At 13th memorial, Ikeja bomb blast victims lament neglect
THIRTEEN years after, some relatives of the victims of the Ikeja Army Cantonment bomb blast are still crying to the Lagos State government to fulfill its promises made to them on the aftermath of the disaster. They made the call at the site of the mass burial, where prayers were offered for the repose of the souls of the dead.
As with the custom every year, relatives started thronging to the place from 8am, with flowers and memorabilia of their lost ones. Under the watchful eyes of policemen, they made their way into the mass burial site and muttered silent prayers. In solidarity with them, shops around the area were shut until midday.
The Ikeja Army Cantonment bomb blast incident, which took place on January 27, 2002, is said to be the most tragic event ever in the history of Lagos State. So many lives were lost in the dark, murky water hyacinth covered canal separating Ajao Estate and Ejigbo. For over 150 families, that infamous day would remain evergreen in their memories due to the pains and agony the incident had caused them.
During the 10th anniversary, Lagos State government fulfilled its promise of compensating the various families of the deceased. Only 70 families were given N250,000 with a promise to verify names for the second batch. There, however, seems to be an endless wait for the second batch of 84 families to receive their compensation.
In a chat with The Guardian, chairman of the 13th anniversary committee, Comrade Nurudeen Oyegbemi, said they have written letters and petitions and also attended meetings with the state government and the Lagos State House of Assembly, but according to him, it is like one is pouring water on a stone. He said government has abandoned them and was unwilling to fulfill its promise.
“I lost my 14 years old son, Olalekan Oyegbemi. He was among those who drowned in the canal. It is painful when one loses a friend to the cold hands of death less alone losing your son in this tragic way. It is so bitter that the Federal Government who owns the cantonment is yet to do anything about the issue. We, however, appeal to the state government to attend to the second and final batch of victims,” he said.
Other relatives of the victims lamented to The Guardian. Mr. Anechukwu Gaius said he lost his eight years old daughter, Maris, in the tragedy and hasn’t been happy since then, though if compensated, it would have made matters better.
Mr. Ifeanyi Onyeme also lamented that his 10 years old son, Victor, was one of the missing children. He said he spent so much money to make newspaper publications concerning his son’s whereabouts but to no avail. He added that if the government pays its compensation today, it would not cover what he spent in search of his son.