Rivers Tanker Fire Tragedy: Hold Government Responsible

by Odimegwu Onwumere

Weeping and wailing are not enough. They are understatements to describe
what happened in Okogbe village of Ahoada West Local Government Area of
Rivers State on Thursday 12th July, 2012. A petrol tanker carrying fuel
damaged and fire later gutted and killed and injured over two hundred
people who came to scoop the fuel it was carrying.

This happened along the East-West road the Federal Government said it’s
dualizing for years now without end. This shows the level the government
can go to neglect its citizens, but only to show chameleonic expression of
concern later, when Nigerians perish on such incongruous road that dots all
the parts of the country, but especially in the South-East and South-South.

Like the Federal Government, the National Emergency Management Agency
(NEMA) is good at busy-bodying, calculating casualties of accident victims,
but not to tell the government that instituted it, the number of roads in
Nigeria that need urgent re-construction – not repairs – because their
damage transcends beyond mere repairs.

If the roads were in good shape tankers and other vehicles would not have
been attracting damages and falling per second on the Nigerian roads, let
alone, to attract the people to scoop fuel from tankers. Now, those who
perished in the incident were Nigerians burnt beyond recognition and they
were punctually buried at the scene of the explosion by the government,
without any form of remorse, as if the government was shying away from
paying money, which may accrue if their remains were deposited in morgue.

What happened at Okogbe ought to call for sober reflection of where Nigeria
is headed. Nigeria has become a country of those who stockpile gold and
silver and spend it not in God’s path, and the masses are reaping the
tidings of painful agonies in all facets of the Nigerian Project. Being ill
as Nigeria is is shocking; she has become a place where people die with a
pain and agony that are different, which yank the living out of
theirselves. The money was always disappearing, which has culminated to
hundreds of innocent lives gulped in swoops of insecurity of lives and
property, occasioned by decays in all ramification of governance.
Corruption has cost too much blood and agony to be surrendered at the
contemptible price of speech-making of condolences.

Against that influence, it is not about Governor Chibuike Amaechi being
“saddened” by the incident and had to truncate his official commitments in
Abuja to rush to the scene of the incident, but about fulfilling his
promises on such occasion as he once did when a similar incident occurred
at Igwuruta in March, where about six persons died, and the governor
promised that the Igwuruta road would be put in place. What has happened
till date?

In earnest, the people and government of Rivers State should reject the
Federal Government’s condolence message, because of its negligence to
clarion calls to put the Federal Government-owned bad roads in the state in
good shape. The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) should also be
neglected, because it is much concerned with the new plate numbers and the
new driver’s license and not about the condition of the roads the vehicles
that will use those items will ply. The roads are in very bad shapes, but
the FRSC is much concerned with catching drivers who pitiably make use of
these roads better called pit of hell, and hardly mark any vehicle
“off-road”. How many times has the FRSC called on, or sent proposals, to
the Federal Government to repair its-owned roads? What they will be after
are motorists to catch and send condolences when Nigerians perished in road
and air mishap!

Anybody blaming the tanker drivers as illiterates who use alcohol, sleep in
the brothel etc is making a grave mistake. In that sense, what has those in
the government who are schooled been doing to help the poor conditions that
Nigerians have come to endure in the country? Government always forgets the
despair and agony on the Nigerians’ faces the awful successive governments
have stamped on their faces.

The government has made Nigerians to bear greater agony and they are
bearing an untold story inside their selves. The government is making
Nigerians to look like Marathon runners with bad shoes who suffer the agony
of the feet. The government will always send its sympathy messages when
Nigerians perished in avoidable deaths because of infrastructural decays.
But when will this end?

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