Days after fire gutted about 25 shops attached to the palace of the Elekunpa of Ekunpa, Oba Kosoko, Kazeem, in the Shibiri area of Ojo Local Government Area, Lagos State, business owners, whose shops were affected by the inferno have yet to recover from the shock. PUNCH Metro observed during a visit to the palace that some of the victims had resorted to auctioning the remainder of their goods, while others, who had sustained burns from the fire, were nursing their injuries.
One of the victims, Eucharia Abu, said a boy was pouring fuel into a working generator, which led to an explosion that caused all the shops attached to the palace to be burnt.
The Imo State indigene said, “Around 2pm, one of the boys employed at the Bet9ja shop was pouring fuel into a generator when the generator and the keg of petrol caught fire. Out of fear, he threw the keg away and ran for safety; and it was that burning keg that attracted another generator, before the fire spread to the food vendor, who was using gas to cook. It was when the fire got in contact with the gas that the whole place exploded and the inferno got out of control.
“The fire burnt the whole shops, including the goods stacked in them; all my goods were burnt, because I was completely unaware that my shop and many other had been affected from behind. But when we noticed the fire, some boys got water to put it out, while others climbed the rooftop and started cutting planks that could attract fire. And that was how they prevented it from spreading to the palace building. I lost goods worth over N100, 000, but a man who sells flour here lost goods worth over N5m.”
A food vendor, Selina Samson , whose shop was located beside the Bet9ja shop, said the fire made her to lose valuables worth over N1.4m.
The Ogun State indigene said, “I was in the shop washing the meat we bought from the market when I heard an explosion. When I looked outside, I saw that the generator we were using had caught fire and it had spread into my shop located beside the Bet9ja shop.
“Immediately, I and my workers fled the scene of the fire. I lost properties worth over N1.4m to the incident; I want the government to come to our aid, because I don’t know where to start from.”
One of the injured victims, Asuramu Temitope, who was working in the Bet9ja shop when the fire started, said she was to quit the job this month before the fire incident, which made her to suffer severe burns.
The 24-year-old Lagos State indigene said, “I don’t know how the fire started, because I was inside the shop attending to customers; all of a sudden, I saw fire burning in front of the shop and it was coming inside. People who were inside the shop ran into the fire to escape, because there was no other way out.
“It was in the process of trying to escape that the fire burnt my face, hand and calves. I am going through pains and have spent over N40,000 on medication. I have lost hope already, but I thank God that I didn’t die.”
Another victim, Jenifa Emenalum, 21, said she could not walk properly because she suffered severe burns on her right leg.
A sales assistant, Abass Kehinde, appealed to the government to provide a fire service station close to the area, adding that distance and gridlock made the Lagos State Fire Service to arrive late to put out the fire.
The 25-year-old Kwara State indigene said, “We sell hair extentions and my aunt had just stocked the shop for the festive period. She has been lamenting because she lost goods worth over N2.5m.
“The fire service men would have arrived early if not for the distance from their station to the palace and the gridlock on the road. This area is big enough to have a fire service station to serve us and nearby communities. So, what we want the government to know is that we need a fire service station close enough to respond on time.”
Efforts to contact other victims of the fire incident proved abortive as most of the burnt shops had been reduced to rubble when our correspondent visited the scene of the fire incident.
Oba Kazeem Kosoko, who said he went for a meeting in Ojo when the incident occurred, added that he was grateful that no life was lost to the inferno.
He said, “I went for a meeting in Ojo when I was informed that the shops were burning. I had to rush home but the gridlock was much. When I saw the damage the fire had caused when I got home, I had to thank God that no life was lost.
“I appreciate the efforts of all those who assisted in putting out the fire and also thank all the people and kings who came to commiserate with me.”
When contacted, the Acting Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Rasaki Musibau, said the incident was caused by carelessness and failure to adhere to simple safety instruction of not fuelling generators while still working and to always contact fire officials for the management and control of fire, no matter how little.
Musibau said, “We received the fire alert around 2:56pm, turned out the Ojo Fire Station around 2:58pm and arrived at the scene of the incident by 3:05pm. The Ikotun Fire Station was called for backup, but the fire, which had escalated, was put out before their arrival. It was alleged that a shop owner was refuelling his generator while it was working.
“The Shibiri fire loss would have been prevented if there was an earlier call to professional fire fighters rather than trying to put out the fire by the residents, which aggravated it.
“Our officials were attacked with stones and pebbles, while a fire engine’s windscreen was broken. The police have been involved while the community leaders expressed their regret and pledged support towards rebuilding the destroyed properties and reaffirmed their commitment to safeguard government facilities as well as fish out the perpetrators.”
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, who confirmed the incident, said investigation into the case was ongoing.
Oti said, “On Tuesday, December 11, 2018, fire gutted the shops attached to the palace of the Elekunpa of Ekunpa kingdom, Oba Kazeem Kosoko, located in Shibiri, Ilemba Hausa, Lagos State. When the fire started, our people contacted other responders to the distress situation. The fire was put out by a team of policemen and fire fighters mobilised to the scene.”