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Tragedy struck on Sunday morning, March 15, 2020, after a pipeline exploded in the Abule Ado community of Lagos, killing several people and injuring many others. The explosion affected Bethlehem Girls College, Abúlé Ado near Festac Town, Lagos. It claimed some lives, amongst which was the life of the school principal, Reverend Sister Henrietta Alokha.

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March the Fifteenth

It is a day the Abule-Ado community, in Festac Phase II of Lagos State, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bethlehem Girls College and Nigerians at large will never forget. On that fateful day, just as the Priest, Rev. Father David Melaba, was about to preach the homily, the students noticed an unusual smoke above inside the chapel. The principal, Rev. Sister Henrietta Alokha, SSH calmly but in a clear voice, told the students to move towards the Backdoor of the chapel. At that moment she stepped out and spoke to another sister in a hushed tone, she tried to make calls across to the fire service and almost immediately entered the chapel again and announced to the students to move towards the convent.

She shielded all the students and tried to make sure they didn’t stampede into each other. She was afraid yet calm, seeing all the students evacuate the chapel. Then came the very loud thunderous sound that shook the whole community and beyond, leaving over 50 buildings with Bethlehem Girls College terribly damaged.

Sister Alokha: A Sacrifice Worth Lives

Reverend Sister Henrietta Alokha rescued all her students before the roof of the collapsing building fell on her. She lost her life after rescuing all her students from the scene during the pipeline explosion. According to witnesses, Sister Alokha was reportedly among those who assisted trapped students to escape from the scene but lost her life in the process.

Sister Henrietta Alokha, SSH and another female, a security staff died in the process of making sure the students were safe. The report has it that Sister Henrietta did not see two of her students after rescuing the others, so she went in search for them even when she was told not to. She preferred to take the risk to save the missing two, who shortly after she left ran out from a different direction to join the others. At the end, not even a single student died nor was any student missing. But this ‘salvation’ came at the cost of the Reverend Sister’s life. Her life was cut short when she, trying to make it back after the search got hit on the head by the collapsing roof.

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Reverend Sister: A Sister to be revered

Graciously, none of the students died because of the great heroics and brave heartedness of Henrietta Alokha- Sister, Mother and Principal, who paid the supreme sacrifice to save the physical lives of her students. Calls have been made by different quarters for her immortalization.

The explosion did not only cost lives, but it also properties. The staff quarter of the school, administrative building, refectory and hostel building were levelled to the ground, but only the convent building was standing roofless with some damaged parts.

The School Chapel of Bethlehem Girls College, Abule-Ado, is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos and managed by the Institute of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


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This article was first published on 26th March 2020


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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