Subject:      Another Lagos Pipeline Explosion Kills Six -Year -Old Girl
Location:     Ijeododo, Lagos

•    NNPC pipeline fire kills six-year- old
•    Scores wounded, farmlands destroyed
•    Fires rages on, several days after
•    Perennial spill sack community school’s staff and students
•    Over 1000 suffer adverse health impairments
•    11 year old school girl stone deaf
•    Pipeline leaks pollute underground water

A loud explosion. Then, huge flames rose furiously towards the sky. In a twinkle, the whole Ijeododo community in Ojo Local government of Lagos State was enveloped in smoke. Pandemonium broke lose, as people panicked. They had every reason to: close to ten years, they have lived in fear of the possibility of pipeline explosion. On Saturday December 2, 2006, residents of the community woke up without premonition of anything untoward happening that day. They went about their normal chores until 10.00 am when the explosion occurred. An NNPC pipeline which has been source of perennial spills in the community had caught fire ravaging both the swamp and farmlands. By the time the community took a toll of the impact, a six- year -old girl had been choked to death in the neighboring shanties where she laid. Several other residents suffered various degrees of injuries .The NNPC like a broken record, once more blamed the incident on vandals but residents are crying for justice

Ijeododo, in Ojo Local Government of Lagos State,  is a developing suburb on the outskirt of the city.  The road leading to the community is virtually impassable. It is a glut of marshy and murky pathways; it can barely be accessed by motorbikes. There is a state government owned school in the community: Ijeododo Junior and Senior Grammar School. Here, even motorbikes are helpless. For to gain entrance to the community’s citadel of academic learning on a street called ‘hopeful’, one must trudge barefoot, wading through petrol-contaminated stagnant waters and bushes.  

Ijeododo is one among several communities playing host to the Petroleum and Products Marketing company (PPMC) pipelines that transport products from Atlas Cove to Mosinmi depot in Ogun State. PPMC is a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Before Saturday’s pipeline fire, ERA has been conducting investigations into the perennial spills in the community and its effect on residents and the environment.

Residents had told ERA monitors that on February 2005, a PPMC pipeline ruptured, about a kilometer from the community’s school, emitting petrol accompanied by toxic fumes and an offensive smell. In the school, students and staff vomited, many felt dizzy and had stomach ache. The school suspended activities for a week. PPMC was called to contain the spill, which they did, but failed to clean up the community as requested. Months later, the school experienced another spill accompanied by a terrible odour, much more severe, most likely the pipeline ruptured in several other places. As usual, the students and staff became sick and had to vacate the school.  Several other spills followed after.

The community experienced another bout of spill with fumes on October 18th , 2006 . Late last month during one of ERA’s visits to Ijeododo the whole community school was completely deserted. Having been sacked out of the school premises by the penetrating fumes, the school authorities, backed by the then Commissioner for Education, sworn not to return to the school until PPMC found a lasting solution to the spills. The school authorities also complain that they lack clean water to drink as the spills had polluted underground water.
Though the school is not the only institution in the community, it is the worst hit as a result of its proximity to the site of the spill. Meanwhile, PPMC officials had visited the site and has attributed the frequent pipeline rupture to activities of vandals without taking any measure to police the pipelines or replace the axis of the pipeline that leaks incessantly.

Saturdays’ pipeline would have been averted if the NNPC had taken heed to the community’s call to address incessant spills from its pipelines. ERA gathered that the community had petitioned the NNPC over 10 times about the incessant spills in the community but the NNPC  ignored all the communities’ pleas. When ERA visited the site of the raging pipeline, local people, firefighters, security officials and PPMC officials were still battling to extinguish the raging fire, which had caused extensive damage to farmlands and the environment.

The community people stressed that the difficulty of the terrain had made it difficult for them to even monitor the pipelines. They also expressed fear about the status of the pipelines since they have ruptured several times, pleading that they be completely replaced. Besides they were angry about the slow response they have always received anytime there was a pipeline spill.

One of the leaders of the community, Tajudeen Suberu said : “Since Saturday, we have not slept. our people have been working battling to keep things in control. I was the one who made all the calls to NNPC and related authorities. Over a year we have been calling on NNPC to avert this fire, they said they would come during the dry season and they built a bridge, we want them to find a permanent solution on this thing, we live under stress, now our farmlands and electricity pole is wiped out.”

 Another resident who simply identified himself as Noah lamented the slow response of NNPC in putting off the fire  “We have been having  difficulty putting off the fire because of the petroleum pipeline. Even this smoke is not good for the eyes, we are not happy, our palm trees, farms ,  infact,  our community is at a loss. We have been afraid this kind of thing would happen.

