Wednesday 28 March 2007

Nigeria: They were burnt like tinder to cinder

The tragedy of the scoop

The tragedy that has befallen Nigeria which does not seem to feature that well in any of the forums that matter in the country is that of bravado.

Some might venture to call it ignorance, others might hazard suicide, the smug will say stupidity and the experts will say poverty, the politicians however might say something sympathetic but never do anything.

We are all too familiar now with deaths from petrol fires, usually these affect those who have been scooping petrol from fuel pipelines that have been tampered with or have suffered some sort of maintenance-deficient structural damage.

Maybe in some other cases, some explosion has gone off wiping out hundreds creating headlines of gore and charred remains unrecognisable as once being human.

However, in a remote village in what is really North-Central Nigeria (Kaduna being the capital city) rather than the BBC's North-Western description, there was a tanker crash with the possible loss of 33,000 litres of highly flammable fluid, let's say petrol for instance.

The driver survived the accident but it would appear the people who gathered did not congregate to help the driver, rather they gathered to scoop petrol from the crippled tanker as the driver warned of the grave danger of a bigger accident or tragedy, like an explosion or possibly fire.

Many did not heed his warnings and eventually the tanker exploded killing 98 of which only 3 were recognisable by their relations, what a tragedy - Again!.

Reasons to be sorry

Herein is the great lament of this episode, contemporariously, an accident like this happened on Monday night according to the BBC but on Tuesday according to DissDayOnline and news of it did not break out till Wednesday morning.

Everyone knows that petrol is flammable, maybe that is too broad a generalisation - you do not have to see an obvious source of ignition before it catches fire and consumes anything that as much as has just the fumes.

The largest oil producing country in Africa cannot provide sufficiently the energy needs of its people that they are overcome with need to the detriment of their safety and consequent loss of life.

The driver knew full well that petrol can ignite unexpectedly and tried hard to warn people off this danger, but possibly ignorance of the dangers, coupled with lack of basic education and obvious destitution could not dissuade the people from such a largesse.

This was a village where everyone would have known each other too well, 98 souls perished but only 3 were identifiable when they were buried in mass graves - no greater indignity can befall another in these circumstances.

What exactly would those contesting elections really do to ensure that these tragedies become things of the past?

This is the third reported case of death by petrol incineration in less than a year, it is just not on.

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