It was a terrible blast in Akure last week in which several buildings and property including a school was damaged. BARNABAS OLABISI reports on how it happened.
Akure, the Ondo state capital and its environs woke up to experience a strange blast that originated from Ilu-Abo area along Ogbese Eleyewo in the capital city.
The explosion occurred around 1:13am in the early hours of Saturday March 28, 2020 when most of the residents were sleeping only to be woken all by an unsually strange, but terrific sound of blast that shook all houses, structures and objects in the city.
An 85-year-old great grand mother, Madam Aduke Omotosho, who lives at Olufoam area in Akure less than six kilometres from the scene of the blast, described it as terrific, strange, and unsual in the environment, a development that had never occurred there since she had been living in Akure.
School principal narrates account
While recounting the ordeal that has now rendered over 200 students of AinaAwaw International School located along the Eleyowo, Akure / Owo highway homeless, principal of the school, Mr Roland Jayeola, said he had the information of the strange and terrific incident from the chief security officer (CSO) of the school, one Francis Bassey at around 1:20am when his telephone rang, telling him that the school (AinaAwaw) was completely brought down.According to Jayeola, “I could not easily comprehend what the CSO, Francis Bassey, was saying, so I had to called him back only for him to repeat that our school was completely damaged.
“On getting to the area around 5:30am on Saturday, I saw the main road separated by the blast. Also, from the school gate where the damage started, I could not believe my eyes as I saw that all the blocks of buildings in the school were damaged. The three vehicles parked in the school were also damaged; our 500KV transformer was damaged and many other valuables in the school. My brother, I could not hold back my tears,” the principal said. According to the principal, there and then, he took a brief from the security officers present in the school.
“The CSO, Francis Bassey said he saw a truck that pulled aside a few metres to the school around 12.54 am or there-about after coming from Shasha area of the town and heading towards Owo axis. He also said that he saw some men in uniform around who opened the burnet of the truck, probably to fix something but could not until a few minutes later, he saw that fire was coming out of the truck engine. It was at that point he heard a warning, saying, “Don’t come near; run for your life”. Thereafter, he saw the three men in uniform (though could not certain which of the security outfit they belong to) running towards Owo road only to heard a loud bang of explosion.”
The principal said the CSO went to the school field where the blast flung him, leaving him with sustained injuries. Up till now, he said the CSO is suffering from hearing defects, while others who sustained injuries were taken to a hospital for proper medical attention.
Staff members recount experience
Staff members like Mrs Taiwo Olusola, vice principal, Adegboyega Nike, accountant and Ogundiminiyi were visibly seen in uncontrollable tears over the huge loss in the school and other staff.
Olusola informed Blueprint that she was in Ekiti state that very day when she got the strange call from the CSO around 1:30am that the school has been completely destroyed. While getting to the school early on Saturday, she said that she met the whole compound in total shambles.
Parts of the destroyed items mentioned by the vice principal include 10 electronic computer boards that cost a million naira each, Mikano generating set, all sets of computers in the ICT laboratory, furniture, 10 blocks of buildings, the administrative block including students hostels where some property of the students also got destroyed.
Adegboyega, the school accountant put a comprehensive value of item destroyed in the school at the cost of #2 billion, saying the only good thing about the blast is that no life was lost.
“We were all in the school penultimate Thursday before the incident and when government declared COVID-19 holidays, the school complied, assuming the school is defiant to the instruction and students were kept in the school, what shall we be saying? Thank Almighty God no life was lost.”
However, with the huge loss at this institution that was established on September 26, 2016 and had over 200 students from JSS to SSS classes, as the students would be resuming after the Covid-19 holiday, what would be their fate?
Also, the explosion had a toll on surrounding communities just as the highway was badly damaged. The Possibility Church of All Nations nearly had all the buildings affected with several other individuals becokoning on the government and all relevant stakeholders for help and assistance.
The explosion, according to investigation, occurred from a truck carrying explosive dynamites from Nigerchem Nigeria limited, Ibadan to be delivered at Rocks King quarry, Igara in Edo state, but developed fault and caught fire resulting in the huge destruction.
IGP sets up investigative panel
The Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, has set up a fact-finding committee to unravel the cause of the explosion.
The Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operation), Abdulmajid Ali, disclosed this while briefing Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on what the police has done so far.
The DIG, who visited the governor shortly after visiting the site of the incident along Akure-Owo express road, said members of the committee include police officers from the Police Bomb Disposal Squad (Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit.
He was accompanied by the director-general, Geological Survey Agency, Dr Kaka Imam.
The DIG said he had visited the scene of the unfortunate incident with his team, saying that officials of the agency had also taken sample of the soil and assured that the committee would come out with acceptable report.
The DIG, who commended the state governor for his display of maturity when he visited the scene, said the police are not sleeping on the issue and that they are working to unravel the mystery behind the blast.
Akeredolu, while commending the police for the steps taken so far, particularly lauded the state commissioner of police, Undie Adie, for being on his toes since the tragic incident, saying he has demonstrated the capacity of his office.
He noted that while he was not against other views, particularly that of a university Don from OAU, who claimed that the incident was caused by an asteriod, he is still relying on the initial information he got from the commissioner of police.
“I am not saying the professor was right or wrong and I am not making any conclusion. I have been speaking with some experts and they said if we are unable to find debris of the shattered truck within one kilometre radius from the spot of the incident, that shows the incident was not caused by explosive devices.
“Already, the debris of the truck that was carrying this explosive devices that created a very large crater on the express road have been seen. This is not new; there are similar incidents with pictorial evidences.
“I am also relying on eyewitnesses’ accounts, particularly, the driver, who drove the vehicle and who is currently recuperating at the university teaching hospital, Akure.
“I am very sure that if it was asteroid, the NASRDA would have picked this when coming to earth. This is not what we can hide. I am already in touch with the minister of science and technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu.
The governor, however, called for calm, urging the people to wait for the results of tests being carried out at the site of the blast.