Nigeria remembers victims of bomb blast

From Segun Adeyemi, PANA Correspondent
Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - On the first anniversary of the 27 January 2002 bomb blast that claimed more than a thousand lives in Nigeria's commercial city of Lagos, the local media, NGOs, government officials and citizens Monday remembered the tragedy.

On the eve of the anniversary, the Lagos State government organised a memorial service for the victims at the Chapel of Christ The Light in Alausa.

The abandoned burial site of most of the victims at the Oke-Afa canal was also given a facelift, with a new national flag replacing the torn one. A monument erected there was also given a new coat of paint.

However, no memorial activities were organised at the Ikeja military cantonment where the armoury exploded, dispersing bombs and other explosives into the nearby neighbourhood with maximum damage.

The media Monday played up the plight of the survivors, the non-release of the report of an inquiry into the disaster and the failure of those concerned to properly explain the disbursement of an estimated 800 million Naira collected in relief contributions.

At least four newspapers -- Comet, Vanguard, Thisday and The Guardian -- wrote editorials on the anniversary, in addition to featuring various stories and gory pictures on the disaster.

Hundreds of victims who are still quartered in temporary shelters at the police college close to the blast site are being threatened with eviction, while most of them are still seeking assistance from the authorities despite the flood of monetary and material donations from the government and the public.

"The present state of the victims is an indication of the dislocation of our culture and values," the private Comet newspaper wrote in its editorial.

"This is evident in the harvest of disappointment, empty promises, distrust and outright ineptitude in the face of chaos that followed the blast," it said.

Most of those who lost their lives drowned in a canal some 10 km away, as they tried to escape from the massive explosions at the munitions depot.

The Vanguard, another private daily, dwelt on the need to draw necessary lessons from the tragedy.

"Just as we remember the sad event of 27 January 2002 ... it is significant for the nation to reflect on whether adequate remedy has been put in place to prevent a recurrence of that sordid event," it stressed.

"Till now, there has been no report on whether the military institution was culpable or not," the Vanguard said, in reference to the non-release of the report of a military panel set up to investigate the disaster.

Still on the lessons from the tragedy, an NGO, African Disaster Foundation, has urged the National Assembly to amend the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Act of 1999 by making provision for the establishment of local emergency management committees by the 774 local governments in the country.

NEMA's response to the crisis has been slammed as inadequate in some quarters.

Significantly, the military has not spoken out on whether the cantonment is now cleared of all unexploded ordnance, or whether the remaining ammunition in the depot have been relocated as widely suggested in the wake of the blast.

US Army explosive ordnance experts, working in collaboration with the contractor RONCO Consulting Corporation, helped to clear most of the unexploded ordnance from the blast site last year.

While citizens continue to seek answers to the many questions surrounding the incident, the Lagos State government, which was hailed for its prompt response to the tragedy, continues with its remembrance programme.

Commissioner for Special Duties Teju Phillips said an ecumenical service would be held at the Oke-Afa canal Monday, followed by the laying of wreaths by governor Bola Tinubu.

Phillips also indicated there would be a candlelight vigil at the site where bodies of men, women and children were fished out from the murky waters of the canal a year ago.

Rounding off the memoriam will be a seminar with the theme "Avoidable disasters: how prepared are we?" It is slated for Tuesday at the state secretariat in Alausa.


Pan African News Agency
Copyright - All PANA content and graphics is protected by copyright and international treaties and may not be copied, reproduced or re-used for any purpose without written permission.