By Ibrahim Ikowe
The Sunday, January 19, 2020 Ile Epo pipeline fire has come and gone, leaving in its trail destruction, tears and blood. What many may not know are the stories behind the escapes and destruction. While some people escaped unscathed with their properties untouched as the menacing fire raged, others lost properties worth millions of naira and could not bear the loss, and died immediately after seeing the damages.
The case of two neighbours are particularly instructive. Mrs Adesoji and Alhaji Arokanmi a.k.a Baba Agege has been neighbours for years. Mrs Adesoji is a devout Christian while Baba Agege is a devout Muslim. They both lived at Ahmed Sadiq Street where the pipeline that caught fire was located. While the fire burnt Baba Agege’s house beyond recognition to the extent that no brick was left, Mrs Adesoji’s house was left unconsumed.
Baba Agege was said to have came back after the fire, saw the level of destruction, slumped and died on the sport. His body still lies at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) as at press time. All efforts for his children to bury him according to Islamic rights has not yielded results as the police has yet to release the body.
A resident of the area, Mr Idowu recounted that the fire started at about 8.00 pm on the fateful day. According to him, it started near the Ago Adura Bible School run by Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). He pointed to the particular place where the busted fuel spread into near gutters ,and as it flows through the frontage of houses , it burns houses. It burnt the Bible school, burnt Baba Agege’s house
However, on getting to number 6, Mrs Adesoji’ house, the story changed. The fire that had engulfed everything on its path all of a sudden became impotent, in number 6. It jumped over, burn houses behind, and continued on its trail.
Mrs Adesoji is reputed to be a pious with woman by her tenants and other residents of the area. Apart from being a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), virtually everyone in the area has something good to say about her.
On the fateful day, children were having Bible Studies in the house when the fire outbreak started. Mrs Angela Obikwe, a tenant who had lived at Mrs Adesoji’s house for 15 years narrated her experience.
“When the fire started around 8pm, I and my children and others left the house because there was a large sound like a bomb that followed so there was no reason for staying behind. My 12 year old son said Mummy nothing is going to happen to our house;
As we were returning, we saw the bible school all burnt, so we were coming to pack the ashes. But miraculously we found our house clean with no sign of fire as you can see. The only thing we lost was our Go TV that was burgled by area boys when we left the house. Apart from that nothing happened to our house as you can see”.
She advised people to live a pious life. The owner of this house is too pure. My brother not because she is a Redeemed Church member but because she is so godly. On Sundays if she is praying she does not sell market until when church activities are over”.
As at the time of going to press, Mrs Adesoji was not in the house. Her children was said to have taken her away to have some rest.
Baba Agege and people living in his house also returned the following day to see the destruction the fire had done to his house. Everything was lost even to the walls. Occupiers could not recover anything from his building. Baba’s old heart could not take it. He slumped and died on the spot in front of the building.
He was not the only one affected. Two apprentice mechanics plying their trade in front of the building, Samuel 18 and Ismail 30 also lost their lives to the inferno.
Baba Agege’s son who spoke with Gavel International, Ahmed Arokanmi said that his father was supposed to be buried on the same day but the police took his corpse and deposited it at the LASUTH morgue. He said all efforts to retrieve the remains of his father has proved futile as the police said the corpse could only be released after investigations. As at the time of going to press, the corpse has not been released.
Gavel International investigations revealed that pipeline vandals have been operating in the area for long. They instil fear into the heart of the residents to the extent that they could not report.
A woman resident who prefer to remain anonymous for security reasons said the vandals usually come in the night and they load up to 10 tankers before daybreak. “When they come, electricity people usually cut out power and the whole area will be in pitch darkness. They usually confine resident indoors with a threat to shoot anyone who comes out of his house.”
Another resident narrated how they usually prevented them from cooking outside. “They will come and chase us and tell us to remain indoors. They are always accompanied by the police and police vehicles. But because of lack of electricity, we can hardly see their faces. We hardly have electricity in this area at night. Power only come during the day, he said.
There are however residents who are courageous and will dare the vandals to report to security officials. However many do not even know how the NNPC pipeline look like. They therefore want the government to put a mark or tar the roads where pipelines are located so that any break will be noticeable. ” We want government to tar this road so if it is there is sabotage, someone will note the breaking and report to law enforcement agents,” one woman simply called Abiodun said.
Meanwhile, Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in view of the disaster resulting from the pipeline vandalisation has granted the request of the Chairman Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area, Dr Adeoye Arogundade, and has directed that the Igando Relief Camp of LASEMA be opened to the about 300 Internally Displaced Persons/victims with immediate effect, the statement read.
The Ile-Epo disaster is not new in the area. Exactly 25 months earlier, precisely In the wee hours of Wednesday, December 19, 2018, residents of Abule-Egba and environs were jolted out of their beds by a raging fire which engulfed the area. Residents scampered for safety as they ran for dear lives. The fire outbreak was caused by suspected pipeline vandals who were trying to steal fuel from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines dotting parts of the community.
The blaze occurred when a spillage from a fuel tanker stationed at Arowolo area used in siphoning fuel from a vandalized pipeline spewed the product that meandered through drainage channels to the Abattoir area of Abule-Egba. No life was lost in the ensuing inferno, but 100 houses and shops, and about 50 cars were said to have been destroyed, leaving the residents in sorrow and tears.