Nigeria: Munitions depot explosion in Lagos appeal No. 3/02 Final report


Launched on: 31 January 2002 for 3 weeks for CHF 748,133; Programme extended for a total period of three months and budget revised to CHF 1,523,000 (USD 900,377 or EUR 1, 031,674).
DREF Allocated: CHF 150, 000
Beneficiaries: 12,000
"At a glance"

Appeal coverage: 114.3%
Related Appeals: Annual Appeal No. 01.03.2002 - Nigeria 2002 Annual Appeal
Summary/Update: On Sunday 27 January afire at the central munition depot in the Ikeja Military Cantonment resulted in a series of explosions sending artillery and mortar shells flying over various parts of Lagos, the nation's commercial capital. The resulting explosions were heard throughout Lagos during the night and well into the next day.

Most deaths and injuries resulted from the ensuing confusion rather than from the actual explosion. People fled in panic and in the general mayhem many were trampled while still others were hit by moving vehicles. Over 600 people, mostly children, drowned in the nearby Oke-Afa Canal as they fled in panic from the source of the explosions. More injuries and casualties subsequently resulted from unexploded ordinance scattered all over the immediate area. The final death toll was reported at over 1,000 and thousands more were injured. Over 12,000 people were displaced and over 2,000 were missing but subsequently traced and reunited with their families.

The NRCS response was timely and effective, with wide media coverage and acknowledgement by Government authorities. The attached final financial report reflects that over CHF 779,419 in cash was contributed locally directly to the NRCS in response to the appeal. The remaining balance of CHF 5,008 will be allocated and used for DP programmes implemented under the 2002 Annual Appeal.

Introduction - the context

The NRCS relief operation to assist displaced persons was completed at the end of April 2002. The main objective of providing emergency relief for over 5,600 displaced families was met. A total of 26,000 cooked meals were provided during the immediate emergency phase of the operation, and thereafter family food ration and non food rehabilitation packs were provided to over 5,000 families who returned to their villages.

A conflict which broke out in the densely populated Mushin area of Lagos caused operational constraints. This ethnic conflict resulted in over 5,000 more displaced persons, most of whom were subsequently had to be included into the existing operation. An outbreak of fire in the NRCS warehouse, in Lagos destroyed over CHF 600,000 worth of preparedness stock of the Society. This effectively reduced the capacity of the Society in responding to emergencies. However, the National Society has been able to achieve restocking from this operation.

A useful off shot of the relief operation is that it has helped to strengthen the NRCS partnership with both Local and Central Government as well as International Organisations. This should, hopefully, result in the provision of a sustainable funding to support the programmes and services of the NRCS.

Operational Developments

Relief distribution

Objective 1: Food distribution - to provide and distribute 2,500 wet food rations per day to the registered displaced or evacuated people temporarily sheltered in the two constructed camps at Ikeja and Yaba.

To address the immediate and urgent need for cooked food for the displaced, the NRCS provided one main meal per day for the first eight days of the operation. A total of 26,000 cooked meals were provided to approximately 3,250 beneficiaries per day at Police College, Ikeja. The meals were interchanged each day to ensure a balanced diet. The following dry food family rations, slightly amended from the originally planned rations, were distributed for a total of 5,620 registered families in two stages. The originally planned distribution for Abalti Barracks, Yaba did not take place as the military authorities assumed responsibility for the area.

Rice 50kg bag
Beans 80 kg bag
Oil 2 Lt bottle
Sugar 50kg bag
Tinned sardines in tins
Corned Beef in tins
Slaughtered cows
Salt 25 kg bags

Objective 2: Family Pack Distribution - to Provide rehabilitation assistance packs to 2,500 families. Family pack distribution began after the immediate emergency phase. The substantial quantities of in-kind donations, though required and well received by the beneficiaries, however made it impractical to conform strictly to the originally planned fixed family packs. Based on the registered beneficiary list of 5,620 families, the following non food items, in addition to some donated soap powder and school materials, were distributed:

Material Drapes
Cooking Pots
Paraffin Stoves
Plastic Plates and Spoons
Sleeping Mats
Soap Tablets

Objective 3: Shelter Distribution - to provide shelter for the displaced.

The US Embassy donated 22 tents and a large quantity of field kitchen and laundry equipment, water tanks and containers. As most of the displaced were able to find alternative shelters with relatives and friends, it was not necessary for the NRCS to get involved in shelter provision except for the installation of 20 donated water tanks at 12 locations where the displaced experienced water shortages. The donated equipment will, hopefully, provide the NRCS with the capacity to set up and operate functional camps for displaced people in the future.


Objective 1: Beneficiary Registration - to register all those who have been displaced / evacuated. Beneficiary registration was complicated with the arrival of the Yoruba/Hausa ethnic conflict victims in the same centre for the munition explosion victims, and it became impossible to distinguish between the two sets of affected groups. The NRCS registered all affected people from outside the cantonment but this also proved to be a very slow and difficult exercise as most of those affected were widely dispersed in temporary accommodation with friends and family. The final tally of registered victims at 5,620 families was much higher than originally anticipated.

