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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 15:26 GMT
Lagos explosion: Is anyone to blame?
Last Sunday hundreds of people, many of them women and children were killed in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos after explosions at an army munitions dump.

President Obasanjo has demanded an explanation from the military. But who, if anyone is to blame?

The dump, when it was built, was outside the city; Lagos has grown over the years to encompass the dump.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It bore the hallmark of some profligate individuals bent on discrediting the Nigerian government

Madu, Nigeria/UK
The fire in the Nigerian arm depot bore the hallmark of some profligate individuals bent on discrediting the Nigerian government. This is why it is necessary that independent investigations be conducted as opposed to the proposed military inquiry by the president. Nigeria and Nigerians should not allow this incident to distract the political dynamics that is now going in the right direction there. Let it be known to everyone us that the worst civilian regime is far better than military dictatorship.
Madu, Nigeria/UK

The incident in part is an antecedent of the legacies of decadent military rule in Nigeria these past years. The present administration though democratic, is more or less an extension of that rule. Hence I say, no one is to blame because everyone is to blame. Or is it the other way round?
Ritchie, Michigan, USA

Personally, I believe that though the military ought to be largely held responsible for the blast the incident remains an eye opener to all Nigerians as regards our total apathy towards modern town planning and uncoordinated response towards disasters of this magnitude. We should emulate the example of the Americans and how they responded to September 11.
Okupa Ehi, Nigeria

I think that there is someone to blame. We may not know whom, but Nigeria wants its justice back. Nobody, and I mean nobody expected this kind of chaos to happen in my mother's land of Nigeria. It's not an accident. We need to find out who did this to Lagos. We want our justice.
Yetunde Akinola, USA

The explosion on Sunday, was one that was waiting to happen

Bosun-Lagos, Nigeria
The explosion on Sunday, was one that was waiting to happen. Why not? When we have a government that cares only for themselves and does not bother about the suffering millions of Nigerians. All they know is to keep themselves in office. I hope this disaster will make Obasanjo, wake up from his slumber and live up to the expectation of Nigerians who voted for him. Then will the death of the little children not be in vain
Bosun-Lagos, Nigeria

Blame the government. Spending $12 million on ammunition when people are hungry and suffering. To add insult to injury putting them in a residential area. The Government should take full blame
Otisi, UK, Nigeria

I don't necessarily think that anyone is to blame but I do feel that it is the responsibility of the military to ensure that such accidents are not be included in our history. It is quite disheartening to hear and see pictures of dead bodies and damage it's done. An accident of this nature should never have occured. And please tell me, while they're investigating what's happening to these people, where will they sleep, what will they do now? This event is as bad as September 11. Those people at least had help and some hope. Where will ours come from?
Yemidale, U.S.A

I think the Nigerian Army has taken enough rap from Nigerians. It is interseting to note that those who criticise the army, althogh being Nigerians, are from outside Nigeria. This makes them mere arm-chair critics. The explosion was caused by a fire at a nearby market which got out of control. And yet when the government wants to demolish illegal structures, these same people start crying foul. Let's just pray for the victims and the nation. LONG LIVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!
Tolu, Lagos, Nigeria

Once more this has gone to show how short sighted the gonernment of the country is. In the first place why on earth would someone think that an army barracks of such importance should be located in the highly bustling area of Lagos, amidst residents and offices. It is has now been proved beyond all doubt that locating such barracks in cvilian areas is risky especially in the cases of catastrophic events like that of the Jan 27th. The Barrack should be relocated without any delay to save the people of Ikeja further tragedy in the future.
Tim, London, England

The military should defend and protect its citizens and not the dangerous weapons.

Ken Nwaigbo, Dodge City, USA.
The Nigerian military ought to accept the blame for this tragedy. Its excuse that the arms had been there years before the human congestion is not enough. Those should have been moved to spare the human lives. The military should defend and protect its citizens and not the dangerous weapons. I hope something would be done to avoid future tragedy like this one. May the souls of those who perished in this tragedy be blessed.
Ken Nwaigbo, Dodge City, USA.

