Lagos — A bomb, yesterday, exploded at Miracle Sand Beach, located under Festac link bridge in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, leaving the chairman of the Local Dredgers Association, Chief Oladele Pius, dead.
A Police Inspector simply identified as Sanni, also had his leg shattered by the explosion.
There were different accounts as to how the late Chief Oladele Pius was killed. A version of the account had it that the deceased was handed a letter bomb by an unknown person at about 11.30am, shortly after he resumed work.
Chief Oladele reportedly attempted to open the letter, when it exploded, killing him instantly.
Inspector Sanni, said to be with the deceased also had his legs shattered by its impact as he attempted to flee the scene.
Eye witnesses said Inspector Sanni begged passers-by to help his friend to the hospital. But rather than being pitied, the policeman was reportedly attacked by some persons, who accused him of planting the explosive substance. Sanni who was in mufti, was said to have brought out his identity card, which saved him from being lynched.
However, another version of the account had it that the late Chief Oladele was discussing with his police friend when the explosion occurred right under the low fence, where he sat.
A local dredger who identified himself as Adeola Peter said the deceased resumed work yesterday. Having parked his white Pathfinder SUV with Number plate LSR 957 AZ, the deceased made for his usual duty post, oblivious of the impending tragedy.
Thirty minutes later, he was said to have received a phone call, following which he drove out and returned in the company of Inspector Sanni and made straight for his usual sitting position on the fence. He reportedly called one of his staff simply identified as Dogo, to buy 'Alomo Bitters', a local gin which he shared with his police friend.
According to Adeola: "He sat under the dwarf fence having drinks with his police friend when the bomb exploded. The bomb must have been planted where he usually sat. But I don't think it was planted today because we have been working here since morning and if someone was doing such a thing in our presence we would have noticed."
Another eyewitness, Mr. Thomas Wawe, a motorist narrated thus: "The incident happened at about 12 noon as I was driving back to my office at Mile-2 area. All of a sudden there was a thunderous blast and everybody started running helter skelter.
"It took a while before people started gathering near the blast having made sure there was no more unexploded device. The sympathizers and rescue team recovered a man from under the bridge. I saw the leg of the man already ripped off and motionless. Apparently, the leg was severed as a result of the devastating effect of the explosion. Police men later arrived and condoned off the entire place. That was all I saw."
Immediately the explosion occurred, news went round the entire area that members of the Boko Haram sect could have penetrated the area, a development that threw residents into confusion.
It's caused by electrical fault - Lagos CP
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Umar Manko who was at the scene, described the explosion as a minor one, calling on Lagosians not to panic.
According to him, "there was a minor explosion here this morning. It's not the kind that most Nigerians should be apprehensive about. It was just a mischievous person who played around with batteries and some other objects. The experts are looking at it now. But I can assure you that Lagosians have no cause to fear."
Hours later, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, briefed journalists in his office, stating that the explosion was caused by an electrical fault.
According to him: "Contrary to people's fear that it was bomb blast, it was a mere electrical fault at the Amuwo Odofin Bridge. Anti-bomb experts have been called in to assess the situation and I will be adequately briefed later.
"From the investigation so far, it has been revealed that it was not a terrorist attack; not an act of Boko Haram, neither was it a bomb blast.
"I urged Lagosians to go about their lawful businesses without fear because Lagos remains a peaceful and safe state. It is not a question of letter bomb. This is not an incident that will attract fear. So, Lagosians should feel free.
"The state is not under any attack from anywhere. We are investigating the matter and experts will report to me after their investigation.
Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, Comrade Ayodele Adewale, who visited the scene shortly after the incident occurred, advised residents living around the Miracle sand beach where the incident occurred to look for alternative accommodation, disclosing that they might be asked to relocate, pending the outcome of investigation.
Reacting to the incident, chairman, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Femi Oke-Osoyintolu, in a statement said: "An explosive device was detonated under the Festac Bridge close to Apple Junction today; we have one person confirmed dead and the other injured. The situation is being handled by LASEMA, Civil Defence, the Navy, and the Police Anti-Bomb Squad."
As sympathizers throng the scene of the incident, the deceased's widow, said to have been informed of an explosion around the area, rushed to the place to ascertain the state of her husband, only to see his remains. Unable to withstand the impact of the shock, Mrs Oladele slumped. She was immediately rushed out to an undisclosed destination.