A separate registration and data collection exercise for those outside the cantonment area whose houses were damaged was also jointly undertaken by the NRCS and the Lagos State Government. This registration system was used for rehabilitation and advocacy by the Lagos State Government for the payment of compensation. This also provided the basis for the NRCS to carry out low cost repairs to damaged houses in partnership with the Lagos State Government. Two hundred and fifty such houses were registered and verified in this exercise.

Objective 2: Tracing and reunification - to trace and reunite individuals separated from their families.

The NRCS continued tracing and family reunification activities until it became clear that those reported missing were unlikely to be found. The tracing operation continued until 8 March and the total number of confirmed reunified families was 1,885. Only 5 cases were unresolved.

Objective 3: Unexploded Ordinance Warning (UXO) Campaign.

The NRCS did an awareness campaign intended for vulnerable people living in and around areas suspected of containing UXOs. It involved the broadcasting of regular radio jingles at prime time on popular local radio stations, the circulation of 50,000 information posters to remind people of the dangers of UXOs and some dissemination work by volunteers. This initiative was earmarked and funded by USAID and was consistent with the warning dissemination undertaken by the US bomb disposal military team deployed in the country.

National Society Capacity Building

The unprecedented public donations and support for the NRCS exceeded all expectations. Closer co-operation with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Lagos State Government and the Ministries of Defence and Health have been established with every likelihood that the planned government subvention to the NRCS will now materialise. The NRCS received huge accolades in the media for the efficiency and quality of its response. The positive and extensive media coverage had done more to promote the profile and popularity of the NRCS as an essential element of civil society than any other campaign or publicity organised in the past. The rate of volunteer recruitment has increased with over 300 new volunteers recruited for the emergency operation during the period.

With an improved funding position, the NRCS's ability to respond more quickly and efficiently to future disasters has been enhanced with the recent restocking of the new RC warehouse. Over CHF 150,000 worth of relief materials are now available for future operations. Invaluable knowledge and experience has also been acquired and lessons learnt from mistakes made in this huge and complex operation to enable the NRCS to better serve the vulnerable people in the future. In this respect, the National Society financed by the Federation's CBF programme is drafting a National Contingency Plan to help it respond to disasters.


The NRCS played a vital role in co-ordinating the relief operation meetings among the federal, state and army authorities. The NRCS assisted and encouraged the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) to take up its responsibility for the overall co-ordination of relief operations. The Federation took a lead supporting role in the co-ordination of relief assistance to the NRCS as well as providing it with technical, monitoring and reporting support for the successful management and completion of the operation.


During the operation, the National Society carried out several review meetings with the Lagos State Government, representatives of the Federal Government, NEMA, the International Federation and other donors. The review meetings helped to share information and co-ordinate activities towards meeting the objectives of the operation and to finally phase it out.

Regular co-ordination meetings, hosted by the Federation, continued throughout the operation with international partners including UNICEF, WHO, European Union (ECHO), SCF and World Vision International. The Federation also became an essential source of information and briefings for visiting fact finding Teams from the UN, OCHA, DFID, USAID and other similar organisations. ICRC was particularly helpful in directing and establishing contacts with embassies and similar organisations. They also provided some technical assistance and helped with transportation.

The Italian Governments' Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) contribution, together with donations from various donors, was used to finance both the emergency phase and the second phase of the operation which provided cooked meals, food and non food family packages for the victims of the explosion. With the Italian contribution, food supplies, cooking and feeding utensils were bought locally and distributed to beneficiaries (please refer to the financial report for details).

The Federation's Nigeria Delegation was actively involved in the overall planning, monitoring and reporting of the operation. The Delegation helped the National Society in setting up a warehousing and stock control system for all relief donations received and distributed. It also assisted in setting up beneficiary recording, food and non-food distribution reporting system. During the rehabilitation phase of the program, it further helped in assessing damaged houses and in reporting.

Following are some key aspects of the operation and major lessons learnt:

Many people lost their lives and were injured in the first hours of the explosion on 27 January 2002 not because of the actual explosion, but due to the confusion following the explosion. It was agreed that very poor public awareness of disasters and a major lack of knowledge on how to respond to emergencies increased causalities.

A crucial, quick and generous public response within the country. Media attention was extremely helpful. The Civil Society was as much involved as the government. In actual fact, the Civil Society, including the Red Cross, provided proactive and visible humanitarian assistance. The extremely good public response to the Red Cross appeal raised the profile of NRCS.

The immediate action of the NRCS leadership and the preparedness of its volunteers helped to provide immediate assistance, although shortcomings were observed in the areas of management of volunteers and targeting of genuine beneficiaries, especially in the emergency phase of the operation.

For the NRCS, DP is a key factor that should be given a particular attention. Its Preparedness Contingency Plan has yet to be completed, and needs to be harmonised with NEMA. Co-ordination between the NRCS, local government, the media and major partners such as the International Federation and the ICRC is crucial and should be promoted in information dissemination on disasters, sharing of DP plans, and the exchange of experiences for future operations. UNICEF recently undertook an initiative in organising an Emergency Preparedness and Response Group, in which all three bodies of the Movement took part.

For further details please contact: Anne Kirsti Vandal, Phone: 4l 22 730 4485; Fax: 4l 22 733 03 95; email:

All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.

For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at

John Horekens
Division of External Relations

Bekele Geleta
Africa Department

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