January 27, 2002 in history


On this day, an armoury at the Ikeja military cantonment in Lagos, Nigeria, containing “high caliber bombs” went up in flames at about 6.00pm, (local time), resulting in a series of explosions in and around the cantonment. It was an accidental detonation of a large stock of high explosives at the military facility. The explosions affected areas up to 50 kilometers away from the scene of incident. Two local governments areas: Ikeja Local Government and Oshodi/Isolo Local Council Development Area – with apopulation of about two million people were mostly affected.

the bomb blast

In the afternoon, a fire broke out in a street market being held next to the base which was also home to the families of soldiers. At around 6.00pm, the fire apparently spread to the base’s main munitions store, causing an enormous explosion. The blast killed many of the base staff and their families and immediately destroyed several nearby streets, and flying debris which werestarting numerous fires were all over the areas far and near.

Also thrown up by the blast were thousands of yet unexploded military munitions, which fell in a rain of exploding shells, grenades and bullets casting further destruction across most of the northern section of Lagos city.

some buildings destroyed by the bomb blast

Thousands of people from Ikeja and neighbouring districts, seeing explosions and fires breaking out, fled their houses in an attempt to leave the affected areas. As the streets became more and more crowded, explosions amid the fleeing crowds from shells falling from the initial explosion created panic.A stampede developed as panicking people fled in all directions, trampling those who fell underfoot.


In Central Lagos, there is a large canal which runs from north to south parallel to the Oshodi-Isolo expressway through the center of the city. It borders a banana plantation which many fleeing people thought might be safe from the falling shells which were spreading fires. However, the canal separated the plantation from the city and was covered by water hyacinth, thus invisible in the darkness. As the crowd surged towards the plantation, hundreds of panicking people fell into the water. Those on the bottom were crushed by yet more people falling into the waterway, and in the struggling confusion, at least 600 people were killed, many of them children.

residue of some of the bombs that went off at ikeja cantonment amoury found on the streets

Offical pronouncements put the number of deaths at about 700 while over 2,000 people were displaced. Many other people were also injured and treated for burns and minor wounds.

building detroyed by the blast

The Nigerian Red Cross treated 250 of such people. Many more probably patronised other health facilities.




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