Tragedy struck on Monday as fire razed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation filling station on Yaya Abatan Street, Ogba, Lagos State.
It was gathered that the fire, which started around 1pm, emanated from a diesel-laden tanker that was about to discharge its content into the station’s underground storage facility.
Apart from the filling station, over 30 vehicles in a car mart were also consumed by the fire as well as some buildings in the area.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Lagos State Fire Service, Federal Fire Service, MAN Fire Service and the Fire Department of the NNPC responded to the incident, while the state Commissioner for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, supervised the rescue efforts.
It was gathered that the personnel of the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the state police command and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were on the ground to manage the crowd.
The station manager, Samuel Akinyemi, said the tanker had not commenced discharging its content when the fire ignited from the vehicle.
He said, “I cannot say how the fire started, because it caught us unawares, but what happened was that a diesel-laden tanker arrived and we stationed it with the expectation that business would resume tomorrow (Tuesday) and we wanted to be available to the public in anticipation that the lockdown would be relaxed by the President.
“We stationed the truck at the appropriate place for discharge, but unfortunately, a fire that I can’t even say how it came about started and before we knew it, it had escalated. The fire started from the truck but nobody was there when it started.”
Akinyemi added that he could not estimate the damage done at the moment.
Speaking on the incident, the Director-General of LASEMA, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the response team was able to extinguish the inferno around 4.49pm.
He stated, “The agency received a distress call around 1pm concerning a fire outbreak at the NNPC filling station located on Yaya Abatan Street, off College Road, Ogba, and this led to the activation of the agency’s emergency response plan.
“The agency’s response team, as well as other emergency responders, jointly fought and subsequently extinguished the flames around 4.49pm. No fatality was recorded.
“However, about 30 vehicles were affected. The combined effort of the emergency responders led to the salvage of buildings nearby.”
Oke-Osanyintolu added that continuous sensitisation and advocacy on fire safety measures must be embarked upon by relevant government agencies, while installation of fire extinguishers in both public and private premises should be encouraged.
He urged all petrol filling stations in the state to install at least one fire hydrant on their premises.
The acting Head of the state fire service, Margaret Adeseye, stated that the Alausa, Ikeja, Agege and Isolo fire stations responded to the incident.
She said, “On arrival, it was discovered that the fire involved the NNPC filling station, which went up in flames.
“The challenge encountered in managing the situation was that it took time for the crowd to be effectively managed. However, the filling station was salvaged from being completely burnt as only one dispensing machine was severely burnt, while another was partially affected.
“Preliminary investigation into the cause of the incident revealed that the fire started when diesel was being discharged into the filling station’s underground storage facility from a 33,000-litre tanker belonging to Lado Oil.”
A motorcyclist, Kazeem Adeoti, who claimed to be among the first responders, said most residents were having a siesta when the incident happened.
He said, “Some victims, whose houses were affected by the fire, were sleeping but were roused from their sleep by the shout that the filling station had caught fire.
“Some of us assisted them by moving their property out of the apartments. But we thank God that no life was lost as of the time we were assisting the residents, but I don’t know what happened after I left the scene.”
Another eyewitness, Jide Adelegan, who stated that he was sleeping when the fire started, said some youths in the area helped in extinguishing the fire before the arrival of firefighters.
He stated, “Before we realised what was happening, some houses close to the station had been burnt down. There was confusion everywhere, as some people were trying to extinguish the fire and help those whose houses were affected, hoodlums were trying to steal their belongings and there was little the police could do about it.
“When the fire service personnel came, they could not easily access the place due to the raging fire and when they eventually did, so many properties had been destroyed.”
Another resident, who identified herself simply as Tola, wondered why a filling station would be approved in a residential area, saying, “It is only in Lagos that you will see a fuel station being built in a residential area. Properties have been damaged by the inferno; the government should not approve fuel stations in residential areas anymore to prevent disasters.”
A resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed concern over the security situation in the area after the fire had been extinguished and urged the police to beef up security.
She said, “When the fire started, we heard some people shouting that we should run and so many people were running to safety. I learnt that the tanker that came to discharge fuel at the station ignited the fire. The filling station got burnt, all the vehicles in a car mart beside the filling station got burnt and some houses close to the station as well.
“What we need now is security, because some people are using the opportunity to steal people’s property.”
Family Petitions IG over Rape, Killing of Daughter by FCT SARS Officials
The family of a 28-year-old graduate of the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, Ifeoma Abugu, has been thrown into mourning after she was allegedly sexually assaulted and killed by the personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Federal Capital Territory Command, Abuja.
It was gathered that three policemen on September 10, 2020, around 5pm, stormed the residence of Ifeoma’s fiancé, Afam Ugwunwa, at Wumba village in the Lokogoma area of Abuja to arrest him.
PUNCH Metro learnt that in absence of Ugwunwa, the policemen arrested Ifeoma and took her away.
Our correspondent learnt that all efforts to know the police station she was being taken to proved abortive as she was not found until Ugwunwa got a call the next day that Ifeoma had died and her corpse had been deposited in the morgue.
Ifeoma’s brother, Alex, who spoke to our correspondent on the telephone, said she had just concluded her National Youth Service Corps and was arrested and killed four days after she had her introduction with Ugwunwa in Enugu State.
He said, “I was in Lagos when one of my junior brothers called me that he learnt that SARS arrested our sister and she died in detention. I just came to Abuja today (Sunday) and I have asked some of my uncles, who have been to the police station, and they said that the policemen alleged that they met my sister unconscious on the bed and they carried her to hospital, where she died.
“When I asked my sister’s fiancé what happened, he said he went out and someone called him on the telephone that SARS had arrested my sister and when he came back, he called someone he knew at the SARS office to help in facilitating her release, but the person was unable to do it that night.
