Sorrows, tears and fuel

By Bolaji Akinola

But for the bravery of a petrol tanker driver and a conductor, the nation’s number one airport, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, would have turned into a disaster zone at the height of the petrol crisis about two weeks ago.

The driver of a fully-laden petroleum tanker put his life on the line by driving his contraption far away from the midst of others awaiting loading at a petroleum jetty around the airport after discovering that it had caught fire.

Had he not acted in good time, the fire would have spread to other tankers and a major tragedy would have befallen the nation. Even at that, the fire razed three other tankers and a stationary saloon car. But the airport was spared and no live was lost.

But a father and his two daughters were not as lucky as they lost their lives in an inferno – another aftermath of the fuel crisis – on April 6 in Lagos. Indeed that fateful Wednesday witnessed a harvest of tragedies across the Lagos metropolis as five persons were killed in separate fire incidents in Shomolu Oja and Ikotun areas of the state.

Alhaji Kamorudeen Ajibade, 65 years old; his daughters, Wuraola, 19 years old, and Shakirat, 15-year-old, were consumed in an explosion at about 10pm at Shomolu Oja while the man was trying to refuel his generating set to provide electricity for the family since national supply is practically non-existent.

The children died trying to rescue their father who got trapped after the explosion as he tried to refuel the family generator. Luckily his wife, Rachael Ajibade, was able to escape the inferno with the last child of the family.

The deceased’s younger brother, Oriade Ajibade, captured the reasons for the unnecessary deaths declaring that, “If there was no fuel scarcity, this could have been averted. It was the fuel scarcity that caused the incident.”

No fuel, no light. Welcome to 21st century Nigeria.

I remember a very good friend and former Principal Manager, Legal, Western Ports of Nigerian Ports Authority, Mrs. Lucy Damachi-Itam lost her life in the same manner last year. A very jovial and unassuming woman, Lucy was one of the driving forces behind the Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT) and the now-scrapped Port Industry Anticorruption Standing Committee (PIACSC). She departed in a most tragic manner, leaving behind an only son, whose father died few years earlier. If she didn’t have to be her own electricity firm, Lucy would still be alive and kicking.

The same day Alhaji Ajibade and his daughters died, a bed-ridden man seeking spiritual cure at the Synagogue Church of All Nation was also burnt to death in a hotel in Ikotun area.

Because there was no light and the hotel did not have fuel to run their generator, the man, identified as Felix Ifeanyi, reportedly lit a candle. After going to bed, the burning candle reportedly fell on the furniture resulting in an inferno that claimed his life.

Same Wednesday in Festac Town, in Amuwo Odofin area of Lagos State, some operatives of the Nigeria Security Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), opened fire on some youths hawking fuel, killing one of them in cold blood.

The question as to why these reckless officers would use firearms on unarmed youths is still begging for answer. Yet none of these officials have been arrested for the heinous crime.

A day before the harvest of deaths of Lagos, an Army personnel narrowly escaped death on the Oshodi – Apapa expressway after his Toyota Camry saloon car – with a keg full of petrol in the boot – exploded. He was lucky to jump out of the car before the explosion.

On Friday of the same week, seven people also lost their lives in Akwa Ibom State as a result of a fire incident caused by poor storage of fuel. The inferno, which occurred at about 2am in Uyo, claimed the lives of a woman, her three children and three grandchildren of the landlady of the compound where they lived.

The landlady, Monica Effiong, and a tenant, Emmanuel, were fortunate to have been rescued alive.

In one week therefore, fuel scarcity in Nigeria claimed at least twelve lives with many other homes thrown into grieves.

Nigerians are groaning in pains. No light. No fuel. No money.

Without reliable and steady power supply, ours has become a generator-driven economy, so without adequate fuel supply, the real sector goes into a slumber. Little wonder youth unemployment is high. And with high youth unemployment, security of lives and property becomes a huge challenge.

Aside those who lost their lives under these tragic circumstances, many more have died economically while the country’s fuel and electricity crises persist.

It is good President Buhari says he is aware of the pains of Nigerians. But this is not enough. Nigerians want an end to their miseries.

The Boston Consulting Group recently ranked Nigeria 142 out of 149 countries in its ability to convert wealth into well being for the citizens. This highlights the urgency to address challenges for the country to prosper over the long term. Nigeria is badly in need of policy actions that can put the country back on the path of sustainable growth. Economic magicians are needed urgently.

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