Prince Abisago, the Principal of Ijeododo of the Junior section of the community school said: “ We in this school have suffered a lot, now see what this fire has now caused .thank God it happened on a Saturday, otherwise the panic would have been terrible for the students. NNPC is not responsible, even in the case of Esther, they have done nothing , we had to resume because of the incoming exams, they did not even clean-up the place as requested, they only make promises. We are not safe here.

A promising student turned deaf by NNPC recklessness
During one of ERA’s earlier visits the pathetic story of Ester Ogunrotimi stands out among many pains residents of Ijeododo  face  playing host to NNPC pipeline.  

Esther Ogunrotimi, a brilliant 11yearold had never missed a day of school on account of ill health. A promising student, she was among the students who became sick due to the petroleum fume the first day it occurred. Difference was that hers was more intense as she vomited repeatedly and felt very sick. Weeks later, she was back to school and when the incident resurfaced, she suffered extremely with complaints of excruciating stomach ache. Thereafter, she was hospitalized . She became a regular caller at the hospital and never stopped to complain of ill health, simultaneously exposing herself   to the fuel-polluted school environment. Complications soon set in, and having undergone treatment for appendicitis, she was finally certified to have  lost her hearing in March this year. The doctor linked her hearing loss to the pollution she had been exposed to.

According to the Principal of the school, Prince Abisagbo, it was only three months ago that NNPC responded to the petition that the school wrote on behalf of Esther. Two officials from NNPC came to verify the claims that Esther was completely deaf.  On the 1st of November, 2006, an official from the NNPC Medical department, Mrs. Ikpeni came to Ijeododo to pick her up and book appointment with the Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon in Phoenix Hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos. She said the report of the surgeon would be sent to the corporation’s Head office in Abuja who would take an official position on the next line of action. The  then Lagos State Commissioner for Health, responding to the letter written to him on Esther case, gave approval for her to be treated  at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). There the doctor,  certified her totally deaf, saying a hearing aid might be able to help her otherwise she has to be flown abroad for medical treatment.

Abisago told ERA that the ministry of education, health and environment had been petitioned on Esther’s case.

Responding to written questionnaire, Esther said :“ I feel very sad that I can no longer hear, and can no longer mix freely with my mates. We were all talking and hearing in school this year, now it’s only me that cannot hear. The only subject I now enjoy is mathematics because it is worked out for me to understand .I want government to give me the necessary equipment that will enable me to hear, I want to return back to normal life. I was never a disabled person”


“Every time this thing happen, I always have severe headache. It is now becoming very constant. It gives me shortness of breath. I can hardly breathe. The odour is terrible, it is now coming very often, we have written to various authorities but the response is slow. Are they going to wait until we all become deaf before they do something?
                                               Mrs. Felicia Tella, Principal, Senior School.

 “I have just been discharged. I have been in hospital for close to two weeks now I had series of frequent runny- stomach and received several injections. It is the petrol; it is even in our water. UNESCO wanted to provide us a borehole but was discouraged because of the water pollution. It is a terrible situation”.
                                        Mr. Arufu, T.E   Vice-principal, admin, senior school

“Almost all the time the smell comes we are forced to go home, even if the students are a bit strong, the teachers are sick, they have breathing problems, some of our teachers don’t even come back again, we have few teachers. We have no hope whether we will write our WAEC exams or not.
                                                                 Bankole Ezekiel, SS 3 student

“I usually have intense sore throat when it happens. I remember once our health inspector from the education district came around, he could not breathe and had to go. A lot of students have left the school.”
                                          Oladokun Lateef, student

“Two of my vice-principals are still in the hospital right now. They were seriously affected. Even me, I have been sick, really ill. Mrs. Adebusoye, one of my staff, her case is so severe petrol; she tasted petrol on her tongue.”
                                                     Principal, senior school, Mr. Prince Abisago

•     Comprehensive probe of the persistent leakages of NNPC pipelines in Ijeododo
•    Complete replacement of NNPC pipelines that traverse Ijeododo community,
•    Thorough clean up of the Ijeododo community of all the spills,
•    Legal action by the  Lagos state government to recoup the cost of the damages inflicted on citizens of the state and the environment and the disruption of the education of students of Ijeododo community,
•    Adequate compensations to all residents of Ijeododo affected by the incessant spill,
•    Regular supply of clean water which cost would be borne by the NNPC
•    Full medical treatment for citizens Esther Ogunrotimi and adequate compensation to her and her family, and
•    A comprehensive integrity check on all the pipelines that traverse several communities in Lagos.
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