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LAGOS INFERNO: I lost my hubby in July, lost my livelihood in December –Victim

A portion in the Bible, Matthew 13:25, which says: “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way” was the case of many residents of parts of Abule Egba in the early hours of Wednesday as many lost their means of livelihood and properties to a fire outbreak caused by pipeline vandals reportedly scooping fuel from a vandalised pipeline at an area widely known as Federal inside Awori Bus Stop. Some of the victims who spoke with our correspondents said they lost virtually everything to the inferno and only barely escaped death as the inferno started raging around 2 am when most of them were deeply asleep. Israel Adebayo, a resident of Arowolo Street, Oko Oba, said it was by the grace of God that he and his cotenants escaped the fire, explaining how the owner of an auto mechanical workshop on the street was able to salvage the vehicles in his care “If not that people were alert, so many would have lost their lives to the fire,” Adebayo said of an inferno that occurred just one week short of the 12th anniversary of another deadly fire at Abule Egba which claimed hundreds of lives and billions worth of properties.

“Immediately I heard the explosion, I quickly woke people in the house and we started moving from one place to another. I was even thinking it was a bomb but after hearing the second explosion, we realized it was not a bomb. “I thank God for those mechanic people around the place because they were around, they started giving keys to people to start driving all the cars out of their garage and most of the cars were packed on the express, so many big cars. What would they be saying to the owners? It was a tragic situation. According to findings by our correspondents, some pipeline vandals were scooping fuel from the area and not willing to attract undue attention to themselves, placed a container on top of the spot where they destroyed the pipeline to hide it from view.

The container, now a shadow of itself due to the wrath of the fire, was still there when our correspondent first visited Wednesday morning although it was already torn apart. What many didn’t know for sure as at Wednesday morning was how the fire began so there were many versions. Speaking about the source of the sire, Adebayo added: “What really happened was the fuel followed the canal and getting to the Abbatoir, some people were burning car tyres there and the fire just followed the fuel back to the source, leading to the explosion. “It jumped some houses, most especially churches.

There was a particular building that got burnt and the church next to it was not touched, the fire jumped to the building next to the church and razed it down. It then jumped the next church and faced the remaining building.” A former resident of the area, Omolola Ojo, said some of her former neighbours lost everything to the fire with a particular friend of hers, losing her shop with goods worth over N600,000 gone. “I was staying at Agbe road before relocating to another area just a week from the incident. My friend, Abimbola, who sells wines and other spirits and had just bought some goods for the festive period, lost everything she worked for, Ojo said. Speaking further, she stated: “Although the security man at the shop alerted the neighbours, they could do nothing to salvage anything from the shop. She actually borrowed money from microfinance bank to stock her shop, she lost everything from the goods in her shop, two freezers and a generator among other things.

“She actually fainted when she was informed about what happened and it took the intervention of people around there to revive her. She is currently with her sister and I don’t even know where she will start from after losing everything to the inferno. “Also, another neighbour of mine told me they failed to take their potty into the room and during the night, one of the children wanted to ease himself and decided to wake the father who went outside and saw the fire. “He was the person that alerted all the other neighbours and that was their saving grace. They would have lost their lives in the fire just as they lost everything else.

The clothing items on their body as they looked aimlessly ahead that Wednesday were given to them by their neighbours as they left the house with only their wrappers, including the children. “There was another place where I usually buy hair Weave-On, the women also lost everything to the fire, with the shop worth over N1m. Likewise, a Mallam that has a Bureau de Change outlet at Abule Egba whose shop was burnt with all the money in it.” A woman who deals in jewellery, Nkechi Obanor, is at a loss about where to start from as her means of livelihood already gone as well. According to Obanor, who also sells cosmetics, she actually received her goods from China on Tuesday and overnight everything was gone.“I have three shops at Adepegba while the other one was at Abule Egba, I lost everything to the fire, where do I start from? How do I survive this great loss? God, please come to my rescue,” she cried out.

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She added: “I got all the goods in preparation for the festive period because I will need to service all my customers with some of them coming from far and near, where do I go to now?” Bola Kehinde, popularly called Larry ‘B’ at the Awori Axis of Abule Egba, who trades in musical CDs and cassettes, said few of her customers lost their means of livelihood to the inferno, revealing to our correspondent that she only got to know about the incident after getting to her shop on Wednesday even though people tried their best to call her overnight when the fire was raging. “I also put off my phone over the night so I was unable to get calls from people trying to inform me of the situation at hand.

