‘How we survived Ijegun fire’

Landlords and old residents of Ijegun community, a Lagos suburb in Alimosho council area of the state, will not forget Thursday in a hurry. It was the day tragedy visited them and gave them a kiss of sorrow and death. Fire came and lapped up houses, shops, vehicles and sent souls to the graves. The day would be ingrained in their memory for a long time particularly because that was not the first time they would be playing host to such an incident. About 11 years ago, precisely May 15, 2008, residents were forced to relive the horror once again. Incidentally, the fire incidents all happened at the same spot-Fire Junction. Like the incident of 2008, it came at a huge cost also: houses were burnt, 31 vehicles were destroyed and about 21 persons injured and two confirmed dead initially. By press time, another victim gave up the ghost.

Unlike in 2008 when the inferno was caused by a road construction tractor that ruptured an oil pipeline, this time, the inferno was a deliberate sabotage by pipeline vandals. According the residents, the suspected vandals came deep in the night, ruptured the oil pipeline that comes from Atlas Cove passing through Ijedodo before getting to Ijegun. The petroleum thieves, according Ijegun residents, operated from night till early morning. Some said they came with between eight to 10 tankers.

Although there was noise in the early morning while the activities of the oil vandals were on, many of the residents were initially not aware of what was going on in the neighourhood. However, towards the early morning, Ijegun was saturated by thick smell of petroleum.

One Mr. Ebenezer, a business man on Ayinde Street, said he was woken up by a phone call from a neigbour. “I learnt that these people were around siphoning fuel from the pipeline; that the whole area was saturated with the smell of petroleum. They told me, ‘There might be fire at any time. Please leave your house immediately. Do so as quickly as possible.” Ebenezer said he immediately woke up his family and told everybody to leave the house, that there might be fire. He continued: “I woke up all my family members and told them to go outside. Some didn’t understand what I was explaining to them, but the most important thing was that they left. I told them not to carry anything. Life is more important than any material acquisition. We quickly rushed out. When I checked my phone, the call came in at exactly 5:07am that Thursday morning. In less than three minutes, we were already out of the house. We were outside when we started seeing palls of fire and smoke. The fire started at 5:10am, three minutes after I got the call. There was pandemonium everywhere with black smoke, huge palls of fire running across the canal that crossed Awolumate Street.

Mr. Kamale Karim has a house facing the canal. He lives with his family and narrated their narrow escape. “This thing started 5:10 am. I woke up early this morning and was going through my phone when I heard a bang. I looked outside; there was huge fire. I called my children. Because the canal was directly in front of us and the fire was burning inside, I told everybody to go outside through the kitchen. I told them to run to the next street through the kitchen.

“Later, when my family had escaped, I moved towards where l saw the fire coming from. I saw two people that were burnt.

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“The fuel came through the gutter; it seemed the suspected vandals opened the pipeline and could not close it again and then the fuel flowed down to the carnal. “

Godswill, 20, is another survivor of the inferno. His compound is also facing the canal. He narrated his close shave with death: “I slept very late. I didn’t hear what was happening. I woke up early in the morning and discovered that smoke had filled the room. I was a bit confused and didn’t know what I was doing. I tried opening the front door only to discover that it was locked and l couldn’t open it. I also tried the back door but I also found it difficult to open it. Faced with death, I needed do something desperate to stay alive. I pulled off the burglary proof and removed the glass louvres on the window of my compound. I escaped through the window. That was how I survived the inferno.

How two residents lost their lives

According to the residents, the fire might have started from the Awolumate Street almost 50 meters from where the vandals had operated and from where fuel was licking. It was from there that fuel found its way to the densely populated sloppy area of Catholic Mission Street, Church Street and other streets.

It was learnt that the fire might have started from a Volkswagen Vanagon bus. The driver, one Baba Friday, also known as Jafan, was said to be anxious to get to his vehicle, the Vanagon bus packed in the area. He was afraid that if there was fire as a result of the smell of fuel that had enveloped the whole community, it might burn his bus. A certain Sukunmi was said to have warned him against starting the bus with the community enveloped with fuel odour. Jafan did not listen to the advice and immediately he revved the engine of the vehicle, it was engulfed in flame and also caught his shirt. They said Jafan rushed to the canal to douse himself inside, not knowing that there was petrol there. He soaked himself with petrol and the fire engulfed his whole body. Meanwhile, through the canal, the flame traced its way back to the point where the petroleum thieves had siphoned fuel and the pipe burst into flame.

One of the security guards in the area, Mallam Bashir, saw Baba in the canal engulfed by fire and writhing with pains. Thinking it was ordinary water that was in the canal, he also jumped in to rescue Baba but he was caught by fire. He was also burnt to death.

As at Friday, another resident of the community who sustained burns as a result of the fire, one Ribwan Afolabi, living on Catholic Mission Street, off Awolumate Street,also died on Friday at the hospital. He was buried on Thursday evening.

We tried to reach the traditional ruler of Ijegun, Oba Nureni Akinremi Olomi Tutu, whose palace is less than100 meters from the point where the vandals damaged the pipeline to scoop fuel. His palace was locked except for the front door man by a security guard. Upon inquiry, the guard said the Oba did not want to see anybody.

