The past few days have been very bad for inhabitants of Onitsha in Anambra State, Nigeria. A twin oil tanker explosion hit the commercial city in the space of a week and has seen many lives and properties lost including a woman and her baby. This painful and sad occurrence is not the first of its kind in Nigeria, in fact, it’s very hard not to see an occurrence of an oil tanker explosion in a year and the recent explosion won’t be the last.
It is not a bad wish to say the Onitsha oil tanker explosion which led to the inferno that caused havoc in the Southeastern city will happen again neither. It is also not a saying from a prophet of doom.
Nigeria is one of the producers of oil in the world. In a bid to move the petroleum product called Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to various destinations in the country for the use of Nigerians, there has been an accident by the vehicle transporting this product thereby claiming the lives of many, burning vehicles and several building and properties till date. Crude oil is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy as much as it is being exported, it is also of daily use in the country. If the cases leading to this oil tanker explosion cannot be prevented then, it is bound to happen again.
Tanker Explosions in Nigeria
Oil tanker explosion is often a tragedy that results from different causes and brings with it many fatalities. There have been many cases of explosions in Nigeria that have not only killed many people but have resulted in ecological damage that takes many years to be resolved.
One of the worst ever oil tanker explosion was the Ibadan tanker truck explosion that killed between 100 and 200 people near Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria on the 5th of November 2000. Another is the Okobie road tanker explosion that occurred on the 12th of July 2012 in Okobie, Ahoada West, Rivers state which killed at least 121 people.
Social media was flooded with pictures and videos of an inferno caused by an oil tanker explosion in Ojudu/Otedola Bridge in Lagos, 2018 which also claimed many lives including school children and razed vehicles on the major road. This sad event has also occurred in several parts of the country in recent years including Benue, Odukpani in Cross River State, Akure and so on.
The latest tanker explosion occurred at the Upper Iweka area of Onitsha, Anambra State on the 16th of October 2019. In this incidence, a woman and her baby were burnt to death while more than 40 buildings were razed by fire. Over 500 lock-up shops were also gutted by the fire along with the Iweka street market leading to Ochanja and Menax markets in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra state.
Two days after, another explosion happened along the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway by Bessoy Filling Station, Onitsha. This led to many residents near the area to fled their houses for fear of being consumed by the inferno.
What are the causes of the tanker explosion?
The oil tanker explosion that has hit our nation has several causes. This includes poorly maintained vehicles with brake failures, bad roads, reckless driving, traffic jam, residents collecting spilled fuels after accidents and so on.
The tanker explosion that occurred in Ibadan in 2000 was caused by a large traffic jam covering all lanes of the road. This, as well as the poorly maintained vehicle, led to the explosion as it suffered a total brake failure which made it plow straight into the queue of cars ahead. The collision led the vehicle to release then flammable load onto the roadway burning several cars which has no way of escape in the traffic jam and many lives were also claimed.
The same can be said of the Ojudu/Otedola bridge explosion and the Upper Iweka area of Onitsha explosion which started when a tanker laden with Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol, descending from the Zik’s roundabout end of Onitsha-Enugu expressway, lost control at Toronto Hospital and veered off the service lane. The tanker’s head fell off and went up in flames after spilling its content within the area.
The worst scenario is when a tanker falls and residents try to scoop the fuel leading to a terrible situation. In the Okobie explosion, the tanker which attempted to avoid a collision with two cars and a bus veered into a ditch and spilled fuel. Hundreds of locals rushed to the scene to take some of the spilled oil which led to an explosion about 40 minutes after the accident leading to a death toll of 121 people.
Why will an oil tanker explosion happen again?
The result of an oil tanker explosion is not something we’ll like to experience again in our lifetime. The cases of people burning to death even when they are not in hell is a sad occurrence that we won’t wish our enemy but the truth be told, it is bound to happen especially with the state of our nation.
The aftermath of the Okobie tanker explosion of 2012 had the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan saying he was ‘’ deeply saddened by the loss of many lives’’ and ‘’particularly distraught by the fact that, once again, so many lives have been lost in an avoidable fuel fire disaster’’. The Nigerian President was actually referring to two previous incidents then; one in March 2012 killing six people and one in April 2011 killing 50. As stated by Goodluck Jonathan, an oil tanker explosion is avoidable but has it stopped happening? This is a big NO.
The poor state of Nigerian roads through which the fuel is transported, as long as it is still in shambles all over the country, would still lead to accidents of vehicles carrying oil. Many federal and state roads are in a terrible condition with potholes which can make vehicles to veer off the road. In fact, most Nigerian roads are dead trap making vehicles transporting oil a ticking-time-bomb.
Secondly, as long as poorly maintained vehicles will still ply our roads to transport fuel, there’s a likelihood of another devastating occurrence. This coupled with reckless driving by our drivers who are behind the steel would still make these things happen.
There is also the case of Nigerians who love free things including leaking crude oil (petrol, diesel, kerosene). They contribute to these ugly scenes
Lastly, the fact that our fire emergencies, first aids, and co are always found wanting in these accidents, our prayers without work is just a child’s play. All these factors will make the Onitsha fire happen again maybe in another Nigerian territory.
On a sad note, I join other Nigerians in condolences to those affected in the recent oil tanker explosion in Onitsha as well as the families of the mother & baby and several lives lost in the inferno. May God give you the fortitude to bear their loss while they rest in peace.