Thank God the phone was off because it would have affected my thought not knowing what was going on at the moment. “Even though nothing happened to my shop, some of my customers lost all the goods in their shops with one who recently stocked his shop for the Christmas and New Year sales also affected. Apart from selling CD and Cassettes, she is also into clothes and she just bought new goods over the weekend, everything gone at the moment. “Her friend, who is into building materials with her shop also beside hers, lost everything and I don’t know where they are going to start from,” Larry B said.

The wife of James Akindele, owner of Auto-Pillar Mart, who lost all the cars in his shop to the fire, was unsurprisingly heartbroken. One of the sympathisers at the scene said the woman lamented the fire, claiming that she continued to pay her tithe so as to prevent such hazards. The sympathiser who wished to be called Olawale, said: “The wife of the car dealer broke down crying and with pains said she has been paying her tithe for such not to happen and why will such happened to her despite her faithfulness.

For her to come out to say that, it was out of a bitter heart. Looking around, you won’t even see a small car there, so many big cars, Lexus jeep, G Wagon and several big cars.” While it is difficult to put a cost to everything destroyed by the fire, our correspondents reported that at least 63 vehicles and 98 shops were razed in the pipeline fire along with properties worth millions of naira across Arowolo, Iyalode Abule-Egba Shobowale, Adepegba, Wamon Taofeek, Santos, Taiwo Adewole and Owode Streets. An eyewitness, Tinu Adekunle, recalled the similar fire incident back in December 2006 just as a widow, Nkem Esezobor, lamented her lot after losing everything to the fire just months after she lost her husband. “A friend called me around 4am to inform me of the explosion but I could not come at that time because I was alone. By the time I arrived everything in my shop has been destroyed in the fire, the woman, who deals in pastries and foodstuffs, stated.

“This is an incident that I find very difficult especially since I was just trying to pick the pieces of my life and put it back together having lost my husband in July. It was on account of his death that I decided to become involved in this business and I just moved into this shop, barely two months ago. Now I have lost all I have and I am even owing, the cost of equipment and products damaged by the fire in my shop is well over a million naira. I don’t know where to start from,” she lamented. Also speaking, an automobile mechanic, Mr John Ishola, said the terrible incident left him dazed and stranded for words.

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“I live at Sango. I was called by my friends in the area. By the time I arrived, all the vehicles within my workshop have been razed by the fire. When I called the owners of the vehicles, they were not ready to listen to my explanation. I don’t know where to start from,” he said just as a haulage driver, Saka Jibola, urged the government to come to the aid of those who lost properties to the fire caused by those he called “a few miscreants”.

“Our members lost eight trucks to the fire. We want the government to help us. We all have families to take care of and this is our only means of livelihood,” Ajibola said. A number of women whose family house was razed by the fire, accused the police of being complicit in the fire as they aided the vandals and their activities.

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“The Police know about those carrying out the activities. Now it has spiralled out of control and they rendered us homeless. “They are not just doing it; it is the Police that have been shielding their activities. They are the ones that made it possible for them to perpetuate the act. As at 11pm yesterday (Tuesday), they were chasing us and telling us to go into our houses so as to stand guard for the vandals.

They should make arrests around here too because some major stakeholders in the area also know about the activities but are just pretending,” one of them who refused to give her name, said. When contacted by Saturday Telegraph, Police, speaking through the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO), CSP Chike Oti, said they have no hand in the inferno. “What happened has nothing to do with the police. Well, we are following up with our investigations and at the end of the day, Lagosians and indeed, Nigerians would know what actually happened. It’s unfortunate that people are trying to rope the Police in here. That pipeline has been there for years and the people were comfortable with the vandals.

If not, why did they not report these illegal activities to law enforcement agencies before now? Again there is no law in our constitution that stipulates when people should go to bed. So, why would people be insinuating that? We have made some arrests and those arrested are now helping the Police with the investigation into the unfortunate incident.

We shall make our findings known in due time,” he stated. Along with a church, Jesus Chosen Shepherd Ministry, spared in the inferno that was burning underground all the way to Abbatoir, with concrete slabs helping to prevent the fire from reaching many houses, one of the shop owners, Victor Aigbogun, whose shop was spared in the inferno, attributed it to God’s mercy “When I was called about the fire incident, the first thing I did was to go on my knees and pray. I told God to take control and I had the faith that my prayer was answered,” the man who said he is a pastor at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, told journalists.

