THE FIRE INCIDENT IN CREEK ROAD, APAPA AND LESSONS TO BE LEARNT
By Oluwole Sheriff Olusanya
On Wednesday, 19th July 2017, barely 24 hours after the Nelson Mandela International day celebration, a colleague – Jane showed me some pictures of the fire incident in the Creek Road, Apapa branch of the bank in which I work and I was extremely disturbed.
Indeed, on seeing those pictures I was terrified. She told me about the incident but in confusing details. I did not have the full details of the incident until I got a full mail on it but I also had to investigate further. I next heard a fresh version on radio on my way home from work on that particular day but I still needed more information so I did some additional research, I also purchased a copy of the Guardian newspaper to read up more details on the unfortunate incident.
How It Happened
Pandemonium broke out at Creek Road in Apapa, Lagos when dozens of tanker drivers went on rampage over the killing of one of their colleagues by a police officer attached to a branch of Diamond Bank. It was learnt that the angry drivers instantly set two banks ablaze. The Guardian learnt that the mobile policemen fired shots at the tanker drivers for allegedly blocking the entrance to the bank with their trucks. The policemen who were attached to the bank had approached the drivers to give way for customers to come in and carry out their businesses. When efforts to make the drivers leave the road failed, one of the policemen shot sporadically into the air to scare them off, but one of the expanded pellets hit one of the drivers, who bled and died on the spot before help could come. Angered by the killing, the tanker drivers regrouped, and after setting the bank ablaze, they also burned a branch of Sterling Bank.
Attempts by the men of the Lagos State Fire Service, Iponri, who rushed to the scene, to put out the raging fire was rebuffed by the tanker drivers. The firemen had to leave the area for fear of being attacked by the tanker drivers. It took the intervention of some soldiers deployed from the Signal Corps of the Nigerian Army to restore sanity to the area. Their efforts were complemented by men of the Rapid Response Squad of the Lagos State Police Command led by their Commander, Olatunji Disu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police.
While the soldiers tackled the situation, the policemen were on ground to prevent the drivers and hoodlums, from further taking advantage of the situation to loot the banks and vandalize some cars parked on their premises. Also on ground afterwards to help put out the fire were fire servicemen from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and NPA mobile policemen.
A senior police officer said on the condition of anonymity: “Those tanker drivers are very irrational. When the policemen attached to the first bank shot at them, they regrouped and stormed the bank in anger. They were said to have first demanded that the policeman who shot their colleague be released to them. When their demand was not met, they took laws into their hands. They contributed fuel from their tanks and set the bank ablaze. The entire situation caused a stampede as both workers and bankers scrambled to escape through the back of the bank. The drivers were still on rampage in the first bank when they heard that the killer policeman had taken refuge in the next bank. Armed with that information, they simply went over the said bank and carried out the same carnage, irrespective of the presence of innocent bystanders”
Police spokesman – Famous Cole told newsmen that six persons had been arrested over the incident. “We have arrested six persons, including a senior police officer who did the shooting. Eyewitnesses at the scene are helping us in our investigations,” Cole said. The Nigerian Navy spokesperson in Lagos, Umar Chinwe told newsmen that his security organization had taken control of the area. “We have deployed our men in the place and normalcy has been restored,” he said. (Culled from The Guardian Newspaper – Thursday 20th, July 2017 – Pages 1 and 6)
According to the Guardian’s account of the event, there are three important parties; The Policeman, the tanker driver and the financial institutions. In subsequent paragraphs, I would discuss their individual and collective roles and responsibilities in the incident and offer advice on how to ensure that this kind of carnage is forestalled in the future.
The Policeman – The simple truth is that the policeman allegedly shot and killed a fellow Nigerian. Extra-judicial killings by men and women of the Nigerian security forces are becoming unbearable. We need to remind these trigger-happy officers that they are meant to protect the lives and properties of law abiding citizens of our country and not to send us to our early graves with the weapons that were bought and handed over to them with taxpayers’ money. The sad truth is that the whole situation would have turned out differently if the police officer had not shot and killed a fellow Nigerian over the simple issue of blocking a bank’s entrance. I asked Mr. Moses – a driver attached to my branch this question yesterday: “What if he did not have a weapon on him, what would he have done differently?”
The Tanker drivers – If the truth is to be told, I do not support the tanker drivers’ way of demanding justice. We need to remind ourselves that we live in a country governed by laws and regulations and there are certain ways of tackling issues that would ensure nobody gets hurts and everyone gets what they want. The destruction of properties worth millions of naira is unjustifiable no matter the offence because there are certain mechanisms put in place to ensure that every aggrieved individual is given fair hearing in a competent court of law. I totally believe that everyone that part took in the destruction of those properties should be made to face the full wrath of the law. This would go a long way to curtail a future re-occurrence and would also serve as a deterrent to others with such evil motives. We need to note also that I do not in any way support the gruesome murder of their late colleague, I only believe that issues should be handled more responsibly.
The Banks – I totally regret their losses and I really sympathize with them. This is not only because I am a staff of one of the affected Banks, it is certainly predicated on the fact that I totally condemn violence and terrorism in all its forms. I would like to appeal to the management of the affected organizations and others to ensure that staff and workers are re-oriented on the need and importance of addressing issues with a complete sense of responsibility and reasoning. I believe that policeman attached to banks should have been given adequate training on what to do and what to desist from in the discharge of their responsibilities.
Conclusively, I also pray for the soul and family of the departed tanker driver. God will give them the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss.
God Bless Us All
Olusanya, Oluwole Sheriff works as a banking relationship officer
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele