Scene of the explosion
Mrs Abiodun Fasheye, a widow, lives in a rented apartment at Eleyewo in Akure North Local Government Area. As a dedicated member of the Holy Promise Celestial Church located in the community, she rarely misses the all night service of the church every last Friday of the month. On April 27, she went with her five children to the all night service.
At about 1 am, however, there was an unusual occurrence. A deafening noise seized the atmosphere and the church roof collapsed on the worshippers. Luckily, she and her children were among the few lucky worshippers who escaped without injuries.
The story would have been totally different if they were at their rented apartment at the time the explosion occurred. The blast completely destroyed the apartment and there was the likelihood that the walls would have collapsed on them if they had slept in it.
The sleepy community had been jolted by an explosion caused by a truck conveying explosives only to develop a fault that sparked fire and then the blast on the Akure-Owo-Bénin highway. By the time the dust settled, it was discovered that more than 60 houses, including two churches and a boarding school, had been destroyed. The said school would have been in session if the state government had not ordered the closure of schools around the state to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The explosion had created a huge crater in the middle of the Akure-Owo highway, forcing the diversion of traffic to the old Bénin-Akure Road.
The first words on the lips of most sympathisers at the scene were: “Thank God for coronavirus. But for the coronavirus outbreak and the consequent shutdown of public institutions, the boarding school would have been in session and the church opposite it would have been packed full of worshippers.”
It was gathered that the truck in question was coming from Ibadan, heading to Auchi in Edo State. The first truck hired by the firm that owned the explosives was said to have developed a fault, hence another truck was called in to convey the explosives to the quarry firm in Edo State.
In line with official procedure, policemen from the Explosives Ordinance Department were assigned to escort the truck to its destination. But when they arrived Shasha, a popular market in Akure, the truck developed a fault and they agreed to spend the night there.
The truck’s driver, Isiaka Yinusa, who at the time of writing was still recuperating from a surgical operation to remove shrapnel from his stomach, said he did not even know that he was carrying explosives because his boss did not tell him so. He recalled that one of the policemen woke him up and said they should leave Shasha because the truck was emitting smoke.
He said as he was moving the truck, the police escort riding behind him flashed and asked him to stop because of fire from the truck. He said they brought out fire extinguisher but all the efforts made to put out the fire failed. At that point, the policemen told them to flee as fast and as far as they could.
He said: “Suddenly, the policemen shouted, ‘Everybody, run! Everybody run!’ As I was running, I heard a bang and noticed something in my abdomen. That was all I knew until I woke up in the hospital.”
An eyewitness, a truck driver conveying goods from Plateau to Ogun State, Mr. Richard Solomon, said he was saved by policemen at a checkpoint who asked him to stop a little distance from where the truck was parked.
Solomon said: “I saw everything. I was going to Ogun State and it was late. Policemen asked us to stop, I stopped but some vehicles disobeyed.
“I saw a fire in the truck and few minutes later there was an explosion. I bent down but the thing shocked us. It shattered the windscreen of our truck.
“Other cars that parked near us were also affected. The people inside were injured. There were pieces of iron along the road.
“After about 30 minutes, we went there and saw that the road had split in two. We waited till day break to see everything. We came to the hospital ourselves.
“I did not see the driver of the truck that exploded. My boy was injured in the leg.”
All the buildings in the said school were shattered. About 18 buildings inside the Possibility Prayer Mountain for All Nations church were destroyed because the blast occurred right in front of the church.
The founder of the church, Prophetess Olayemi Adesida Omo Oba Jesu, was in a prayer session when the explosion occurred, but she managed to come out unhurt while others sustained minor injuries.
Mrs. Abiodun said she was inside the church with her children when they heard the bang and the church collapsed on them.
She said: “It happened around 1 am. When we got outside, we saw people everywhere. We got home and saw that our building had collapsed and we thanked God that we were not at home. If we were at home, our house would have fallen on us. I am a widow and don’t have anybody to help me.”
What perhaps destroyed many of the houses were shrapnel and scraps of the truck.
A widow, Mrs. Temilade Ganiyu, brought out a bucket of iron scraps that destroyed their house. She said a block fell on her while she was trying to run away.
She said they were inside the house when the bomb went off and their buildings collapsed, but nobody died.
Another civil servant, Olaniyi Olukayode, told newsmen it was a tyre rim from the truck that fell on his house and destroyed it.
He said: “The people saying it was not a bomb are fools. People have testified that a bomb exploded. What I gathered from my house has been collected by the police. I had spent N4 million on the house and now it is down.”
“We thought it was only our building. The truck’s propeller is inside the church. Our building has been destroyed. The effect broke my house into 10 parts. My daughter was also injured.
Another eyewitness, Blessing Matthew, said: “We heard the sound while we were sleeping. We thought it was an attack but we came out and saw people outside.
“We want the government to rebuild our houses. We heard the bomb that exploded is federal government property. They should come and build our houses.”
