FG, Oyo govt begin Ibadan blast probe

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The investigation into last week’s blast in Ibadan has taken a higher dimension with the involvement of National Security Adviser (NSA) Nuhu Ribadu.

The ongoing investigation and forensic analysis are spearheaded by the Oyo State government.

Ribadu, it was learned, will visit the blast site in Bodija today for an on-the-spot assessment and to take a direct briefing from the state government and its investigators. This will enable Ribadu to decide on how the Office of the NSA will collaborate with them.

Also expected in Ibadan today is Minister of Solid Minerals Development Dele Alake.

At the weekend, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Olukayode Ariwoola visited the scene and expressed absolute shock at what he saw. Justice Ariwoola hails from Oyo State.

Alake, in a statement from his office, stated that the Federal Government would make a categorical statement on the blast after the result of the forensic investigation is released.

The statement reads: “The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Solid Minerals, is waiting for the outcome of the forensic investigation ordered to ascertain the actual cause of the tragic explosion that rocked Ibadan, Oyo State capital, last week.

“President Bola Tinubu, it would be recalled, placed a telephone call to the Oyo State Governor immediately after the tragic incident, in the presence of the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake to commiserate with Governor Seyi Makinde, the victims, and the good people of Oyo State.

“Thereafter, the minister sent condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and other victims. The minister also commended the Oyo State Government for mobilising relief response.

“The ministry also deployed Mine Inspectorate officers to the scene of the explosion to join other security agencies to unravel the cause of the explosion.

“The Federal Government is now waiting for the outcome of forensic investigations that will determine the real cause of the blast, the explosive type that triggered it and the circumstances leading to the unfortunate incident that led to the loss of lives and properties.

“Alongside the press statement personally signed by Alake to convey his deepest sympathies to the people of Oyo State, he has also been at the forefront of working with the security agencies to unearth the cause and put mechanisms in place to avert a recurrence.

“Last Wednesday, during the Federal Executive Council meeting, President Tinubu took a step to holistically address insecurity around our nation’s natural resources by constituting an inter-ministerial committee led by  Alake to come up with a blueprint to effectively and efficiently secure solid minerals, forests, and the marine economy, which constitute Nigeria’s natural resources.

“The minister assures Nigerians that the Federal Government is committed to addressing challenges from the root, hence its resolve to await the outcome of painstaking forensic investigations on the Ibadan explosion before making a definite pronouncement.

“The minister believes that in sensitive situations like this, the security agencies should be allowed to do their job, as opposed to acting on speculations.

“That way, the people are better informed, culprits can be brought to book, and concerted efforts can be put in place to avoid a recurrence.”

At the weekend, 90 percent of the 77 injured victims were discharged from the hospitals.

Five people were confirmed dead, while 58 houses were damaged, some of them completely flattened.

As of last night, no arrest had been made. Search and rescue efforts began on day six.

Governor Makinde, who gave an update on the incident via his official Facebook page, revealed that 90 percent of the injured victims had been discharged.

He also revealed that an integrity test was being conducted on about 230 buildings around the scene of the explosion.

The governor, who said that the death toll remained at five, added that security agencies were still investigating the immediate and remote cause of the explosion.

He commended the residents of the state for complying with the directives on the search operation and the security agencies for maintaining law and order.

Reiterating his administration’s commitment to supporting all victims of the blast, he vowed that everyone responsible would be punished.

Makinde thanked his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for releasing the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) to support the search-and-rescue efforts.

He expressed the same courtesy to the Nigerian Society of Engineers, which is conducting structural integrity tests on the structures.

He said, “I commend our security agencies in Oyo State who have been maintaining law and order in around Bodija this week, as well as residents who have been complying with directives from these officers.

“The clinical psychologist has commenced counselling for victims of the incident at the Emergency Operations Centre in Ibadan. The operations at Ground Zero have moved from search and rescue to recovery.

“I thank the Nigerian Society of Engineers, which has been carrying out structural integrity tests on about 230 properties around the site of the explosion.

“The security agencies are still investigating the incident, and an update on their investigation will be publicised.

“Our administration remains committed to supporting all victims of this unfortunate incident and ensuring that everyone responsible is brought to book.”

He advised people with issues relating to the explosion to call the state’s Emergency Operations Center at 07049948057 or 08147672009.

The leadership of the Bodija Estate Residents Association has resolved to open a register for members to list their losses to the blast.

Chairman of the association and former Deputy Governor of the state, Iyiola Oladokun, told our correspondent that the register would help the government determine how to support the victims.

He said: “The government has set up a committee in conjunction with NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency), asking people to come and register. But we are going to open a register on our own to compile the list of victims and what happened to them.

“The government can use that to cross-check whatever they get and determine whatever they want to do. We await what they will do.”

Oladokun also spoke of the circulation of a picture of a man alleged to be one of the suspected illegal miners that caused the blasts.

Dismissing the picture as false, he said a man who lived in the house where the blast occurred was a committed member of the association.

The chairman gave his name as Camara but was unsure of his nationality.

Oladokun added that he gathered from his immediate predecessor that Camara claimed he worked with a United Nations (UN) agency.

Asked if there was no suspicion around Camara, the former deputy governor replied, “Nobody will leave or see a snake in his roof and go inside to sleep. If we had noticed anything suspicious, we would have raised the alarm. What are associations for?

“People are showing the picture of a supposed resident of our estate around as the occupant of the building; we don’t know that person in the picture here.

“The one we know participates actively in our association meetings and the payment of security dues. He goes by the name Mr. Camara. And there isn’t any way for us to suspect him or raise anything against him. We knew Camara and he is very popular around here.

“He is either a Malian or a Senegalese, I can’t say expressly. When he came to the estate, the then chairman said he told him he was representing a UN agency and that he might not always be around, that he was coordinating that agency in West Africa, and that he would be moving around so much. Probably he used that as cover whenever he went to the site, but that was the story I was told.”

A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), has called for devolution of powers to state and local governments, especially in the area of solid mineral management and exploration.

Akintola made the call after conducting reporters around House 40, one of the properties badly affected by the explosions.

He said, “My primary concern is about the future of this country. I don’t see any wisdom in someone sitting in Abuja to issue visas to foreigners to enter this country, issue licences to such foreigners, and give them expatriate quotas to come around and exploit our natural resources without the knowledge of the state governors, the local government, or the council chairmen. To me, it is madness.

“Look at the magnitude of the disaster here. Somebody will sit down in Abuja to issue all those licences and approvals without the knowledge of those on the ground.”