The Nigerian Army has begun the movement of unexploded ordnance from the site of the 2002 Ikeja bomb blast, 21 years and nine months after the disaster.
The exercise, dubbed “Exercise Clean Sweep,” is expected to last 60 days and will involve the use of engineers’ plants and other necessary equipment.
The recovered ordnance will be transported to the Nigerian Army Range at Ajilete in Ogun State for disposal.
The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant-General Tajudeen Lagbaja, said that the exercise is necessary to ensure the safety of the Ikeja Cantonment and the surrounding community. He added that the army has taken all necessary safety and security measures to ensure the smooth conduct of the exercise.
The 2002 Ikeja bomb blast was a tragic event that claimed the lives of at least 1,100 people and displaced over 20,000 more.
The blast was caused by the accidental detonation of bombs and other explosives at the Ikeja Military Cantonment.
The COAS said the recent discovery of some unexploded explosive ordnances at the site of the 2002 blast raised the need for the army to carry out a follow up clearance exercise.
He said the 60+1 day exercise would be held from October 10 to December 10 and that it would involve the mobilisation of engineers’ plants and other necessary equipment to the site.
“There will also be movements and disposal of recovered unexploded explosive ordnances from Ikeja Cantonment to the Nigerian Army Range at Ajilete in Ogun State during this exercise.
“The objective of Exercise Clean Sweep is to totally disinfect the epicenter of the Ikeja bomb blast and clear it of all verified and suspected remaining Unexploded Explosive Ordnance. This will aid putting the site to future safe and productive use by the Nigerian Army and the larger Ikeja community.
“I must state at this point that exercises of this nature are time and resource consuming. It has taken this long to finalize the clearance operation, not because of lack of will but because it requires long term planning and acquisition of relevant expertise and equipment.
“I am happy today, to report that the Nigerian Army, with the support of the government and our international partners, has got what it takes to embark on such an ambitious and arduous cleanup. This briefing is a sensitization campaign to adequately notify the people of Lagos and Ogun states of the cleanup exercise. It also serves as an avenue to seek the support and collaboration of the Governments and the good people of Lagos and Ogun States for safe and smooth conduct of Exercise Clean Sweep,” Lagbaja said.
He added, “I wish to assure the general populace, especially Lagos and Ogun states residents, that the exercise will be conducted in the most professional manner with all necessary safety and security measures emplaced in line with global best practices.”
“To further reassure the citizenry, I have directed that adequate sensitization and awareness on the impending exercise be carried out on popular electronic, print, and social media. I implore the people of Lagos and Ogun states to not panic on sighting the movement of heavy vehicles and equipment as well as the sound of demolition of recovered Unexploded Explosive Ordnance at the Nigerian Army Range Ajilete, in Ogun State.
“The Nigerian Army equally seeks the cooperation of relevant government agencies and parastatals in Lagos and Ogun states, such as the State Emergency Management Agencies, the Federal Fire Service, Federal Road Safety Corp, Nigerian Police and the Department of State Services towards ensuring the success of this clean up exercise,” he added.
COAS said it had taken the army 21 years and nine months to arrive at this point, adding that the journey might have been perceived as slow, but had been steady and painstaking.
“The best compensation we can give to the victims of the 2002 bomb blast is to make the site and others secure for those living to avoid reoccurrence,” he added.
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