Mary Akiola said they had to shout for help when their walls collapsed. “The block hit us but we are okay. I was inside the room with five of my children,” she said.
A special police investigation team set up by the Inspector General of Police and officials of the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) have begun investigation into the incident, following argument by the Head, Media and Corporate Communications of National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr Felix Ale, that the explosion could be a natural phenomenon of a suspected fall of a meteor from an asteroid belt on great speed from space.
The NASRDA spokesman said the Space Agency was studying the situation and had deployed its team of experts to the site in Ondo State to carry out preliminary investigation to determine the cause of the incident.
Supporting the claims of NASRDA, a Research Professor in the Earthquake and Space Weather Laboratory at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof. Adepelumi Adekunle Abraham, noted that it sounded strange that the driver said he never knew that he was carrying explosives.
Prof. Abraham said the amount of IEDs being conveyed should be released to the public to know if the “supposed vehicle was carrying between 894 to 1500 kg of EID.”
He said: “If the momentum of the meteorite can be estimated, then energy released on impact can be calculated. The energy yield will have a particular waveform in form of Seismic Signal Strength recorded by a remote Seismometer (Teleseismics).
“Now the government claims it was IED that made the crater. If the amount (in tonnes) of explosive can be declared by the government, then energy yield on detonation can be estimated. This energy yield from IED should have a different unique seismic signal strength recorded.
“As soon as the COVID-19 lockdown is over, the samples that we obtained would be sent to: President of the Division F “Planetary Systems and Astrobiology” of the International Astronomical Union for further analysis. I’m not giving up on this.
“At the the Akure crater site, the Nigerian Police said that it was caused by IED explosion, but I disagree based on what we saw on the field.
“On 27th March, 2020 at 12:57am, a bright fireball was observed over the city of Akure Nigeria and a big explosion with Sonic boom was heard about one minute later by many inhabitants.
“A circular crater with dimensions 21 m x 7.8 crater was found in the middle of the road within lateritic clay. The bedrock in the area is Granite and Migmatite Gneiss.
“The Seismic station that is close to the site is 100km away. We have not been able to retrieve the data from this station because of COVID-19 lockdown.
“We found water oozing out from the edges of the crater despite the fact it didn’t rain that day or previously in the area.
“A preliminary in situ vibration, noise, seismicity, water analysis, radioactivity studies, rock and soil investigation were carried out. No evidence of fire or burning of anything was found within the vicinity. No evidence of radioactivity radiation was found within the crater and immediate vicinity.
“We deduce from the field evidence that A METEORITE possibly impacted the area at hypervelocity at an angle of 43 degrees and created an ejecta at South-Western part. No evidence of buried vehicle, buried ordinance or IED was found.
“However, crack opening that vary in thickness from 3mm to 4metres occurs on the wall of most of the buildings that are within 500m radius from the centre of the crater but not at the base of the buildings. Also, foreign rocks and strange metallic objects were found within the crater.
“Most of the destruction occurs on top and roof/ceilings of the buildings. Circular holes that measure between 1 to 2 inches were also created and observed on the screens of at least eight (8) cars that were parked nearby about 500m from the impact site.
“The affected area has been condoned off but people are still having access to the site.
“After reading our findings online, a credible witness, a retired civil engineer named Engr. Obembe (+234-8032073500) reached out to me that he witnessed the asteroid passing through his house around 12:45 am.
“Furthermore, we reasoned that to create a 21 x 7.8m crater that we saw, if we are to follow and accept the police account , we worked with three possibilities:
a) Buried IED
b) Unburied IED
c) IED dropped from surface
a) 894 kg of IED required
b) 1200 kg of IED required
c) 1500 kg of IED required
“Based on NASA information that Meteor may likely fall on the entire earth space between 19th and 28th March, 2020, we have been on the lookout. Also, only one loud noise was heard when the impact occurred accompanied with shock wave.”
This is even as the State Commissioner of Police, Undie Adie, said the explosives accidentally went off after efforts to put out the fire failed.
Adie said: “That is the normal thing. When they need the explosives, they go through the process of acquiring them. They are duly escorted by the personnel of the police explosive ordinance department. The department is charged with taking care of explosives.
“The consignment was being escorted. Along the road here, the vehicle developed a fault. When the driver noticed it, they tried to move away from where there were houses and see how they could put out the problem.
“They noticed that smoke was emitting from the engine. The effort to put out the fire was not possible. They had to move out and that was the best professional thing to do. That is why they are safe.
“Fortunately, the school here was not in session. It is an accident. It is not what we have control over.
“I have called the MD of the company the consignment was meant for. It was meant for a quarry. We have cordoned off the place and asked the people to stay away from here. Our EOD units are on ground. Throughout the night, they were here.”
The report of the IGP team and NGSA is expected to be ready next week and it might put to rest the controversy as to whether the explosion was a bomb or a meteorite from outer space.
Source: The Nation