Another terrifying scene was presented to Nigerians this week when a petroleum tanker caught fire in Ogun State on Thursday.
States like Ogun, Lagos, and Anambra have come to be associated with such heinous incidents, which typically leave behind tears and agony over the immeasurable loss of lives and property.
At least two people were burned beyond recognition in the most recent incident in Ogun, and rescuers were only able to pack their charred remains into a body bag.
Three additional victims of the incident suffered severe burns, and several vehicles were completely destroyed, according to the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
The tanker was ascending the Ilo Awele slope, which is next to the Abeokuta-Lagos section of the expressway, when it fell around 1:30 am, spilled its contents, and burst into flames, according to Florence Okpe, the FRSC spokesperson in Ogun.
This is not the first tragedy of this nature to affect Ogun this year. It has happened over and over again in other states as well.
Nigerians are, however, worried that the government has been unable to take drastic measures in order to at least reduce the frequency of this calamity.
Recall that on November 1, 2019, the administration of former governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, banned the movement of tankers and other articulated vehicles by day.
The ban came shortly after a major fire incident involving a petroleum tanker, which fell at Upper Iweka Road in Onitsha, spilling its contents. The oil spill ran through the drainage, spreading fires in various parts of the city, from Upper Iweka to Ochanja market, a distance of about five kilometers. Houses, shops, cars, and other properties went along with it, just as people lost their lives too.
The then State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Don Adinuba, who signed the release banning the movement, said: “The Anambra State Government has decided to restrict the time during which vehicles laden with petroleum products can move in the state."
“With effect from Saturday, November 2, 2019, such vehicles can be allowed to move within Anambra State from only 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m." The restriction is to enable agencies like the Anambra State Fire Service, the Nigeria Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Civil Defence, the Anambra Traffic Management Agency, and indeed all other security, law enforcement, and safety agencies to respond effectively and in good time to emergencies created by such accidents.
Petroleum tankers and other articulated vehicles continue to travel Anambra roads during the day three years after the ban.
At the well-known Aroma junction in Awka, a tanker carrying kernel oil lost control on Wednesday and crashed. The fact that nobody was harmed could be considered a fortunate accident given how busy Aroma Junction in Awka typically is with both human and vehicular traffic.
Drivers, businesspeople, and bystanders who witnessed the tanker spilling its contents fled in fear of an impending explosion as a result of the fall. Before anyone realized that it was kernel oil and not petroleum products, it took some time.
The incident took place around 3 o'clock, when the area is typically busy. If the tanker had been filled with petroleum products and caught fire, the damage would have been impossible for anyone to imagine.
Additionally, a tanker fell the previous Saturday at Nkwelle Ezunaka, close to Onitsha. The Daily Post reports that a petrol tanker carrying petroleum products fell into a ditch.
A source said the tanker driver lost control and fell into a ditch, spilling its content, resulting in a massive outbreak of fire in the area.
Residents of the area reportedly fled their homes for fear of being engulfed in flames.
Our correspondent gathered that fire fighters who were deployed to the area were chased back by an irate mob, who protested their delay in arrival, attacking them with stones and other dangerous weapons.
The firefighters, who feared for their lives, made a U-turn and left the area for fear of their equipment being destroyed too.
However, the chief fighter in Anambra State, Mr. Martin Agbili, while reacting to the incident, said: “It is very unfortunate for the ugly actions of people towards firefighters and the fire service.
“My men and the first fire trucks got to the fire scene of T-junction Nkwelle and people started throwing stones at them. People should understand that the fire service is only coming to render help when there is a fire outbreak and is not the cause of the fire. "
He said that police operatives and members of the Nkwelle Ezunaka community vigilante were able to render assistance that helped the fire fighters to return and do their job. He added that two people who were involved in pelting stones at his men have been arrested, while others have fled.
“Having engaged the Nigeria Police Force and the Vigilante, two persons among those that threw stones on my men have been arrested and some identified ones are still on the run." The team of Nigeria Police and Local Vigilante led my men back to the fire scene.
The fire has finally been brought under control, he said, adding that "our firefighters and fire trucks are back at the fire scene again to finish the fire fighting operation."
Meanwhile, some Anambra natives have reacted to the tragedies involving oil tankers by pleading with the Anambra State government to take action to stop the threat in order to prevent repeats of earlier tragedies.
It is past time for the government to take action regarding the movement of tankers and other articulated vehicles in the State, according to Mr. Chibuzor Nwabueze, a trader at Aroma Junction who witnessed the tanker disaster at the junction. We once experienced a catastrophe similar to this in Onitsha, which caused both personal and material loss. I recall that a lot of politicians went there and turned it into a place of pilgrimage where they went to seek votes.
"Anambra State's then-governor, Chief Willie Obiano, had passed a law prohibiting all of these large lorries from operating during the daytime." We are looking to him to take action now that we have a new governor, even though he was powerless to enforce the law.
Another respondent, Mrs. Regina Ebere, who sells bananas at Aroma Junction, also regretted that the menace of tanker brake failure was getting out of hand.
She said: “We are thinking that the reason for the building of this flyover was so that big lorries could use it and free the ground roads for vehicles moving within the city." Can you imagine what would have happened here if the driver of the tanker had decided to hit the kerb? If he had gone right, many people would have died.
We have a motor park here, we have market people like myself here, and we also have steady traffic here. It's not even by chance that no one was hurt. The government should not wait until what happened in Upper Iweka happens again. They can enforce the Obiano law, which bans lorries from moving during the day, or they can make a new law that can stop the occurrence of this disaster. "