Residents of the Baruwa-Ipaja area of Lagos state have revealed plans to sue the state government over negligence, involuntary manslaughter, abuse of office in relation to the last gas explosion that occurred in the area.
In a document obtained by SaharaReporters on Wednesday, the residents of the area are suing the state government for a sum of N4 billion due to the lives lost in last year’s gas explosion that occurred in the area.
Members of the Baruwa Community Development Association, in a letter dated 5th of February, 2018 written on their behalf by the Femi Agbaje and co legal practitioners to the executive governor of Lagos state, had warned of an impending explosion if the station that later caused the explosion was situated in the area.
The letter was titled, “Humble plea to save our lives and properties; Re: Best -Roof gas station situate at No 61B Cardozo Road, Unity Bus Stop Baruwa Ipaja Lagos”.
It read, “We act as solicitors to the members of the Unity Community Development Association of Baruwa via Ipaja Lagos state (hereinafter referred to as our clients) and on their instruction we write.
“Our clients have briefed us as follows: That about three years ago, the proprietor of Best Roof Gas Station, popularly known as Baba Saheed, bought a piece of land at No 61B Cardozo Road, Unity Bus Stop, Baruwa, Ipaja, Lagos for the purpose of erecting a petrol station thereon.
“That the members of their CDA, protested against the use of the said piece of land for a petrol station in view of the danger it posed to their lives and properties and the said proprietor of Best Roof Gas Station relocated the petrol station to another piece of land along Cardozo Road.
“That surprisingly about two months ago, the said Baba Saheed commenced the construction of another building on the same piece of land working day and night at jet speed.
“That to their surprise, the building turned out to be a gas station and it was opened for business on the 1st day of February 2018.
“That about over 30 residential houses and several commercial premises clustered around the area where the gas station is located, including a private primary and secondary School (Oxboard Schools) located directly opposite the said gas station.
“Furthermore, the said gas station is just about two feet from Baruwa/Cardozo Road, the only road linking Baruwa and Cardozo towns (a very busy road).
“On behalf of our clients, we humbly urge your excellency to look into this matter urgently in the interest of the lives and property of innocent Nigerians residing within the areas.
“We further contend but not conceding that the proprietor of the said gas station sought and obtained the necessary approval from relevant government agencies before the construction of the said gas station, it is our humble opinion that the location of the gas station can never be in the interest of the safety of the lives and properties of residents living or those earning their income within the area where the gas station is located.
“…The continued operation of Best Roof Gas Station is a time bomb waiting to explode anytime. May God save our lives…”
In response to the letter, the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development on15th March, 2018 acknowledged the letter but stated that residents had to pay before the ministry could effect the removal
On behalf of the ministry, Tpi. Ajayi B.A.A ADTPS (TSD) wrote, “I am directed to acknowledge your letter dated 5th of February, 2018 on the above subject matter and to inform that the subject matter is receiving the necessary attention.
“However, you are to swear to an affidavit to bear the cost of removal if approval is granted. i. Six hundred and eighty thousand, five hundred naira only (N680,500) is payable to the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban development. ii. Sixty-eight thousand, nine hundred naira only (N68, 900) is payable to the Lagos State Government.”
On October 8, 2020, the tragedy the residents foresaw, hit them. That was two years after.
A Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG, plant, located along the Cardozo Road, Baruwa, Ipaja-Ayobo, Old Alimosho Local Government Area, suddenly exploded and engulfed the entire area, killing at least 13 persons.
Several other people were injured, while properties worth millions of naira were destroyed.
According to reports, an LPG tanker was in the process of discharging its content at the Best Roof Gas Plant Station but unfortunately, the station’s generating set was running and in the process sparked, which exploded and threw the discharging tanker across the road.
The Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency LASEMA, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, who got a distress call, attributed the incident to carelessness on the part of the operators.
Giving the post-disaster assessment of the explosion, he said a total number of eight bodies were recovered at the scene while 15 victims suffered major burns and had been transferred to Gbagada General Hospital Burns Unit.
Similarly, he said 25 buildings were damaged during the explosion out of which 10 were severely affected. Also, 16 shops, a private school building and a hotel were razed while a Pentecostal Church, Folem was mildly affected. He urged residents to report unsavoury and dangerous practices within their neighbourhoods to relevant agencies.
After this incident, the residents wrote to the Lagos State government demanding compensation of N4 billion for victims of the explosion.
This was contained in a letter addressed by Akeem Fadun & co on 19th October, 2020. The solicitor stated that the clients (residents) suffered varying degrees of damages and death.
The letter was titled, “Involuntary Manslaughter, Abuse of office, false claims by officials, breach of public trust, criminal negligence. Demand for the immediate payment of N4, 000, 000, 000 (Four billion naira) to the victims of the Baruwa gas explosion.”
It read, “We are solicitors of the victims of the Baruwa gas explosion (hereinafter referred to as our clients) and on whose behalf we write. Our clients brief is summarized as follows:
“Our clients (who are 30 and counting at the time of writing this letter) are victims of the recent gas explosion at Baruwa, Lagos.
“Our clients have suffered varying degrees of damages which includes the death of family and kin and maiming and burning of loved ones, complete annihilation of properties, including shops, schools and homes as was widely reported in the media and witnesses first-hand by His Excellency, the Deputy Governor — Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.
“As it stands, many of the victims sleep in makeshift sheds amidst the ruins left behind by the inferno, and others roam hopelessly having lost their means of livelihood without being able to rescue as much as a pin from the blast — one of our clients lost his wife and 3 children at a go, another his brother and son, another his brother and benefactor.
“Others have spouses with 3rd Degree burns that would require further surgery if they survive to try to lessen the scaring and contracture, the list goes on. Some of the victims have had to assign permanent guards to other victims who have displayed symptoms of severe depression, anxiety attacks and made suicidal utterances.”
The solicitor, who referred to the 2018 letter written on behalf of the residents, noted that the explosion was avoidable, describing it as a ‘man-made disaster that should not have occurred in any sane society’.
It was also alleged that the Best Roof Gas plant was being operated illegally with the consent of persons in government who ought to have prevented the same from operating.