By Ibrahim Oyewale
President Muhammadu Buhari and Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, have expressed shock and sorrow over an accident involving a petrol tanker, which killed no fewer than 23 persons, including five students of Kogi State Polytechnic and three children in Felele along Lokoja-Abuja highway.
The president said the accident “represents another disturbing and saddening incident in the litany of tragedies that have befallen our country.”
He said he was worried by the degree of the explosion which claimed the lives of travellers, school children and bystanders, including some students of Kogi State Polytechnic.
“I am seriously worried about the frequency of these unfortunate and large scale tragedies in the country which cause needless deaths,” Buhari, according to a statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said.
He was further quoted as saying: “These frequent incidents that result in loss of lives and property are a national scandal caused by our indifference to safety standards.”
He added: “Many accidents are preventable if proper proactive and precautionary measures are put in place or properly observed as routine policies.”
The statement said Buhari regretted that “ours is a country where we move on whenever tragedies occur instead of taking preventive safety measures to forestall future calamities.”
He tasked the county’s transport authorities, traffic and road management agencies as well as law enforcement officials to sit up and enforce safety standards with more seriousness.
“Refusal to do the right thing can cause potential tragic problems that harm innocent people,” the president said, adding: “Nigeria is not having a shortage of laws and regulations, but our problem is lack of zeal to enforce those laws and regulations for the sake of public safety.”
Buhari condoled with Kogi State government and the families of the victims of the tragedy.
The tanker, loaded with petrol belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was said to have had brakes failure around 8 a.m.
The tanker fell on five cars, two motorcycles, and three tricycles popularly known as Keke, killing all occupants.
Among those killed and burnt beyond recognition were five students of the state-owned polytechnic, three nursery school pupils, and passersby.
Also killed were a businessman, his wife, and three children.
THISDAY gathered that the brakes of the tanker failed during an attempt to manoeuvre and in the process, fell on its side, trapping five vehicles trying to overtake it.
The sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Idris Ali, said 23 persons were killed in the explosion while one child escaped with injuries.
An eyewitness account told journalists that the fuel tanker fell around popular GT Plaza at Felele area on Lokoja-Abuja highway.
He pointed out that the passengers in several other vehicles, motorcycles and tricycles rammed into the accident and consequently lost their lives.
“I was about crossing the road when I noticed the tanker driver signalling to motorists to steer clear, but before I could say Jack Robinson, the tanker was on its side falling on all vehicles beside it. Immediately the tanker fell, fire started and burnt all vehicles along its way,” he said.
The rescue team of FRSC came with an ambulance to evacuate the corpses burnt beyond recognition, while locals made frantic efforts to identify them.
However, Kogi State FRSC Sector Commander disclosed that a total of 23 persons were killed in the explosion while one child escaped with injuries
According to him, 10 vehicles were involved – five cars, one tanker, three tricycles and two motorcycles, noting that some family had retrieved their deceased ones.
Ali pointed out that the corpses of other victims had been deposited at the specialists hospital in Lokoja.
Meanwhile, Bello has expressed shock and sorrow over the incident.
Bello, in a statement issued immediately after the incident by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Onogwu Mohammed, said he was “very sad to learn of the tragic loss of lives, many vehicles, property and other valuables in the petrol tanker fire,” while expressing his deepest condolences to the families of those affected by the occurrence.
The governor said this is sadly the greatest tragedy the state has witnessed in recent times, while describing the accident as a sad development and shared the pains of those who lost their loves ones in this incident.
He urged students of Kogi State Polytechnic to remain calm and peaceful, stating that he equally shared in their grieving moment over the death of some of their colleagues.