Already the scene of the explosion had been cordoned off by the Bomb Disposal Unit of the Nigeria Police with officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, also on ground to unravel the cause of the explosion.
My last moment with Chief
Meanwhile, the deceased's bosom friend, one Mathias, who is still trying to come to terms with the tragedy, shared his last moment with him. The deceased according to Mathias, was with him until 12. 30am.
"He had been selling sand under that bridge for years. In fact, we were together until 12.30am when we retired. He called me yesterday morning to meet him at the office by 9.30am. But I could not make it at that time. I was therefore shocked to hear that he was handed a letter bomb which exploded and killed him in the process"
One person arrested
Vanguard gathered that one person had been arrested in connection with the explosion. The suspect, a male, was said to be at the Area 'E' Police Command, Festac, where operatives have started investigation.
It could, however, not be ascertained whether the suspect was the person that planted the bomb or handed the letter bomb to the deceased. But Police sources at Area 'E' said investigation would ascertain that.
Meanwhile, NEMA has advised onlookers not to stay around the explosion scene. "When it comes to bomb blasts like this, there may be a secondary disaster waiting to happen and that may be more serious than the first because there are usually more people around. That is why we advise you to stay away from this place until it is fully cleared." a NEMA official informed.
At the deceased's Raji Rasaki Estate residence, uniform and plain clothed policemen were on standby, as sympathizers thronged to commiserate with Oladele's widow. The late Oladele and his wife as gathered, waited for 10 years before they were blessed with two children of ages 3 and 1.
From his widows' account, it was obvious that the late Oladele had premonition of his death right from when he resumed work yesterday. His first widow, Omolola who was with him under the bridge when the explosion occurred, told Vanguard that her husband had his breakfast at work. But all of a sudden, she said, he started complaining that he had stomach upset and that he needed to rush home to ease off.
"He left me and drove home with a promise to be back", Omolola said.
At this point, his second widow, Seun, took over saying, " when he got home, he rushed straight to the toilet and when he came out, he said he felt weak and did not feel like going out again; that he wanted to sleep.
He went upstairs to sleep. His phone later rang and he answered. From the conversation, it was obvious that the caller was one of his customers, who said he was waiting for him (Oladele) at his place of work. He told the caller he was coming but went back to sleep.
Another call came in again. But he refused to pick it. When it rang again, our one- year -two- month-old baby took the phone to him but he refused to pick the call. He finally picked it when it kept ringing and got up from the bed, informing us that he was going back to work. I insisted he stayed back home and rest since he was tired but he said he needed to go since he needed to feed his children.
As he was about to move out, he called me to come and lock the gate. At that point, our baby started yelling. He even commented that the baby's cry was unusual and I told him he probably did not want him to go out. He told me to go and cuddle him to sleep that he would be back soon". Seun stated in tears.
Back at his place of work, his first wife, Omolola said: "When he came back, I told him not to sit on the pavement he usually sat on because I noticed his clothes were stained behind. He just dusted the stain with his hands and said he did not care and went to sit there.
The next thing I heard was a blast. I did not know where it came from. All I saw were people running here and there and I asked , baba da?, meaning where is my husband. At that point, I rushed to where he was seated, only for me to see his body scattered all over the place".
The late Oladele is survived by his two widows and five children, born after 17 years of marriage.
Meanwhile when contacted, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Aderemi Ibirogba, declined comment, saying the state commissioner of Police had already spoken on the development and would not want to make further comment.
"The state police commissioner has briefed the governor on the development and investigation is already on. That is all I can say now. But I want to assure Lagos residents that they are very safe as adequate measures are already on ground to ensure maximum protection of lives and property in the state."
Alleged power tussle behind blast
Body parts of late Mr Oladele Pius littered the scene of explosion when Vanguard visited yesterday. The man's shoes, torn pieces of his blue jeans and patches of his blood were also all over the place. The blood was even on the roof of the bridge where the explosion flung it.
Eye witnesses at the scene of the explosion suspected a power tussle in the sand dealers' association as being responsible for the incident. Oladele, was said to have risen from grass to grace as a snacks seller (puff puff), who rose to become leader of several sand associations in Lagos State.