Ekiti petrol station inferno victims recount ordeal
‘We lost all we’ve laboured for in a day’
From Wole Baogun, Ado-Ekiti
Sunday was, ordinarily, supposed to be a happy day, a joyful day. But Sunday, January 8, 2017, turned out a very sad day for traders, businessmen, landlords/ladies, tenants and residents of Ejigbo area of Ado-Ekitin Ekiti State, when a diesel spill from an offloading tanker suddenly snowballed into a huge inferno that spread and razed everything on its way, including shops, residential houses and office complexes.
According to an eyewitness who preferred anonymity, it had started off as a thick smoke emitting from a diesel tanker offloading its liquid content at a nearby petrol station, Strive-Energy Investment, located close to the Akure Road, Ejigbo area of Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.
“For almost 20 minutes, thick smoke continued to go into the air from the vehicle causing some customers around to complain to the staff but they didn’t pay much attention to it until the hose attached to the tanker suddenly burst into flames and caused a stir which saw everyone scampering for safety,” the eyewitness said.
But at a point when the situation became unbearable as the acrid smell of the thick smoke coming from the diesel tanker nearly choked to death the petrol attendants and their clients waiting to have their car tanks filled up, everybody suddenly realized that except they ran for it, their lives were in danger.
The diesel flowing out from the hose of the diesel tanker was said to have been abandoned in a haste, causing the fire ignited by it to flow down the pathway of the gushing diesel and leaving in its trail, destruction of buildings, goods and property and tales of woes and agony before fire service men from government house and other fire service stations in the state were able to battle it to a standstill. About 30 structures comprising shops, offices and residential houses were reduced to rubbles.
South West Report met with some of the victims of the inferno, recently, and they all had sad tales to tell. Sunday Omotosho, 47, a fashion designer, said he lost all his sewing machines, a home theatre and generating set in his shop.
“This place is called Mugbagba Junction in Ejigbo in Ado-Ekiti,” he said. “Mine was one of the shops razed here. The fire gutted two of my sewing machines and a big generating set inside my shop. Also, my ‘home theatre’ inside the shop was burnt. I put the total of my loss in the shop at about N955, 000. We are appealing to our various arms of government to assist us, as we have lost quite a lot. The tragedy is too big for us to handle. What is most disheartening is that the man whose filling station caused this inferno has been avoiding us. It is four days now since this happened and he has been going about as if nothing happened. He hasn’t even made effort to come and sympathize with us.”
For Mrs. Ajayi Kehinde, it seemed to be the end of the world for her as she lost all she had ever worked for her entire life: “I’m the owner of Evergreen Cold room, a fresh fish and turkey depot located on the other side of the road on the same Akure Road in Oja-Oba in Ado-Ekiti”, she said. “I had loaded the depot with frozen fishes and turkey a day before the fire incident occurred and it was a huge load of frozen fishes, turkey, bags of rice and oil among others, all amounting to about N6 million. I also have five big deep freezers in the depot out of which only one was retrieved. I had also equipped the place with compressors and other things to make it work like a proper depot.
“All these got burnt except a few frozen fishes that we were able to recover. My baby and I were sleeping inside the depot when the fire broke out and people’s alarm woke us. I rushed out of the depot with my baby while the fire service officials made frantic effort to curtail the fire. Some bad people even stole out of the few fishes that we recovered but I lost the rest. In few words, all that I lost to the fire, including the big freezers and the wares amount to N13 million. I don’t know where to start again. The depot was my family’s only means of livelihood. All that is gone now, just like that. I had fainted on seeing the havoc wreaked on the depot during the inferno. It took the help of well-meaning sympathizers to rush my baby and me to hospital. I am appealing to the government at all levels, to kindly come to my aid as I don’t have anything to fall back on now.”
Mrs. Awopetu Toyin, a victim who lost N5 million worth of goods in her shop, had run away to Ado-Ekiti from the threat of Boko Haram in Abuja before she became hit by the tragedy of that black Sunday. “My shop was one of the four affected on Mugbagba Junction. I was selling ‘hair attachments’ (weave-on), perfume clothing materials and the likes. I had also fainted on seeing my shop caught up by the inferno. People had to revive me. After the fire was put out, we unlocked the shop to see that many of the wares had been burnt.
“The unfortunate thing is that it was the Boko Haram insurgency that made me leave Abuja for Ado-Ekiti about six months ago. But I didn’t realize that I was fleeing from the frying pan to fire. We had so many threats of Boko Haram’s invasion and we could not go to the church that was why I decided to come and join my husband who works in Ado-Ekiti. It never occurred to me that this tragic incident would happen. We know there is recession but we appeal to government to do something for us as we don’t have anything to start life all over again. Governor Fayose really showed us sympathy that day as he joined us in putting out the fire. He was even injured in the process and we really appreciate his effort.”
A man who identified himself as Mr. Oguntuase, a 60-year-old man, looked forlorn and almost took an eternity before he could speak to our correspondent who was trying to hear his own side of the sad story. The reason is not far-fetched: his four-room residential house located by the main road was razed to the ground by the inferno.
“I lost my house on 21, Ejigbo Street to the inferno,” he said when he finally found his voice. “There are four rooms and four shops in the house. I thank God that the people around were able to rescue my children who were in the house when the fire broke out. My wife and I were not at home. But I rushed back home when I was called that our house was on fire. We lost all our property in the house and the walls of the building collapsed during the inferno. I want to appeal to our government at all levels. The good Lord will bless them as they make up their mind to assist us to cushion the effect of the consequence of this tragic development. We just need the government to be compassionate with us. There are some of my tenants who rented the now razed shops, they have been sick and bedridden before the tragic incident occurred. There is a man whose wares in one of the shops were all burnt. That has been his family’s only means of livelihood. We have to urge the wife not to tell the man about the tragedy on his shop yet, because the man was already down with high blood pressure and would not be strong enough to receive such bad news.
“Our governor, Fayose had shown that he is a very humane governor. He directed that the government house fire service vehicles be brought to curtail the fire and he was up and doing during the process of putting out the fire. That is a very compassionate man. He has no relatives among those who fell victim of this disaster but he had come to identify with us and help us that day because he realized that God made him our leader so he can help us. The same God will take care of him and his family. We appreciate his effort and appeal to him to kindly see to how he can help us in any little way he can.”
Mrs. Folashade Oguntuase, wife of Mr. Oguntuase fought back tears as she narrated how she lost goods worth N150, 000 to the fire. “I have been selling some provisions in the shop. The money I lost to the fire was borrowed and I don’t have any other means of refunding it. I appeal to government to please assist me, as that is my only means of livelihood.”
Ayodele Omotosho, a barber whose father’s house, a two-room apartment with a shop, was razed by the fire lamented that “the whole thing we have in the house and the shop was razed because none of us was around. It was on a Sunday and we had all gone to church. We lost property worth N1.9 million.”
Mr. Obi Shedrack, an Igbo man from Anambra State, said: “I have been living and trading in Ado-Ekiti for more than 30 years. What happened to me as caused by the fire is so terrible. Before I traveled to East for the burial of a relative, I used all the money I had to buy goods into the shop because one could not save such money in the bank at that festive period. We have lost N2.9 million worth of goods – drinks, provisions and clothing material among others. We lost our big deep freezer, generating set and many others. I was not in Ado-Ekiti when the tragedy struck. I was called while I was in the village and my family is still at home. I can tell you that with the level of the damage the fire has caused, some people may lose their lives as they have all lost what they have and what they are worth. This is why I want to appeal to government at all levels to kindly and promptly come to our aid. We appreciate what governor Fayose has done. He was with the victims. I saw the pictures on Facebook and the papers. No governor has ever done that. It shows how compassionate he is. Those of us who are Igbo traders who fell victim to this fire incident are more than 15 and we have lost over N25 million to the inferno.”
Sunday Fagunwa, 35, who deals in watches said he lost goods worth N5 million in his shop on 22, Ejigbo Road. “We believed the fire incident was aggravated because the filling station does not have fire extinguisher,” he opined. “Immediately the tanker burst into flame, all of them (petrol attendants) ran away from the station and left the hose to continue to let out diesel which took the fire to all the shops, offices and houses it razed, “ he said.
Mr. Francis Ayodele Ezenwaka, another victim who hails from the East but who was born and brought up in Ado-Ekiti sounded like a defeated lion while relaying his loss. “I have two shops,” he said.
“In one in I was selling mattresses, carpets, curtains and rugs while in the other I was selling roofing sheets. The two shops have been razed by the fire. I lost over N15 million worth of goods in the two shops. We found out that the owner of the petrol station did not have fire extinguisher in the office. That was why the fire was that much. When the fire broke out, the staff just ran away leaving the hose to continue to spill and spread diesel to all the places where it razed shops, offices and houses.”
When our reporter called at the filling station to get the owner of Strive-Energy station simply identified as Mr. Kayode to react to the allegations of the victims against him and his petrol attendants, he was directed to Novel Filling Station on Omisanjana road, in Omisanjana area of the state capital.
At the station, a man who spoke with our reporter said that the owner is not in a mood to speak on the matter as he was still in shock over what befell him. The man who refused to identify himself or give his telephone, nor that of the owner of the fuel station nor that of the filling station manager, however noted that his boss has informed his insurance firm to evaluate the damage done to his station and offices and shops and houses and come up with what they could give to cushion the effect of the tragic incident on the victims.
Meanwhile, Governor Ayodele Fayose has ordered that all filling stations located close to the main road suspend operations pending a proper review of the unfortunate incident. He has also directed that the Strive-Energy filling station should suspend operation for the next one year.
“It was God that saved Ado-Ekiti and made the tanker that burst into flame to be having diesel instead of petrol. If it had been petrol, the whole city would have probably been razed. So, we thank God, “ he said.