Outrage as Ibadan Explosion Exposes Illegal Mining , Weak Regulations

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Guardian reports
As victims count their losses from Tuesday’s explosion that shattered the serenity of Ibadan metropolis, there has been renewed calls for the review of activities of illegal miners in the country to checkmate the menace, particularly preventing the recurrence of such explosion.

The incident, in a preliminary investigation by the Oyo State Government, revealed that the explosion may not be unconnected with the storage of explosives in a residential building by illegal miners.

The Guardian learnt that at least three lives were lost, with about 80 injured and scores of houses severely damaged. Unofficial sources said the casualties were more.

President Bola Tinubu had ordered the setting up of a committee to investigate the possible breach of explosive control laws in the country, and to bring perpetrators to book.

Urban Alert, a civic-tech, nongovernmental initiative, yesterday, noted that weak mining laws and the inadequacies that exist in Nigeria’s public institutions are responsible for the explosion that rocked Ibadan, the state capital of Oyo State on Tuesday.
The civic-tech nongovernmental organisation further noted that weak government agencies also open windows for illegalities and miners (licensed and illegal) that often exploit the system.

The NGO, in a statement signed by its Communications Associate, Titilade Alayande, said that the weak mining laws and the inadequacies that exist in Nigeria’s public institutions create a conducive environment for illegal mining and uncontrolled mining, leading to significant lapses in public safety.

Fielding questions from State House correspondents on the explosion after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Minister of Defence, Abubakar Badaru, said the council has ordered an immediate investigation to unravel the immediate cause of the incident.

Badaru noted that despite preliminary investigations suggesting that explosives stored by illegal miners may be the cause, there was also suspicion in some quarters that the explosion could have been triggered by gas.

“But for the Council to be proactive, it has already set up the committee to look into how the control of explosives law was broken, if indeed there are explosives around the area where this incident happened.”

Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Olanike Adeyemo (left); Senior Executive Assistant on Special Duties, Bayo Lawal: Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde and others, during the governor’s visit to the explosion scene in Ibadan…yesterday

Earlier, President Tinubu, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, directed all relevant authorities to ensure that those behind the incident are fished out.

He said: “It is worrisome that the cause of the blast is being attributed to the activities of illegal miners. Those behind the inexcusable and reckless behaviour that has created the conditions for the sad incident to occur must be fished out and punished.”

The President directed the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to work with the Oyo State government to offer immediate and comprehensive relief to the victims.

Also, the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr Oladele Alake, has vowed to tighten the noose around those acquiring explosives and storing them illegally.

In a statement, he said the ministry’s mine officers were already on site in Ibadan to join ongoing investigations to find out the immediate and remote cause of the explosion.

“We have ordered detailed investigation and our officers will work and collaborate with Oyo State government to know the actual cause. If the explosion was caused by mining explosives devices as earlier reported, the ministry will double its effort to tighten the noose around those acquiring explosives and storing them illegally.”

As at yesterday, there were still conflicting reports over the number of casualties. While some eyewitnesses and residents claimed that over 88 people died as a result of the blast and that human bodies were still being evacuated from under the rubbles, government officials said the casualties are not more than three.

Pictorial evidence showed that many buildings close to the scene of the blast were badly damaged structurally, while some collapsed due to the impact of the explosion.

There was also conflicting information about the cause of the blast. The government had attributed it to illegal miners, who stored explosives in unauthorised buildings but others claimed some elements of Boko Haram insurgency may have penetrated Oyo State.

Rescue workers at the scene of explosion

A resident of Ekiti Street, who did not want his name mentioned, lamented that members of Oyelese, Ekiti and Osun streets had written two separate petitions to the state government where they complained about the activities of illegal miners, who were stockpiling explosives in the particular building but nothing was done.

According to him, “human bodies were still being evacuated from under the rubbles on Wednesday. Painfully too, a shattered human parts were picked up in the morning yesterday.”

Affected was the residence of former deputy governor of Oyo State, Iyiola Oladokun, and building of the former Attorney General of the Federation, the late Bola Ige, which was located at Bodija, very close to the scene of the disaster.

In a heart-touching message, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Niyi Akintola, said his hotel structure known as ‘House 40’ on Dejo Oyelese Street, went down with the explosion.

“Residents of some of my colleagues, Wole Iyamu SAN and Iyiola Oladokun whose residences shared a fence with my House 40, were completely destroyed.

“Other members of the Bar whose properties were destroyed on the street include the late Bola Ige, the late Bandele Aiku (SAN), and a hospitality building belonging to the late governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN).

