The police provided cover while the illegal importers warehoused the explosives.
The firecrackers, which caused the Lagos explosion, were brought in with active connivance of police officers, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
A police station, Oko-Awo police post, is also located a few metres from the warehouses where the illegal firecrackers were stored before explosion, Wednesday, at Jankara, Lagos Island.
The explosion, which killed one and injured 40 others, left 10 buildings severely burnt and damaged.
Residents said the police were aware of the movement of goods in and out of the warehouses prior to the incident.
Monsuru Mohammed, who owned one of the destroyed buildings, said that container loads of the illegal explosives are regularly brought into one of the warehouses by a man identified simply as Jossy.
“When coming to offload, he’d come with mobile police. So who will challenge them?” Mr. Mohammed said.
“This is not the first time banger will be causing destruction in our community. About eight years ago, there was a similar fire in Idumagbo Avenue caused by the same people who own the warehouse that caused fire on Wednesday,” Mr. Mohammed added.
A police officer at the Oko-Awo police post declined to comment on whether they were aware of the illegal goods at the warehouse.
Efforts to speak with Ngozi Braide, Lagos State Police Command spokesperson were not successful. Calls made to her phone were not answered.
While visiting the scene on the day of the incident, Ms. Braide had said that the owner of the building “would not go unpunished.”
“It is illegal to deal on goods that are prohibited by law let alone importing such goods into the country,” Ms. Braide said.
‘Barred from homes’
On Thursday, a bulldozer from the Lagos Public Works Corporation continued to pull down remnants of the burnt buildings; as a handful of fire-fighters sprayed water at the last of the dying flames.
There were periodic bangs from firecrackers within the buildings.
The explosion sites remained cordoned by armed police officers to keep dozens of onlookers at bay.
The police barrier also kept people who live near the explosion sites away from their homes.
“My house was not directly affected but the police have cordoned off the area. I don’t even know where I’m going to sleep,” said Aishat Baruwa. “I have been outside all day and they will not even allow me to take any of my belongings.”
Police, Customs culpable
The Chairman of Lagos Island local government, Wasiu Eshinlokun, said that the Nigerian Customs and the police are responsible for the incident.
“However, it will also serve a lesson to all of them that, in future, they’ll be more alert to their responsibilities.
“We must have a multi-faceted approach to it. We must do a re-orientation, sensitization, and application of the law,” Mr. Eshinlokun said.
“The next line of action is for government to look at what had caused the problem, those involved in the trading of such items, then how do we mitigate the sufferings of those who were affected?” he added.
The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, had also demanded a thorough investigation of the source and ownership of the bangers.
The governor, during his visit to the site of the explosion on Wednesday, said everyone involved should be brought to book.