Narrating her she escaped the inferno, a 38-year-old widow, Ruth Joseph, who hawks food to support her three kids said she sustained burns while trying to save her second son, Samuel, who was sleeping when the fire gutted her apartment.Ruth said she was fast asleep when her younger sister who lives with her, raised the alarm that fire had gutted their apartment. “By the time I woke up, the whole room was full of smoke. I was able to rescue two of my kids but by the time I came back for my second son, the room was completely engulfed in smoke. It was in the process of rescuing him that I and my son sustained the burns.

“I did not know that our house is close to the pipeline and if I knew, I will not have rented the house. I came to this place when I was not able to pay for where we were living before when my husband was alive. I do not know where to start now because all I have is gone,” she narrated. An ailing 78-year-old landlord, Adio Salako, said he almost died from the shock of losing his house to the fire, saying: “I have been sick and away in my hometown at Abeokuta. I was called around 4am on Wednesday that my house has been destroyed in the fire. I almost died from the shock but I had to take my mind off it. I thank God that nobody died in the fire.

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I will appreciate it if the government can help us get back on our feet.” Suru Oguntoyinbo, a mechanical was unlucky to have had a total of 10 vehicles burnt in his workshop, said repair works to be carried out on many of the cars had been concluded but he and his apprentices were only waiting for the owners to take them before the disaster. Oguntoyinbo said: “Some of my customers have been informed about the incident and some of them don’t say anything for now because, I believe, they are confuse or don’t know what to say,” blaming government for not securing the pipeline very well from vandals who caused the incident as they were stealing petroleum product from the pipeline.

Isola John, a mechanic at Wamon Taofeek Street, said he and his colleagues lost twenty cars. They would have lost more than 28 cars if not for well meaning Nigerians who helped them push away some of the cars. A furniture maker, Durosomo, who was inconsolable about the loss of works and equipment worth millions, told our correspondent that he cannot yet wrap his head around the fate that has befallen him. He, along with other artisans, said he cannot put a figure to his losses yet.

A resident of Alakuko, he said he was called upon around 3 am and due to the worth of chairs, tables and sophisticated machines he had in his shop, he found a way to get here not more than 30 minutes later, only to find it all in rubbles. “I was called upon and despite how late it was, I dashed down here, helped in part by a neighbour who has a motorcycle. When I got here, I couldn’t see my shop, the fire had levelled it all and I only saw skeletons of some of the machines in the flames.

Not even the three tankers of water that officials of the Lagos State Fire Service brought could help douse the fire. A community leader, Honorable Fatima Aduke Mohammed, who brought food and clothing items to some of those who lost properties in the inferno, lamented that it is unfortunate that no state government officials had visited the people affected by the fire incident as at the time. According to Mohammed, the attitude of state government officials show that they care less about the public, appealing to residents to see the upcoming general elections as an opportunity to vote in the right people as leaders. Speaking on the cause of the fire, General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Mr Adesina Tiamiyu, in a statement, disclosed that the fire outbreak started around 2am.

“The spillage from the bunkering activities came in contact with an ignitable source and the impact resulted in inferno, ravaging several houses and cars. No fatality was recorded and the few people injured were immediately attended to by the Lagos State Ambulance Service and the Agency’s paramedics. Tiamiyu disclosed that the car lot in a Filling station was affected by the inferno as several vehicles parked in the filling station were destroyed. Giving the loss and damaged inventory of the inferno which ravaged 9 street as following; 38 vehicles, four tricycles, 71 shops, 30 rooms, two blocks of flat and one church auditorium, while several other properties were salvaged around the Axis including the Just Rite Mall, Petrol Stations and other facilities around Abule Egba Bus Stop to Awori U-Turn,” he said.

The LASEMA boss noted that investigation is still ongoing as to the cause and people involved in the incident, assuring Lagos residents that the situation is under control and that people are free to go about with their normal business activities while urging them to ensure they report any suspicious activities through the emergency toll-free line 112/767 to avoid an unfortunate incident such as this. Speaking further, Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, said the undercover operatives of the command have been detailed to be on the trail of the perpetrators, saying: “The Commissioner of Police visited the area for an on-the-spot assessment and he was able to speak to the locals to be on the lookout for vandals who have brought this untold hardship on the people. The source where the fire emanated from was also visited. The CP has detailed the undercover operatives of the command to fish out those behind the fire outbreak.”

News Reporter