Onitsha (18 October, 2019): The entire Onitsha community was thrown into deep grief on Wednesday, 16 October, when the driver of a tanker laden with petrol lost control and crashed at the commercially busy interchange of Iweka Road and the expressway leading across the River Niger Bridge to Asaba, resulting in the loss of lives and properties. We share the grief of all those affected, and thank everyone, including President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Chief Dr. Willie Obiano, my fellow traditional rulers, leaders in the public and private sectors, and a host of ordinary citizens, for their instant and massive expression of sympathy and solidarity.
This is the third major petrol tanker fire in Onitsha since 2015. In May 2015, a tanker laden with petrol lost control and exploded in the same vicinity of the latest accident, killing about sixty persons. In February 2017, another tanker laden with petrol crashed into the Mobil Petrol Station on the DMGS Roundabout and the consequent fire destroyed numerous homes and offices though, thankfully, no lives were lost. There have been other major fires in the markets that dot the city.
Exactly a week ago, during my annual Ofala address to the community, I spoke about the pressures of urbanization and unbridled commercialization in the city, the need to debottleneck the road traffic conundrum in the city, and the enforcement of planning regulations to curb illegal roadside trading that impede both vehicular and human movement. I also spoke about the related issue of poor environmental sanitation that is choking the metropolitan city with garbage.
We thank Governor Obiano, for acting immediately to set up a panel of enquiry into the fire incident and pray that the remit of the panel should go beyond this specific event to address the fundamental causes of these disasters, and a holistic plan for a broad-based tackling of the challenges of urbanization and commercialization which contribute to environmental pollution and degradation. An adequate fire service is a sine qua non for a bustling metropolitan city of Onitsha as well as other major towns in Anambra State.
Once again, we sympathize with all persons affected by the fire and thank all and sundry for their support and sympathy. We call on the State and Federal Governments to save Onitsha from collapse as a homeland and leading centre for commerce and industry.
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