The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Wednesday, said he was disturbed by the petroleum tanker explosion that claimed 23 lives earlier in the day in Lokoja, Kogi State.
Most of the victims of the tanker explosion, which occurred in the Felele area of Lokoja, along the Lokoja/Abuja Highway, were schoolchildren and students of the state-owned polytechnic located a short distance away from the scene.
A man from Okene was said to have lost six children to the inferno, while a family of five was wiped out in the accident that some referred to as the worst in the year so far.
The victims included five students of the Kogi state Polytechnic and three nursery pupils, who were on their way to school.
Also, pupils from the Baptist Academy, whose number had yet to be ascertained, were among those killed.
Also killed was a businessman, identified simply as Samson, alongside his wife and three children.
Samson was said that be dealing in sewing machines and wanted to drop off his children at school as had become his daily routine before opening his shop.
The 33,000-litre tanker, which was laden with Premium Motor Spirit and belonged to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, was said to have suffered brake failure around 8am and rammed into five cars, two motorcycles and three tricycles, killing all the occupants.
Buhari said the tragedy represented “another disturbing and saddening incident in the litany of tragedies that have befallen our country.”
Buhari’s position was contained in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, titled: ‘President Buhari mourns victims of Lokoja tanker explosion’.
Shehu quoted the President as expressing worry over the frequency of what he called “large-scale tragedies” in the country.
Buhari was also said to have regretted that the frequent incidents, which he described as a national scandal, were mostly caused by people’s indifference to safety standards.
The President was quoted to have said, “I am seriously worried about the frequency of these unfortunate and large-scale tragedies in the country, which cause needless deaths.
“These frequent incidents that result in loss of lives and property are a national scandal caused by our indifference to safety standards.
“Many accidents are preventable if proper proactive and precautionary measures are put in place or properly observed as routine policies.
“Ours is a country where we move on whenever tragedies occur instead of taking preventive safety measures to forestall future calamities.”
The President therefore called on the county’s transport authorities, traffic and road management agencies as well as law enforcement officials to sit up and enforce safety standards with more seriousness.
He added, “Refusal to do the right thing can cause potential tragic problems that harm innocent people.
“Nigeria is not having a shortage of laws and regulations, but our problem is lack of zeal to enforce those laws and regulations for the sake of public safety.”
He condoled with the state government and the bereaved families.
“I was about crossing the road when I noticed the driver of the tanker signalling of the impending danger due to brake failure, and before one could say Jack Robinson, the 33,000-litre tanker conveying Premium Motor Spirit fell on its side and started spilling the content, which caught fire and burnt all vehicles in the vicinity,” an eyewitness, who spoke on condition anonymity, told PUNCH Metro.