A non-governmental organization, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has urged the federal and state governments to tighten and fully implement regulations governing access to and handling of explosives in the mining sector, following the devastating January 16 explosion at Bodija, Oyo State.
The Organization also urged the government to not only expose and prosecute those found culpable for the incident but to also make public and execute advice from the report of investigations by the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) and the Mining and Geosciences Society, reportedly scheduled to be submitted to the Oyo State Government on Tuesday, January 30, 2024.
CAPPA gave its assessment of the incident in a statement on January 30, 2024, following its visit to the blast site and interaction with survivors, relevant government agencies and other private experts.
The transparency watchdog identified intelligence failure, poor oversight of critical regulatory institutions, porous security measures, government negligence and breakdown in the social fabric, as some of the underlying causes of the blast.
It noted that according to preliminary findings by the state government, the blast was triggered by a fire outbreak at premises unlawfully housing explosives, resulting in the death of no fewer than five persons and injuries to 77 others, while about nine others are unaccounted for.
The impact was visible on property within about 250 metres radius of ground zero on Dejo Oyelese Street, Bodija.
According to CAPPA, the incident raises questions about government’s preparedness to fufill its sacred mandate of protecting the lives and properties of citizens, adding that the government must not only learn the hard lesson from the blast, but also implement measures to prevent a repeat.
CAPPA strongly urged the Oyo State government to ensure adequate compensation and social support, devoid of discrimination, to families and individuals affected by the incident, many of whom are now displaced, with some still in the hospital battling for their lives.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA’s Executive Director, who condemned the blast, lamented that it was one more example of a completely avoidable tragedy, which also underscored the need for urgent proactive collaboration among federal and state governments, law enforcement and regulatory agencies, and the people.
“The decision of the culprits to warehouse explosives for whatever reason is a complete violation of Section 42 of the Terrorism Act, 2022 which criminalises the unauthorised keeping or detonation of an explosive device in a place of public use,” Oluwafemi said.’
He noted that the incident also “revealed the ineffectiveness of our legal framework and how easy it is to subvert its provisions for personal gains and interests while security agencies look the other away’’.
During its tour of the site, the CAPPA team led by Programme Manager Ogunlade Olamide expressed concern about the potential impact of the blast on the earth’s crust in the area as massive blows were noticeable on the earth along its fault lines around ground zero. Olamide said it was in the overall interest of residents of the area to steer clear of boreholes pending the completion of an investigation by geophysicists and geologists and analysis of their findings on the blast’s impact on the underground water and soil integrity.