A bomb went off yesterday at Miracle Sand Beach under the Festac link bridge in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, leaving the chairman of the Local Dredgers’ Association, Chief Oladele Pius dead and injuring a police inspector simply identified as Sanni, costing him his leg.
Body parts of late Mr. Oladele Pius littered the scene of explosion when this correspondent 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.
There are various accounts of the events that led to the death of Chief Pius. One version has it that shortly after he resumed work at 11.30am, an unknown person. As he attempted to open the letter, it exploded killing him instantly. Inspector Sanni who was with the deceased had his legs shattered as he tried to escape 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. It took Sanni who was in mufti to have bring out his identity card to avoid him being lynched.
A second version claims that late Chief Pius and Inspector Sanni were discussing when the explosion occurred right under the low fence on which he sat.
An eyewitness, a local dredger named Adeola Peter, said the deceased resumed work, making his way to his duty post after parking his white Pathfinder SUV with Number plate LSR 957 AZ with no inkling of what lay ahead.
Thirty minutes later, he received a phone call, following which he drove out and returned in the company of Inspector Sanni and made for his favorite spot on the fence. He then sent one of his staff who is simply named Dogo to buy Alomo Bitters, a local gin which he shared with his friend.
“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,” said Adeola.
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.”
Suspicion fell on Boko Haram as being behind the explosion as the news went round that members of the sect had infiltrated the area, throwing residents into confusion.
However, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Manko, who was at the scene downplayed the incident, calling the explosion a ‘minor one’, asking Lagosians not to panic.
“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,” he said.
Hours later, he addressed a press briefing in his office, where he ascribed the explosion to an electric fault.
He said, “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.”
He assured residents that the state was not under any attack and the explosion was being investigated, the report of which he was expecting.
The Chairman of Amuwo-Odofin Local Government, Comrade AyodeleAdewale, who visited the scene shortly after the incident, told residents around the Miracle Sand Beach that pending the outcome of the investigation, they might have to relocate, and advised them to commence securing alternative accommodation.
The Chairman, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Femi Oke-Osoyintolu, put out a statement on the incident which confirmed the incident, saying 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, MrsOladele 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.
Meanwhile, a close friend of the deceased, one Matthias is still in shock over the tragedy, and shared his last moments with him.
“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”
As at press time, a suspect had been arrested and was being held at the Area ‘E’ Police Command, Festac where operatives have started investigation.
However, there is no clarity as whether he was the person that planted the bomb or delivered the letter to the deceased, which is hoped that the police investigations would ascertain.
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 RajiRasaki Estate residence, uniform and plain clothed policemen were on standby, as sympathizers thronged to commiserate with Oladele’s widows. From the account of the widows, it seemed Oladele had a harbinger of his death right from when he resumed work.
According to his first wife, Omolola who was with him under the bridge when the explosion occurred, her husband had had his breakfast at work before suddenly complaining of stomach upset and rushing home to get some relief.
“He left me and drove home with a promise to be back”, Omolola said.
His second widow, Seun, continued, “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,” she said in tears.
His first wife, Omololathen continued: “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.
No comments could be elicited from the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. AderemiIbirogba who said the state commissioner of police had already spoken on the development and would not want to make any 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.”
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.