kyari said that every asset on the right of way would be taken out to safeguard the public.
NAN reports that the landlords and residents would hold a memorial service on March 14, to honour those who lost their lives.