Ibadan, the brown-roof city and the third largest city in Africa after Cairo and Johannesburg, on Tuesday 16th January 2024, witnessed a calamitous, disastrous and uncommon disaster which many believed was atypical in the history of the city. Apart from the1980’s Ogunpa flood disaster, the Bodija explosion is going to be a tragedy that will hardly be forgotten in the archive of Oyo state.
One thing distinguishes this recent cataclysm from the one that happened decades ago. This one could have been avoided and averted unlike the Ogunpa flood catastrophe which was a natural disaster. And this prompts the question, why did the Oyo State government allow this misfortune to come to this extent when the situation could have been restricted and arrested if government had been proactive and had paid meticulous attention to some activities around the state?
It’s even unfortunate to learn that it was Gov Makinde who made the first public announcement of what precisely caused the explosion that torpedoed, dynamited and demolished part of Ibadan which shook almost the entire city. Mr governor announced that the explosion occured via explosive devices kept in one of the buildings at old Bodija area by illegal miners. Illegal miners? How come illegal miners, in the first instance, reside in the state without Mr governor’s knowledge? Are there no details of Ibadan-based expatriates’ lives and careers on Mr governor’s table?
Some may want to question my inquisition on the subject of the reason I believe the blame of the incident at Bodija should be placed on Mr governor’s table. They may want to know why I think the buck must stop on Mr governor’s desk. They may also want to argue that Gov Makinde has nothing to do with mining: the extraction of valuable geological materials and minerals from the surface of the earth. Mining is in the exclusive list and the parastatal is under the supervision of federal government. So, how does anyone expect Gov Makinde to be held responsible for illegal mining in Oyo state?
Of course the argument of mining being in the exclusive list is very sound, but I don’t think this is justifiable and excusable in this regard. Before a miner could operate in Oyo state, he must have, at first, been a resident of a particular area in the state. So the questions are, what exactly is the yardstick the state government had already put in place before foreigners are accommodated and are allowed to settle in Oyo state? What specifically is the procedure being designed by the state government to restrict or guide the business activities of foreigners in the state? Does Oyo state at all have bio-data of the expatriates who reside in the state? I ask again, why did the state accommodate illegal miners in the first place?
Anyone who wants to question further my inquisition should first ask exactly the essence of Gov Makinde for being the Chief Security Officer of the state. The administration which Mr governor presides over has the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Oyo state citizens, so isn’t it appropriate to ask the reason Mr governor failed to protect his people and their property ,considering the huge resources (security vote) in Mr governor’s care to see to the protection of people’s lives and property? Shall we conclude that the people who were rendered homeless and those who lost their lives paid for the negligence of the state government?
According to a report in the Vanguard, a resident who witnessed how the explosion started confirmed that the foreign miners who kept the explosive devices in the building had, before the explosion escalated, ran away because they knew the implication of what would happen aftermath. They ran away to save their own lives but put the lives of many innocent residents in danger. Isn’t it again wise to ask how those devices of that magnitude managed to make their way to a residential area? Isn’t this another indication of insecurity in the state?
The calamity that befell part of Bodija in Ibadan is exactly the result to expect in a state where there is hardly a specific rule that regulates the activities of foreigners in its domain. It’s obscene and obnoxious on the part of the state to allow foreigners who do illegal businesses to operate without any effort to check their activities. These foreigners, who engage in illegal businesses will never care to handle things accordingly since they have nothing to lose even if the whole state burns.
Undoubtedly this isn’t the time to apportion blame, nevertheless, this must be presented for discussion to avoid future occurrence. Those who lost their loved ones and their property to the explosion will definitely understand how important it is to address the issue once and for all. It is imperative to find a lasting solution to the illegal activities of some foreigners who only came here to exploit, milk and make capital out of our land without much returns for the benefit of the indigenes.
It’s time for Gov Makinde to make sure that the bio-data of all foreigners are accumulated and documented for proper record and adequate monitoring. Those who do not have legitimate businesses in the state should be flushed out and deported without delay. And those who do legitimate businesses must be closely monitored by the appropriate agencies.
Again, there must be a collaboration between the state government and residents/community leaders through local government across the state. The responsibility of reporting suspicious and doubtful movements of these foreigners must be delegated to head of each community and local security groups.
The state government must also liaise and intercommunicate with the estate agents/agencies through whom these foreigners secure accomodations in the state. There must be a law that will make these estate agents to be legally answerable to any misdeed or illegal activity of their clients (the foreigners).
If government is truly responsible for the protection of lives and property of the citizens, I believe there must be no huge a price to pay to make life comfortable for them, the citizens. This is a wake-up call to Gov Makinde. And the way he handles this unfortunate incident will surely determine how faithful he is to Oyo people.
Ademola ‘Bablow’ Babalola