Landlords and old residents of Ijegun community, a Lagos suburb in Alimosho council area of the state, will not forget Thursday in a hurry. It was the day tragedy visited them and gave them a kiss of sorrow and death. Fire came and lapped up houses, shops, vehicles and sent souls to the graves.The day would be ingrained in their memory for a long time particularly because that was not the first time they would be playing host to such an incident. About 11 years ago, precisely May 15, 2008, residents were forced to relive the horror once again. Incidentally, the fire incidents all happened at the same spot-Fire Junction. Like the incident of 2008, it came at a huge cost also: houses were burnt, 31 vehicles were destroyed and about 21persons injured and two confirmed dead initially. By press time, another victim gave up the ghost.

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Unlike in 2008 when the inferno was caused by a road construction tractor that ruptured an oil pipeline, this time, the inferno was a deliberate sabotage by pipeline vandals. According the residents, the suspected vandals came deep in the night, ruptured the oil pipeline that comes from Atlas Cove passing through Ijedodo before getting to Ijegun. The petroleum thieves, according Ijegun residents, operated from night till early morning. Some said they came with between eight to 10 tankers.

Although there was noise in the early morning while the activities of the oil vandals were on, many of the residents were initially not aware of what was going on in the neighourhood. However, towards the early morning, Ijegun was saturated by thick smell of petroleum.

One Mr. Ebenezer, a business man on Ayinde Street, said he was woken up by a phone call from a neigbour. “I learnt that these people were around siphoning fuel from the pipeline; that the whole area was saturated with the smell of petroleum. They told me,’There might be fire at any time. Please leave your house immediately. Do so as quickly as possible.” Ebenezer said he immediately woke up his family and told everybody to leave the house, that there might be fire. He continued: “I woke up all my family members and told them to go outside. Some didn’t understand what I was explaining to them, but the most important thing was that they left. I told them not to carry anything. Life is more important than any material acquisition. We quickly rushed out. When I checked my phone, the call came in at exactly 5:07am that Thursday morning. In less than three minutes, we were already out of the house. We were outside when we started seeing palls of fire and smoke. The fire started at 5:10am, three minutes after I got the call. There was pandemonium everywhere with black smoke, huge palls of fire running across the canal that crossed Awolumate Street.

Mr. Kamale Karim has a house facing the canal. He lives with his family and narrated their narrow escape. “This thing started 5:10 am. I woke up early this morning and was going through my phone when I heard a bang. I looked outside; there was huge fire. I called my children. Because the canal was directly in front of us and the fire was burning inside, I told everybody to go outside through the kitchen. I told them to run to the next street through the kitchen.

“Later, when my family had escaped, I moved towards where l saw the fire coming from. I saw two people that were burnt.

“The fuel came through the gutter; it seemed the suspected vandals opened the pipeline and could not close it again and then the fuel flowed down to the carnal. “

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Godswill, 20, is another survivor of the inferno. His compound is also facing the canal. He narrated his close shave with death: “I slept very late. I didn’t hear what was happening. I woke up early in the morning and discovered that smoke had filled the room. I was a bit confused and didn’t know what I was doing. I tried opening the front door only to discover that it was locked and l couldn’t open it. I also tried the back door but I also found it difficult to open it. Faced with death, I needed do something desperate to stay alive. I pulled off the burglary proof and removed the glass louvres on the window of my compound. I escaped through the window. That was how I survived the inferno.

How two residents lost their lives

According to the residents, the fire might have started from the Awolumate Street almost 50 meters from where the vandals had operated and from where fuel was licking. It was from there that fuel found its way to the densely populated sloppy area of Catholic Mission Street, Church Street and other streets.

It was learnt that the fire might have started from a Volkswagen Vanagon bus. The driver, one Baba Friday, also known as Jafan, was said to be anxious to get to his vehicle, the Vanagon bus packed in the area. He was afraid that if there was fire as a result of the smell of fuel that had enveloped the whole community, it might burn his bus. A certain Sukunmi was said to have warned him against starting the bus with the community enveloped with fuel odour. Jafan did not listen to the advice and immediately he revved the engine of the vehicle, it was engulfed in flame and also caught his shirt. They said Jafan rushed to the canal to douse himself inside, not knowing that there was petrol there. He soaked himself with petrol and the fire engulfed his whole body. Meanwhile, through the canal, the flame traced its way back to the point where the petroleum thieves had siphoned fuel and the pipe burst into flame.

One of the security guards in the area, Mallam Bashir, saw Baba in the canal engulfed by fire and writhing with pains. Thinking it was ordinary water that was in the canal, he also jumped in to rescue Baba but he was caught by fire. He was also burnt to death.

As at Thursday, another resident of the community who sustained burns as a result of the fire, one Ribwan Afolabi, living on Catholic Mission Street, off Awolumate Street,also died yesterday at the hospital. He was buried on Thursday evening.

We tried to reach the traditional ruler of Ijegun, Oba Nureni Akinremi Olomi Tutu, whose palace is less than100 meters from the point where the vandals damaged the pipeline to scoop fuel. His palace was locked except for the front door man by a security guard. Upon inquiry, the guard said the Oba did not want to see anybody.

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