Nigeria: 72 Hours After Lagos Tragic Explosion, Buhari Fails to Visit Scene

Fire fighter

Almost 72 hours after a tragic explosion shook Abule Ado area of Lagos State killing at least 20 Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to visit the scene of the incident.

Rather, on Monday, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, jetted to Abuja to brief President Muhammadu Buhari about the Sunday accident and show him photographs.

The governor made this known in a tweet on Monday.

Apart from 20 people that were killed in the explosion that occurred at about 9 a.m. at the Abule Ado area of Lagos on Sunday, many Nigerians were injured with scores of houses, cars and properties damaged.

Mr Sanwo-Olu on Monday set up a N2 billion Emergency Relief Fund to assist victims of the explosion, urging members of the public to donate. He also announced the establishment of the "Abule Ado Emergency Relief Fund" after visiting the scene of the explosion.

Mr Buhari has always been criticised for not showing empathy with Nigerians in periods of disaster.

Until he visited in February, critics had accused the president of not visiting Maiduguri and other parts of the northeast even as residents witnessed incessant attacks from Boko Haram terrorists. The same was said of the people of Zamfara and other parts of the Northwest where bandits have killed thousands of Nigerians.

On Monday, a day after the Lagos tragedy, Mr Buhari, apart from meeting with Mr Sanwo-Olu, also met with governors of his party, APC, over the crisis rocking the party.

Tragic Incident

PREMIUM TIMES reported how about 20 bodies have been recovered so far from the scene of the fatal explosion that occurred on Sunday in Lagos.

Emergency responders recovered three more bodies on Monday morning, in addition to 17 bodies that were earlier recovered, PREMIUM TIMES confirmed.

'War Zone'

During an assessment of the scene of the explosion on Monday morning alongside his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, and other top officials, Mr Sanwo-Olu said that the scene of the explosion looks like a 'war zone'.

He also described the Abule-Ado explosion as a situation he has never seen before.

To many Nigerians resident in Lagos, although the casualty figures are quite different, the Abule Ado disaster had an impact somewhat similar to the bomb blast incident of January 2002.

On Sunday, January 27, 2002, an accidental detonation of a large stock of military high explosives at a storage facility in Lagos led to an explosion, killing many residents.

As scores fled the scene, many were trampled to death in the chaos as they tried to cross a canal that blocked their escape route. Rescue officials retrieved dozens of bodies afterwards.

Angry residents blamed the country's military for the disaster, wanting to know why such old weapons store was allowed to house such powerful bombs inside the city.

Nigerian President at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo, immediately visited the scene the next morning to commiserate with affected Nigerians. He also described the incident as a monumental tragedy and demanded answers.

"There is the normal thing that we do, or that the military will have to do, which is when a situation like this occurs, the military must carry our an inquiry," Mr Obasanjo said at the time, calming frayed nerves.

Nigeria also observed a day of mourning for victims of the explosions while government flags flew at half-mast.

Nigerians Fume

On Monday, when Mr Sanwo-Olu announced that he took photographs of the scenes to Mr Buhari in Abuja, many Nigerians continued to pillory the president.

Demola Olanrewaju, a twitter user, described the development as inappropriate.

"You think you've seen enough silliness across the rank and file of the party in power then they dig and find another low to bring us to: What is the point of taking pixes to Aso Rock, is Sanwo-Olu dumb to explain verbally or Buhari deaf to listen? And they released the pixes."

Henry Shield, another commentator, pilloried Mr Buhari on his twitter handle, saying the journey is just forty minutes away.

He tweeted: "The blast occurred 40 minutes away by flight from where the President resides, but Governor Sanwo-Olu had to travel to Abuja to show Buhari FREAKING PICTURES? Your citizens died. Little kids were involved for heaven's sake! Pictures! I'm just tired. I'm tired!"

@Segalink, another twitter user, wrote: "This is even funnier. If he is afraid of coming to Lagos for fear of infection, did Sanwo-Olu tender any test result that shows he is free from the infection before visiting the President without maintaining social distance? Is he not coming from the same Lagos? Okay now. 🚶🏿‍♀️"

A career coach, Dipo Awojide, noted that it was disturbing that the president did not visit Lagos. He wrote: "Sanwo-Olu should have sent pictures to Buhari via Whatsapp? lool. Why couldn't Buhari fly to Lagos to see for himself? That would have been the right thing to do. More so the pipelines are federal asset."

