The explosions started at about 17:30 HRS (16:30 GMT). They continued for more than two hours, blowing doors and windows out of buildings in the northern suburb of Ikeja, where the barracks is located, killing an unknown number of people.
Huge fireballs illuminated the evening sky, followed by plumes of billowing smoke. Panic-stricken Ikeja residents fled their homes, taking whatever they could carry. In the rest of the city, where the explosions were clearly audible, worried residents speculated that a military uprising might be underway.
"It's an accident at the ammunitions storage depot of Ikeja Cantonment," Brigadier-General George Ndem, in charge of the facility, announced on state television two hours later. "The immediate impact is confined within the cantonment, it should not be an excuse for any miscreants to take advantage of the situation."
The depot was old and had been marked for refurbishment, he said, adding that the intensity of the explosions was due to the "high calibre bombs in there".
Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu said in a broadcast that the barracks had been evacuated and that sporadic explosions were likely to continue for a while. He urged the city's 12 million residents to remain calm and stay at home.
"All speculations about military changes are not correct," Tinubu said. "Our president is safe and sound and all democratically elected (state and federal) governments are in place," he said. "We are all safe and you are safe too. It's an accident and not a military invasion."
Nigeria has had eight military coups since independence from Britain in 1960, experienced civil war in 1967-1970, and has been ruled by soldiers for all but 12 years since becoming a sovereign state. Fears of military intervention are, therefore, never far away from the national consciousness.
The 1999 election of President Olusegun Obasanjo, himself a former military ruler, ended more than 15 years of unbroken military rule.
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