As the clock struck 7:44 p.m. on January 16, 2024., an ominous crescendo tore through the serene city of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, shattering the tranquility that once defined Bodija and the elite neighborhood in the city.
Houses trembled, cars rattled, and the hearts of its residents quivered in fear, echoing the devastation of an explosion that had just unfolded.
Shouts of explosions from far and near filled the air, as no one could explain or tell the tragedy that befell the city less than two weeks into the new year.
Per Second News gathered the impact reverberated like ripples, unsettling the entire city, where the unsuspecting populace grappled with an unknown threat that seemed to be chasing them into the abyss of uncertainty.
What had begun as a bewildering scene, forcing residents to flee without comprehending the impending danger, was revealed to be the detonation of explosives, leaving behind a myriad of unanswered questions.
Questions like, Who planted explosives in Bodija? What was their intention? How could this be happening in Ibadan? filled the mouths of the people who feared the end had come unexpectedly.
Bodija, once synonymous with elite calmness, transformed overnight into a war-torn spectacle, drawing haunting parallels to distant lands scarred by conflict.
A resilient vulcanizer in the area, Morufu Fasanmi, who is a father of three, shared a tale of survival amid the chaos.
He had recently lost one of his daughters in a motorcycle accident in November 2023 and had only just resumed work after it became obvious that if he continued to stay at home, his two other children may die of hunger.
He recalled how his impromptu shop turned into an unexpected haven, protecting him from the blast’s debris.
He pointed to a temporary store that saved his life by shielding him from falling debris while covered in dust due to the impact.
The thunderous noise and the ensuing dust clouds abruptly awoke the streets, which had been drifting off to sleep.
Fasanmi, his voice textured with the grit of experience, recounted, “I didn’t even know how I survived that terrible situation. It was the roof of that shop over there that spared me from the flying debris.”
From Bodija to distant areas like Ologuneru, Mokola, UI, Ojoo, and up to Oke-Ado and Apata, the echo of the blast reverberated, shaking houses as if a seismic tremor had struck.
A retired civil servant, Samuel Adebayo, told Per Second News that he felt the impact of the blast while he lay in bed.
“The frame on my wall fell, and the ground shook for a few seconds. I thought it was a tremor or that it was about to rain. I didn’t know something as terrible as an explosion had happened in Bodija, and the reverberation could be felt at Ologuneru,” he added.
Preliminary investigations pointed to explosives hoarded by illegal miners, a revelation that left the state governor, Seyi Makinde, visibly distressed during his on-the-spot assessment.
He revealed how 58 houses were affected, two lives were lost, and 77 souls were injured.
The morning after, residents count losses
The once-thriving neighborhoods now stood as a testament to irreparable loss, with survivors grappling with the harsh reality that nothing could resurrect what had been taken away.
Per Second News witnessed the desolation firsthand, as life in the affected areas seemed forever altered. The mood was pensive as residents stood in groups to discuss the tragedy that befell their once-quiet neighbourhood.
Underneath their discussion was the feeling of how to rise from the ashes and face life afresh, but not all of them dared to move on. They were obviously left in a state of disarray and grappling with the pain of losing everything they once cherished.
Dexterity Plus, a renowned event planner, lamented the obliteration of his hard-earned work, attributing the catastrophe to the recklessness of illegal miners who callously harboured destructive explosives.
He said he couldn’t believe the image his house wore the morning after, pointing to the roof and windows of his building, which had been shattered by the blast.
“I don’t know how to react to this situation. I am just going to keep quiet and get hold of myself because this isn’t how I planned to start the new year at all,” he lamented.
As rescue efforts unfolded, the scene resembled a mournful gathering, with families and friends salvaging remnants of their lives.
The city’s pulse was heavy with grief, encapsulated by a man whose mother lay in a hospital bed after her home was reduced to rubble the night before.
“I have an elderly mother who is currently being attended to by medical personnel at University College Hospital (UCH). She was at home alone when the explosion happened, and I had to rush down from Oluyole, where I work, to save her. She had passed due to fear, but she was revived at the hospital, and I hope she makes it out of there alive.”.
Prominent figures in the city also got hit and lost their houses
The shadow of tragedy extended to the doorsteps of prominent figures; a former Oyo State Deputy Governor, Iyiola Oladokun, and the families of the late Justice Minister and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, were not spared. Their residences, symbols of prominence, were scarred by the explosion, underscoring the indiscriminate reach of the disaster.
While the blame was swiftly placed on illegal miners, Governor Makinde vowed to bring those responsible to justice, urging residents to stay vigilant and cooperate with emergency services.
Residents feared it could be a coordinated terrorists’ attack
Some residents who spoke with Per Second News expressed fear that this could be another coordinated attack by terrorists trying to make inroads into the city and chose a quiet neighbourhood believed to be a few kilometres away from the Oyo State Government House, Agodi.
One of them who didn’t give her name expressed his conviction that “investigators must not foreclose the possibilities of some terrorists’ intentions and that the explosions could just be a tip of what is to come in an entirely coordinated attacks in this part of the country.”
Another man questioned who the illegal miners could be working for and how they were granted license to operate in that zone without anyone questioning their movements since they started.
Victims are left with shattered homes and shattered dreams
Some victims said it would be difficult to start life all over again, and they had no idea where to go. They appealed to the Nigerian government, particularly the state governor, Makinde, for government intervention, pleading for a chance to rebuild their lives. The affected streets, once bustling with life, now bore the scars of destruction as government officials began the arduous task of dismantling compromised structures, cautioning onlookers of potential hazards.
Normalcy returns to adjoining streets
Some shops and business owners around the affected streets have silenced business operations. Per Second News observed that most of them have reopened their shops for activities to continue.
A shop owner in the Awolowo axis who gave his name as Clement Osagie said, “People have been asking me when I would resume work because they have unfinished business with me. So I had to come and open, but we are saddened by the development.”
NEMA demolishes affected houses, barricades the environment
Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were seen pulling down the damaged buildings and structures in the affected area, warning passers-by to move away from the debris as there could still be harmful objects around the vicinity.