January 27- Remembering the families of the 2002 Ikeja Bomb Blast- by Timilehin Salu
January 15 marks a remarkable day in the life of all Nigerians. It is a day set aside to remember the lives of our fallen heroes who fought gallantly for the Commonwealth at the World War I, II, the Nigerian Civil war and recently the insurgency currently plaguing the northern Nigeria. It is a day all Nigerians unite against our common enemy; insecurity, to remember those who fought and paid the ultimate price for our continued freedom to live.
But today is not centered on our fallen heroes but on the bombing that wrecked the northern part of Ikeja on the 27th of January, 2002- 20 years ago.
The Ikeja armory was located just north of the city center of Lagos and housed a large Nigerian Army living and storage area. On January 27, a Sunday afternoon, a street market was set up at Ikeja when fire broke out. Its spread soon caused the accidental detonation of a large stock of high explosives at the nearby military storage facility.
This explosion escalated the impact and caused several explosions within and outside the cantonment. As a result, scores of people lost their lives, most of whom where children due to a stampede caused by people trying to leave the area. People within the Oke Afa area who tried to cross through to the other side of the canal were trapped in the mud causing a stampede by others. Also due to a shortage of firefighters, the blazes were not contained until more than 24 hours later.
In the aftermath of the explosion, a lot of people were left homeless and jobless as their homes and places of work were engulfed in the fire. The explosions is believed to have killed at least 1,100 people and displaced over 20,000.
Years after, the government have failed to take full responsibility for the death of these victims. The families of the victims still clamor for redress by the Federal government who continue to make endless promises to duly compensate them. To everyone who cares to know, it seems like they – just like their lost loved ones –have been forgotten for good.
A large number of the death toll could have been averted if the government had taken steps to ensure that such weapons of mass destruction were kept away from the midst of civilians and stored in central arsenals in remote locations. Armories have no place amongst civilians.
In hindsight, many of those who died did not die as a result of the explosion but were casualties of their human emotions. The panic by these people several miles away from the explosion could have been averted if the people took time to ascertain the information before taking flight. In the case of the people of Oke Afa, the noise miles away caused them to jump into the canal and not even the explosion.
January 27 would always mean a different thing to the families of the bereaved and those whose lives have been permanently altered as a result of this tragedy. Although no amount of money can revive the dead, the government can surely bring some form of succor by providing the needed funding to get these people back on their feet.
As we remember the lives of our fallen heroes, let us not forget those who needlessly lost their lives due to an error in judgment by the government–they also, need restitution.