Another user, Tosin Olugbenga, described the president as the "worst" Nigeria has seen. He wrote: "This is the worst President Nigeria ever had with zero empathy for human lives. A strategic city like Lagos experience such a magnitude of disaster, Buhari sat in Aso Rock and Sanwo-Olu flew to present him pictures of the devastating damages. Shameless!"

Tales from Around the World

Although the swiftness of their visits varies from country to country, world leaders often empathize with victims of disasters in their countries by visiting the scenes.

In March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the scene of a fire in a Siberian shopping mall that killed at least 64 people, 41 one of them children.

The president also laid flowers at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the fire and later met with Kemerovo regional officials, two days after the tragic incident. Mr Putin reportedly hit out at "criminal negligence" which he said was to blame for the high death toll. "What's happening here? This isn't war, it's not a spontaneous methane outburst. People came to relax, children," he said.

"We're talking about demography and losing so many people," Putin said in a meeting with ministers in Kemerovo. "Why? Because of some criminal negligence, because of slovenliness. How could this ever happen?" he asked.

The visit expectedly calmed frayed nerves and resonated with victims and other citizens.

On March 8, United States' President Donald Trump visited tornado-ravaged disaster areas in Tennessee, two days after the twisters whipping across the state left 25 dead and dozens more injured.

Mr Trump stepped off Air Force One and greeted Governor Bill Lee, Senator Marsha Blackburn and other top officials shortly after 10 a.m. in Nashville and then took a chopper to view hard-hit sites in Putnam County, including the devastated town of Cookeville, where eight people were killed.

Three people were missing and dozens were killed following the Tennessee tornadoes.

"This is real devastation like you'll never see, hopefully, again," Mr Trump said. "This was about as big a tornado as you can have. It was 50 miles long, which is extraordinarily long, and a very wide one. And you see what's happened. They got very little warning. They get a phone call and boom, the tornado is on them."

Asked if he had a message for the families of those killed and injured, he replied, "I have a message for the families of those that lost their lives. We love them, they're incredible people, it's an incredible state. Great people, it's a great state, and they have great leadership."

In November 2012, a former Ghanaian President John Mahama cut short a campaign visit to a northern area of Ghana to return to Accra and tour a disaster site in Accra, barely 24 hours after the incident.

Earlier, nine people had died and nearly 70 rescued after a major department store collapsed in Ghana's capital, Accra.

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was heckled last year for delaying a visit to an area hit by devastating floods - with one woman refusing to speak to him.

The Prime Minister had "where've you been?" and "you took your time" shouted at him in Yorkshire when he visited six days after the incident. Mr Johnson also came under fire from Labour for his slow response to the crisis.

ACN, Lai Mohammed once blamed Jonathan

On September 12, 2014, former President Goodluck received flaks from opposition members before he visited the scene of Synagogue Church building collapse in Lagos, which killed scores of Nigerians and foreign nationals. A five-storey building inside The Synagogue Church of all Nation's premises in Lagos collapsed on September 12 as three additional floors were being added to the original two-storey structure.

Mr Jonathan visited about 6 days later on September 20, amid insinuations that he was slow to respond.

Earlier in 2011, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) pilloried Mr Jonathan over his failure "to visit Lagos State, in a show of presidential concern and support," in the aftermath of a devastating flood in parts of the state.

In a statement issued in London by its then National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said Mr Jonathan should realise he was the President of all Nigerians, not only of the PDP and its supporters. Besides, Mr Mohammed said, Lagos is the economic heartbeat of Nigeria and home to all Nigerians, irrespective of their tribes, hence whatever affects Lagos touches every Nigerian one way or the other.

The ACN wondered how the President can be so quiet despite the devastating effect of an unusually heavy rainfall in Lagos on July 10th, in which some 264mm of rainfall (a volume equivalent to what is usually recorded in one month of rainfall) was recorded in a single day, leading to massive flooding that claimed the lives of many residents and caused a huge damage to property.

"A President that is not too busy to receive all manners of people in Aso Rock has not deemed it fit to embark on a quick trip to a state as strategic for all Nigerians and the nation's economy as Lagos, after such a state was hit hard by a natural disaster. Even if the President and his advisers did not understand the symbolism of such visit, they could have taken a cue from what obtains in other climes," Mr Mohammed, Nigeria's current information minister, said.

It remains unclear whether Mr Buhari has any plans to visit the scene of the explosion in Lagos Tuesday night.

Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, did not pick calls placed to his telephone number even as the phone rang out Tuesday evening. He has also not responded to text messages requesting whether the president had plans to visit the state.

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