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Army chief, Lagbaja, recalls Ikeja Cantonment explosion, says we’ll not allow a repeat



The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), LT. Taoreed Lagbaja, on Tuesday, assured that the Nigerian Army will ensure that the January 28, 2002, Ikeja Cantonment bomb explosion does not happen in any of its contonments.

Lagbaja, who gave the assurance while flagging off ‘Exercise Clean Sweep’ to clear remnants of the unexploded bombs at the cantonment, noted that the exercise would involve the mobilisation of engineers’ plants with the inclusion of other necessary equipment.

He affirmed that the humanitarian losses incurred in the 2002 explosion was still fresh, and that lessons have been learnt from it in order to avert a repeat.

Lagbaja said: “21 years later, the losses we suffered are still fresh in our memories. In the aftermath of the blast, lives were lost, properties were destroyed, blame was assigned, inquiries were made, and lessons were learned.

“The initial clearance operation ensured some degree of safety in the Ikeja Cantonment and its surroundings. However, the recent discovery of some Unexploded Explosive Ordnance at the site of the 2002 blast raised the need for the Nigerian Army to carry out a follow-up clearance exercise in Ikeja Cantonment and its surroundings.

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“The clearance exercise codenamed ‘ Exercise Clean Sweep’ will be held from October 10 to December 10, 2023. There will also be movements and disposal of recovered Unexploded Explosive Ordnance from Ikeja Cantonment to the Nigerian Army Range at Ajilete in Ogun State during this exercise.”

“I must state that exercises of this nature are time and resource-consuming and it has taken this long to finalise the clearance operation, not because of a lack of will but because it requires long-term planning and the acquisition of relevant expertise and equipment.”

The Commander of the Corps of Engineers of the Nigerian Army, Major General Philip Eromosele, while commenting on the mode of operation, revealed that no fewer than 105 truckloads of Unexploded Explosive Ordnance were recovered during an initial clearance operation carried out by the Nigerian Army Engineers, alongside other stakeholders.

“The Exercise Clean Sweep is organized in four phases, including Mobilization, Vegetation clearance, Search/Recovery/Disposal, and Demobilization. In line with the COAS directive, we will employ modern Explosive Ordnance Devices, EOD technology and professional tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure the safety of lives and property in carrying out this task,” he said.

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