“My three other properties on Alabiamo Street, Adeyi Street and Adenuga Street were also slightly damaged with removed roof, removed POP ceilings, sliding doors, air-conditioners and several electrical appliances.”

Some affected residents of Old Bodija Estate linked the incident to the inordinate sales and transfer of properties to strangers without security checks.

The residents in an interview with The Guardian, alleged that the quest for money without security consideration among some landlords within the estate had led to sale of some houses to foreigners, who were mainly illegal miners.

One of the residents, Mrs Cecilia Adeleke, said that businesses, mini companies, hotels, bar and lounge, have littered the estate without coordination from estate management as against what was obtainable in the area before now.

Adeleke alleged that most new occupants of the transferred properties are foreigners, who came to the country to run illegal businesses.

Another resident, Mr Joshua Alabi, a civil servant, called on the Oyo State government to review the acquisition law and transfer of properties within the estate.

Pic. 5. Emergency and rescue workers carrying injured persons at the scene of explosion at Dejo Oyelese Street, Old Bódìjà in Ibadan on Tuesday night.0165/JAN/17/1/2023/Timothy Adeogodiran/HB/NAN

A survivor of the explosion attributed the explosion to foreigners, who engaged in illegal mining activities. He added that they ran out just before the blast.

The survivor, Mohammed Musa, lived next to the epicentre (ground zero) of the explosion. Mohammed said he was rushed to the hospital after the incident and discharged on Wednesday morning, adding that he escaped death by the whiskers because he offered to help his neighbour put out the fire that preceded the explosion.

Narrating the events that preceded the explosion, Mohammed said: “Around 7.00 p.m. last night (Tuesday), I was going to pray. As I was standing to start the prayer, I noticed some fire burning in the next house. So, I stopped the prayer and quickly picked my fire extinguisher.

“I told my boys that the neighbour’s house is on fire, let’s go and help. I then came downstairs. One guy saw me and said the fire was beyond what an extinguisher can put out. I then picked my phone to call the fire brigade men.

“However, the next thing I heard was that blast. It threw me off the ground and landed me on the stairs. Part of the house had cracked. My boys advised that I should jump. Fire started just a metre away from that house and as of the time we came downstairs, there was no one in the premises.”

Also, speaking on the occupants of the house, he said: “The house where the fire started is occupied by a Senegalese or Malian and they engage in mining activities.

“Definitely, they had explosives inside the building. The explosion was as a result of the explosives kept in the building. The foreigners have been living in here since 2013. They go in the morning and come back in the evening. I wouldn’t know if their immediate neighbour knows they are into mining. The foreigners ran out before the explosion.”

Asked if he knew his neighbours were illegal miners he said: “We have them all over. They are also at Orogun. That’s their trade and that’s what they came to Nigeria to do. And explosives are part of the things they use in blasting. Definitely, they had kept them in the house.”

Meanwhile, the Oyo State government has set up an Emergency Situation Room for the Incident, led by Prof. Temitope Alonge. The team is saddled with the responsibility to coordinate the ongoing response to the incident.

The Chief Medical Director of University College Hospital (UCH), Prof. Jesse Abiodun Otegbayo, has directed that UCH being the largest healthcare provider in Ibadan, to be on alert following the influx of patients, which necessitated a galvanised coordination of its personnel (Medical Doctors, Nurses, Laboratory Scientists, Student Doctors, Student Nurses, Clinical and Non-Clinical staff) to meet the emergencies.

Otegbayo also activated a trauma response team that will implement comprehensive measures to ensure that every patient receives prompt and compassionate care.

He noted that the hospital had a lot of its facilities damaged by the effects of the blast (Medical Museum, School of Nursing, Molecular Laboratory, Bulk Store, Ogunlesi Hall, Hospital Clinics, among others).

The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has called for the review of the activities of illegal miners in the country in order to checkmate the menace, particularly preventing the recurrence of the Ibadan explosion incident.

The mainstream Yoruba group emphasised that most insecurity issues confronting the country could be attributed to the unchecked activities of the illegal miners.

Afenifere, stated this in a statement issued by its National Organising Secretary, Kole Omololu, while commiserating with the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, and residents of Ibadan over the explosion.

“Mining activities should be organised under law, and the proceeds therefrom should enrich the country and Nigerians in general rather than end up in private pockets. Illegal mining activities have reportedly been responsible for much of the insecurity in some parts of the country.

“We must be careful to see to it that we do not allow such to be exported into our own space. We therefore call on our government to expose and bring all illegal miners to book.”

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