Ijegun fire survivors lament Sanwo-Olu’s neglect

August 31, 2020
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By Doris Israel

Nearly 14 months after the Ijegun petrol explosion, survivors of the tragic incident have lamented how the Lagos state government failed and abandoned them.

No fewer than 12 people died in the July 2019 explosion while several others sustained severe burns in the incident which occurred at the Last Bus Stop area of Ijegun, in the Igando-Ikotun Local Council Development Area.

Hundreds of victims that survived now complain of negligence.

In an exclusive interview with the National Daily, one of the survivors, 17-year-old Olamide Sherrif recounted how she lost five members of her family residing in Irede Street.

Still trying to fight back her tears, she narrated how it caught her, her grandfather, siblings sleeping that morning

“My grandfather went out to check if it was fuel leakage from the generator or something. Before he came back, our house had been surrounded by fire and we all took to our heels,” she said.

“I was carrying one of my twin siblings (Taiwo). The fire caught my leg and I fell down, and that landed Taiwo inside the petrol and she was burnt to death.

“My mum who left Kehinde inside came back to get her but unfortunately, she was engulfed by the fire, including my grandfather.”

According to her, her father who was away at work at the time of the incident rushed down immediately upon receiving a call from sources that his daughters, wife and father-in-law had sustained various degrees of injuries resulting from the fire.

He transferred them from the local hospital they were to the Gbagada General Hospital where they were treated free of charge for the first three days before they all eventually died from the excruciating pains.

Olamide was the only survivor among the victims, after fighting for her life for six months. The telltales—burns, scares—are there, though.

Her case attracted sympathies in the neighbourhood.

The proprietress of her school, Cherished Child School, slammed the state government for neglecting and abandoning the victims of the incident, especially Olamide.

Now in SS 2, the girl needs sponsors for her education—which the school has been supporting since the she lost her mother. In fact, her surviving sister, Kehinde, doesn’t attend school for lack of funds.

The proprietress suggested that the government offer scholarships, empowerment and training programmes to aid in the survivors’ rehabilitation and recovery.

Businesses crumbled

Apart from destroying lives, the fire also wreaked havoc on business.

A foodstuff seller, Manfred John Awam told National Daily that he came that fateful morning only to see his shop razed by fire.

Speaking on his recovery process even in the midst of the economic decline, Awam said his dealers were understanding and they agreed to help him by selling the goods to him on credit.

His landlord also renovated the shop for him for free.

With that, the businessman was able to get back to his feet and he noted that since then, his business had experienced bloom but he refused to describe the incident as a ‘blessing in disguise’.

But he wondered why the administration of Gov Babajide Sanwo-Olu will never keep to their promises.

He recalled how Senator representing Lagos West, Solomon Olamilekan Adeola aka Yayi, came and promised them financial back up including some officials from the Lagos State Government Secretariat, Alausa.

But none of the promises has been fulfilled and they have actually moved on with their lives.

What’s in a name?

Ijegun has been experiencing fire disasters since 2008. Many think there are more to that vulnerability, though it is obvious there are oil-bearing pipelines in the area.

The junction where this inferno occurred is called Fire Junction. That name has a history. It was there the first fire outbreak happened sometime in 2008, claiming more than 40 lives, including students’ of the Ijegun Comprehensive High School.

A resident, Dikko Aliyu, therefore called for a change of name to something more appropriate because it seems to him the name has been self-fulfilling.

The July 2019 fire, according to residents, started at about 5 am, following illegal fuel siphoning and pipeline vandalism that led to petrol spilling into a drainage that snaked through the Ijegun community.

A resident disclosed that the criminals arrived the area at about 1:30 am in trucks. They were on their way out when one of their tankers fell and spilled its content.

Most residents reported they were jolted from sleep by deafening explosions that rocked the area, causing them to scamper for safety.

The devastation was recorded largely on Awe Lumake Street-same place two victims were trapped and burnt to death.

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