Not certain of the actual cause of Wednesday’s twin explosions in Apapa, Lagos, police forensic experts, who are already investigating the blast are yet to rule out bomb explosion.
This is just as it was gathered that the anti-bomb operatives who stormed the scene of the blast in the early hours of yesterday to take the debris for forensic examination, had begun post-blast investigations to ascertain the cause of the explosion.
The forensic team had earlier encountered some hitches as security operatives attached to the Folawiyo Energy Limited (FEL), the tank farm, refused to allow men of the anti-bomb department access to the FEL premises.
The initial police explanation that the explosion was caused by gas cylinders and not bombs, further fuelled the suspicion of the anti-bomb disposal unit who were keen on establishing why and how a cylinder exploded around a petrol depot.
THISDAY gathered that the first thing the forensic experts set out to do was to look for the remains of the gas cylinders.
Although it was yet unclear if they succeeded in finding the cylinders that allegedly caused the blast, sources said its discovery would lead to uncovering whether the explosions were caused by bombs or whether it was triggered by faulty appliances.
While stressing that the Explosives Ordinance Depot (EOD) of the Lagos Police Command was yet to rule out the incident being a bomb explosion, the source told THISDAY that investigations had begun.
The source said: "We are yet to rule the incident out because certain factors must be cross-checked. Do not forget that gas is a major component of explosives.
"It is the gas that even makes the explosions worse because of the fragmentation in the gas. It would take EOD experts to ascertain what truly happened in this case.
"Because of the extent of the blast, the gas might have been used to fuel car air conditioning systems because gas makes a bigger effect. You can never underestimate the effect of gas.
"When our men are taken to the range for periodic training exercises, we are often set to task to construct a local bomb and we often use gas to make the effect louder."
He added: "We don't want to incite panic among residents of Lagos unnecessarily and that is why we are taking time to investigate. During investigations, if we see residue of explosives, we can then conclude.
"It is this post-blast investigations which would reveal if the components have explosive substances because the explosion might have been caused by carelessness in handling of the gas."
The management of FEL had denied that the explosion had nothing to do with their premises, claiming that the blast occurred around 200 metres away from the premises.
An official of the company had earlier told THISDAY that there was a “trailer spark” in the premises.
However THISDAY confirmed that while there was an explosion within the FEL premises, which claimed a life, there was another explosion on the opposite side of the depot, which claimed three lives.
Yesterday, the premises of the FEL was cordoned off, and even its staff were not allowed into the premises.
The twin explosions had occurred first at Folawiyo Depot before it happened five minutes later at Alex Junction, killing four persons including a food vendor.
However, as at yesterday, the death toll from the blast may have increased to five following the search of a missing pineapple seller who was only identified as Folakemi, whom some believe, might have been caught in the blast. Eyewitness account said the teenager was hawking her wares at Alex junction minutes before the blast occurred.
THISDAY had on the night of the incident seen scattered wraps of pineapple on the ground near the blast scene but in the melee nobody apparently took note of her absence until yesterday when enquiries as to her whereabouts began.
Meanwhile, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ngozi Braide, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, who was at the scene, said the explosion was caused by fuel-laden tanker and not a bomb as alleged.
Braide, who spoke after she was allowed entry into the depot said: “I may not be able to tell you the number of people that died but I will be coming up with a statement later. We have commenced investigation. In cases like this, you just do not go and be making statements up and down.
“After the investigation, we will come up with what transpired and make it known to the press. We don't know if the tank farm explosion was linked to that of the car.
“There is nothing whatsoever suggesting that it was a bomb explosion. It was a tanker loaded with fuel that burst into flames. Policemen are on ground there now and we cannot yet ascertain the casualty figures. But everything is under control."
Braide's statement conflicted with reports from the Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, who later said it was too early to conclude if the explosion was a blast or not.
Manko said: "We don't want to create unnecessary tension for now but note that the EOD have begun investigations. If it is a bomb, we will begin enlightenment campaign to create awareness on ways to identify these people."