Following the devastating January 17, 2024, explosion at Dejo Oyelese Street in the Bodija area of Ibadan in Oyo State, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) visited the site on January 22, 2024, amid ongoing assessments by the government.
Our visit sought to examine the impacts of the incident on victims and locals and to assess environmental concerns raised by residents such as air and groundwater pollution.
“In light of the usual reactive attitude to avoidable disasters by the federal and state government, CAPPA will always look beyond the optics and accord premium to eyewitness claims against political narratives in our attempt to uncover the truth. The government must go beyond reactive responses to being proactive,” said Ogunlade Olamide, CAPPA’s Program Manager who led the CAPPA team.
During the visit, the CAPPA team, including Robert Egbe, Media and Communication Officer, Lekan Fagbenro, Digital Media Officer and Photographer, and Abiodun Yusuf, Videographer, observed a grave-like scene in the affected estate and a heavy presence of security personnel regulating access to ground zero.
Portions of the estate, particularly areas within the blast radius, were covered with relics of roofing sheets and shattered windows. The explosion destroyed several buildings, with some showing massive cracks and others destroyed. The blast also impacted the slightly sloped terrain of the area, causing visible, forced elevations of the ground in some places, and a forceful tilt of trees and electricity poles hit by its impact. Residents of the area also suffered a great loss of property, with many cars damaged.
Witness Accounts Reveal Chaos and Trauma
Dr. Adekunle, a medical doctor and affected resident, said days after the incident, his family members were still in shock and suffering trauma. He wondered what recovery would look like, adding that he was awaiting the government’s intervention. “I do hope that government measures will also include psychological examination and post-trauma remediation,” he concluded.
Similarly, Basirat, a middle-aged woman, said she had been working in the estate for months and never imagined a day would come when she would be forced to leave. “It was a run for safety, a run for life, and survival of the fittest. You just must run at the height of that sound, even if you don’t know where you are running to,” she added.
Jamiu, a middle-aged security guard in one of the hotels damaged by the blast, said: “If the revelations unfolding of someone housing explosives are confirmed to be true, the government must take decisive action against the culprit to avoid a repeat.”
“The sound was at first like a transformer blowout, later accompanied by loud, thunder-like sounds and then massive vibration in magnitude that can only imagined,” said Isaac John, another security personnel guarding a building a few metres from ground zero. He added that following a fire outbreak at the building housing the explosives, he and others tried to alert the electricity company supplying the area to shut down the supply to the estate, but the company failed to do so until the blast occurred.
Meanwhile, during CAPPA’s visit, experts from the Oyo State Minerals Development Agency and a team of experts including geoscientists, geologists, and groundwater specialists from the University of Ibadan were seen assessing the situation.
When asked about the safety and integrity of the affected area, Dr. Olawale Osinowo from UI’s Department of Geology, said his team was carrying out a seismic analysis expected to provide insight and clarity about the state of the sub-surface. This, he added, would help the authorities determine whether the area was safe for continued habitation or if evacuation was necessary. He cautioned against premature conclusions regarding the findings of the state’s assessment.
Following witnesses and resident’s claims of the alleged storage of explosives in the area, which led to the disaster, CAPPA observes in its documentation that the warehousing of explosives in this context contravenes the law. Section 42 of the Terrorism Act, 2022, prohibits the storage of explosives under any guise or for any reason of use without authorisation or end-user certification from the National Security Adviser or relevant government agencies.
To this end, CAPPA questions the extent of interaction between the Oyo State government and miners operating in the state, particularly in the use and storage of explosives. Also, of concern is the apparent lack of consistent checks and monitoring of the activities of miners operating in the state such as the instigator of the incident, who is a miner, according to the Oyo State House of Assembly.
As residents await the outcome of the report of investigations by the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) and the Mining and Geosciences Society, CAPPA continues to call for state authorities to enforce measures against illegal extractive activities and prioritize public safety over profit. CAPPA continues to advocate for proactive government actions to ensure citizen safety and health in the face of such dangers. We also urge the government to provide compensation and all necessary psycho-social support services for victims and residents affected by the explosion.