The Bodija explosion is an early warning sign to the loopholes in security governance and disaster management in Oyo State, Oludayo Tade argues.
On the ‘roof-top-bar’ of the senior staff club, University of Ibadan, I sat with my professor friend switching between discussions on the social economic conditions and the precarity of our lives as public university lecturers in Nigeria and watching the African Nations’ Cup. We requested for a bottle of coke and mixed it with water, sipped it when we felt the need to and talked about how those who are supposed to protect Nigerians have abdicated that responsibility.
It was not long when we heard a massive bang, the only thing compared to it was a bomb. Paul, one of the waiters in the club ran up as the surface upon which he stood vibrated heavily. We experienced the same. I told my friend that the sound was too massive to imagine something else but the puzzle was, what was that and where did this sound come from? We sat there for some minutes until a friend called from General Gas, about 25minutes from our location to ask if we heard any sound and told my friend that the vibration of that bang shook his house. Could terrorists have entered the pacesetter state and detonated their evil weapon at a location nearby? I deleted that evil thought and was still calm. And finally, a call came from my friends’ foster parents whose house is within the epicenter of the explosion. They needed help. The couple had been affected and they needed my friend to evacuate them.
The house was messed up I heard. Disturbed, and engulfed with fear, my professor friend had to visit the toilet first. This was not a time to laugh. I knew what was going on. We were also vulnerable. The old couple who had climbed 70 years and approaching 80 years live alone with a domestic help. Their biological children are abroad. The tension was high. It was they who assisted us with the information that the deafening bang happened in Bodija, their area and the destruction to lives and properties were better seen than imagined.
And so, the 16th January, 2024 showed us how vulnerable we are in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. Just when Nigerians were thinking end will come to sad news such as the massacre in Plateau State on the eve of 2023 Christmas, the kidnappings in Abuja and killings of kidnapped children, the mismanagement of funds meant for poor Nigerians among others; a yet-to-be ascertained quantity of improvised explosive device (IED)/ dynamite hidden by illegal miners living around Adeyi Avenue in Bodija area of Ibadan exploded. The immediate effects were death of two people and 77 injured persons taken to the hospital.
Buildings were flattened and cars within the radius of the explosion were not spared. Exotic cars became carcass within minutes. People rushed to safe persons under the wreckage. They also sent messages calling for more hands to help out.
The middle/upper class neighborhood of Bodija in Adeyi Avenue, the home to some of the best brains in Oyo State had been visited by the consequences of our collective inactions at individual and state levels.
The governor, Seyi Makinde said that the preliminary security findings indicated that the explosion came from illegal miners who stored improvised explosive devices in the house they live in the area and that led to the blast. The questions are since when have the illegal miners been domiciled in this neighbourhood with knowledge of their activities? Considering the fact that a police station is not far from this area, have there been no report to police authorities or even to the government about these people before this sad event? Bodija is not a poor people’s neighbourhood.
It is home to the very enlightened. Does it mean that no one sent message to the authorities about the activities of these people? When the governor visited the scene of the explosion, he said he had asked people to say something when they see something. The residents said they saw something, said something but the authorities did nothing.
When people complain and nothing is done and they see that the people they complained about are powerful with connections, citizens will adopt if you cannot beat them by reporting to authorities and getting them arrested, you simply allow them to be so that you can live longer in Nigeria. Or at best, they relocate to another area. Other people will not just relocate or complain but will join the criminal gang in their evil plan to destroy and profit from it. Who is profiting from our pains? Crime is not only local but its success mainly occurs because of the collaboration of insiders who can be those in government, the citizens and their moles in our security system.
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We need to see this explosion as an early warning sign to the loopholes in security governance, intelligence, and disaster management in Oyo State. How many more of strangers doing illegal mining in collaboration with Nigerians are still within our neighbourhoods? If this could happen just behind the seat of government of Oyo State and no actionable intelligence got to the state, then there is fire on the mountain. Citizens have the responsibility to talk about the evil in their neighbourhood.
We cannot stand aloof because the consequences of our silences may become our victimisation. Who knows who is next, where is next and how it will happen? We must jettison Ko-kan-mi (its not my business) attitudes and sòròsókè (speak-up) against evil because when the realities of not speaking up happens to us, eni-tó-kàn-ló-máa-ran (only the victims will bear the consequences).
The miners are said to be foreigners. How did they get in? Who permitted them to bring in explosives inside the country and with which company did they get such approval if any? Who are they connected to and their network of powerful people?
Illegal mining is an entrenched organized crime which makes people to implicate the state. How many more pains shall we endure until we all lose our humanity and become beasts? Living in middle class neighbourhood is a strategy they use to cover up for their activities.
They fund insecurity in the rural areas so that people will be chased away from their ancestral lands so that they can continue with their illegal mining. Recall that the billionaire kidnapper also known as Evans lived on the same street with a former deputy governor of Lagos. He was even providing free electricity for them until he was arrested. Oyo State Governor needs to sit-up and break the chains of organized criminality if she is not connected with it.
I watched the video of victims of the explosion being moved to the hospital with police vehicles with no medical personnel administering first aid on them to stabilise them. Thanks to the remaining medical personnel who are yet to Japa and offered to return to hospital to commence treatment on the injured. Government will pay for their treatment.
The state government has also moved the displaced people to hotels as temporary shelter. That is good but beyond that we need to work on our emergency response system. Many things that ought not to be found in residential areas have found their ways into them and the state allows this unchecked. Filling stations, gas plant, club houses, shopping malls among others are ventures that make residential areas attractive hideout to criminals. Everything that compromises the security of residential areas should be removed in Oyo State.
Tade, a criminologist writes via email@example.com
Image Source: BBC