This kind of explosions can not happen in Nigeria without someone masterminding it. It is one of the ways of making sure Lagos is not a secure place. This may be the work of Osama bin Laden's followers in the Nigerian Military.
Eniola, Nigeria

Fire outbreaks happen all over the world in various places. Why did it take over 36hours to check the spread?
'Yemi Animasaun, USA

The government in Nigeria is grossly negligent and places little value on the life of most of population. The lack of concern is evident in the mismanagement of all the infrastructure. Nothing works in Nigeria. As long as the federal government continues to micromanage or rather micro-mismanage the entire country tragedies will occur.
Toyin, USA

How ridiculous. Imagine that London or New York was blown up by a reckless military munitions explosions and then the official response that gets mouthed is "it could have happened anywhere", or "the barrack has been there before houses later swamped it". If the military spokespersons have no words of comfort or a decent sense of unpretended remorse, they are better off mute. Anyone who feels the blame does not fall squarely on the military should tell me why we had military and strategic experts on the defence payroll in the first instance. I feel ashamed that Nigeria is exposing her precarious security conditions to the outside world. I suppose if the Ikeja munition was indeed outgrown by neighboring houses, should it not have been moved, or are you telling me residences should be demolished for munition barracks? Meanwhile, may I conjecture that several other barracks in dense locations could equally pass off as death zones and those living around such geographies have better count the costs - in Nigeria, terrible history often repeat its self due to the "couldn't care less" syndrome of public officials.
Tope Agboola, Nigeria

The blame lies directly at the feet of the military and indirectly on President Obasanjo's shoulders

Phil, Nigeria
The blame lies directly at the feet of the military and indirectly on President Obasanjo's shoulders. I am basing my judgment on the comments of the officer in charge of the dump shortly after the explosions. He claimed he had tried fruitlessly to get the dump safe, but the responsible authorities had ignored his requests despite the fact a smaller explosion occurred months before, this is not unusual considering Nigeria's poor maintenance culture.
How can a dump, which had such terrifying arsenal, be left in a densely populated area of the city? This is unacceptable. The lives and feelings of the people have to be considered for a change, you can imagine President Obasanjo, a man elected by the people telling angry mourners to shut up and telling them he does not have to be with them! That shows how much regard he has for his people.
Phil, Nigeria

This is a very tragic situation that happened in Nigeria. Blaming people is not going to solve the problem or bring back lost ones. I suggest that the government takes measures to compensate families with lost ones and try within its best capabilities to to ensure that official incompetence does not cause any one their lives. Not only that, I also think that other African countries should help by providing some financial contributions which is much needed and stop relying on the western nations for every thing. Africa is a STRONG nation and we shall overcame.
Ernest Boamah, Ghana

The whole tragedy boils down to a confirmation of our blatant disregard for urban and regional planning, on the one hand, and for a good maintenance culture on the other hand. In countries where city planning and maintenance culture are given adequate budgetary allocations, and professional planners are allowed to do their job without unnecessary interference, such a tragedy would have been foreseen and prevented many years ago. Unfortunately, most Nigerian cities are nothing short of slums and ghettos where nothing works. Yet, the country is blessed with very brilliant professionals by any standard.
Jacob Babarinde, England

It is the government I blame for having the eyes focused solely on the 'spoils of war' and forgetting to better our lives

Eyitemi Taire, UK
In the first instance, the military are to blame for the substandard level of their operations but ultimately, it is the government I blame for having the eyes focused solely on the 'spoils of war' and forgetting to better our lives.
Eyitemi Taire, UK

For an outsider to fully understand the power play in Nigeria is difficult. One will be in power at the same time appeasing other power players to the extent that getting any official to do anything is always negotiated. This has come to the extent that something can be damn too wrong and at the same time respected and allowed. The fear of the unknown, the fear of upsetting certain status quo's, has stolen the show from genuine leadership. Regrettably, that's it for now.
Daniel Enyeribe, Hong Kong

At least for now, nobody is to blame on Lagos' tragedy since till now we have not been told the root cause of the fire. In my tradition we have a saying which goes "The Knowing does not lead"
Deogratias Mushi, Rome Italy

The disaster in Lagos could be an accident which can happen anywhere any time. However, the Nigerian Government has to find a way to get out of the issue of finger pointing and compensate everyone that has suffered losses. In addition, the Government needs to come up with concrete plans to relocate military facilities away from populated areas of the cities.
Adequate safety measures need to be put in place to avoid future occurrence to prevent future occurrence.
Ezekiel Lufadeju, USA

Finding someone to blame for this tragedy may be futile, but necessary so as to give the bereaved some sense of closure. The determination of the circumstances behind the explosions is also important to prevent its reoccurrence.
Eddie Mandhry, Kenya

See also:

29 Jan 02 | Africa
28 Jan 02 | Africa
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