“The following morning, he gave the woman money to help facilitate the release, but the woman called back to tell him that Ifeoma was dead. When my uncles saw the picture of her corpse, they saw signs that she was sexually assaulted. We’re waiting for the result of an autopsy to come out to ascertain what happened to her.
“My sister was arrested four days after her introduction in the village and her wedding was slated for December. We want the killers to be brought to justice.”
When our correspondent contacted Ifeoma’s fiancé, he said he was too distraught to talk.
The family’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Mamah, who spoke to our correspondent on the telephone, urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to order a proper investigation into the matter.
He said, “She (Ifeoma) had just finished cooking that day, while her fiancé and her friend had finished eating and the friend left, while the fiancé went to see a friend in one of the neighbouring estates, when he received a call from a neighbour that the police had come to arrest his fiancée and she had been taken away and he received another call from Ifeoma that she was been taken away by SARS, but she didn’t know where they were taking her to.
“Ifeoma’s fiancé called a friend of his to help in looking for her and secure her release, but she was not found, only for the fiancé to receive a call the next day that she was dead and her corpse had been deposited in the morgue.
“The family of the deceased have not seen the corpse; the picture we have is the one the IPO snapped and sent to us when she went to the hospital, where her corpse was deposited; from the picture of the deceased, it appeared she was sexually assaulted before her death.
The SARS officers alleged that they met Ifeoma in an unconscious state and that when they got there, there was cocaine on the table and that they only helped to take her to hospital, where she was examined and pronounced dead, but they forgot that people witnessed when she was being taken away.
“We want justice to be served; we want the matter to be thoroughly investigated and assigned to good investigating officers, because the IPO that has been handling this matter is not erudite enough; that is why we do not have confidence in them. The officers, who perpetrated this act, must be brought to justice.”
Mamah’s petition to the IG read in part, “The IPO, Inspector Bullus, and DPO Usman informed us at the police station on September 15, 2020, in explanation that the deceased was met in an unconscious state by the officers. This explanation is contrary to the information from residents and our clients are not confident with the way the matter is being handled at the Apo Police Station.
“The SARS operatives, who did the arrest, are still not yet arrested and are freely walking the streets of Abuja. Our clients are not confident that the division will do justice in the matter, and the deceased body is still lying lifeless at Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital. Sir, we appeal that you use your highly esteemed office to ensure that proper investigation is carried out, that the culprits be brought to book and justice done.”
Our correspondent learnt the matter was first reported at the Apo Police Station and later transferred to the FCT Command.
When contacted by our correspondent, the FCT Police Public Relations Officer, Anjuguri Manzah, said he was not aware of the matter and urged the family of the victim to come to the command for further investigation.
“I’m not aware of this incident, but give me time to make enquiries. You can also link me up with the family of the victim so that they can come to the command,” he stated.
14-Year-Old Girl Brutally Raped, Murdered in Ogun
A 14-year-old secondary school pupil, Fathia Ojewoye, has been raped to death at the Agbeloba-Oriyonrin area of Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The teenager had on Wednesday been declared missing by her parents, but her corpse was found three days after with some of her personal effects in an uncompleted building in the area.
When our correspondent visited the residence of the deceased’s mother, who had separated from her husband, sympathisers were seen consoling her.
When PUNCH Metro attempted to speak to her, she asked to be left alone.
She, however, vowed to ensure that the killer(s) of Fathia, whom she gave birth to while in secondary school, was brought to justice.
A source in the area told our correspondent that Fathia was sent on an errand by her mother to refill the gas cylinder around the area, but she did not return home.
The teenager was reported to have been last seen with a young man, while she was going to the gas station.
The young man, who lives around the area, was said to have run away, apparently to avoid arrest.
It was gathered that her corpse was found in an uncompleted building near her grandmother’s residence.
She was reportedly defiled in a brutal way and later murdered by yet-to-be identified person(s).
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the incident.
Oyeyemi said investigation into the brutal killing of the teenager had commenced.
He gave an assurance that the command would ensure that the perpetrators were apprehended soon.
The police spokesman said the corpse had been deposited in the morgue of the State Hospital, Sokenu, Abeokuta.
Oyeyemi added that arrangement was being made to conduct an autopsy on the corpse.
Meanwhile, the Ogun State Child Protection Network, a coalition of non-governmental and civil society organisations, has condemned the incident.
The network, in a statement by its Coordinator, Alfred Soleye, expressed shock over the brutal murder of Fathia.
It urged the police to carry out detailed investigation and accurate forensics on exhibits recovered from the crime scene to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice.
Passengers Feared Dead As Bus Carrying Church Members Plunges Into River
A 30-passenger bus carrying church members returning from a burial in Afikpo, Ebonyi State plunged into a river along Akaeze-Ishiagu bridge on Friday, with many people missing.
A woman out of the five persons rescued by local divers as of 10pm was said to have died in a hospital. The accident occurred around 6pm.
This is just as emergency agencies responded to a tanker explosion at Anthony inward Gbagada area of Lagos. While two vehicles were burnt, casualty figures could not be ascertained as of 11pm.
In the Ebonyi accident, Saturday PUNCH learnt that the bus driver wanted to overtake a truck when he lost control and skidded off the bridge.
The Federal Road Safety Sector Commander in the state, Stella Uchegbu, who confirmed the crash to our correspondent on the phone, said the number of people on board could not be ascertained as the bus was still trapped.
She said, “The accident involved a 608 bus carrying members of a church returning from a burial. They were coming from Afikpo to Enugu. The bus lost control on Akaeze Bridge while trying to overtake a truck or while the truck was trying to overtake it. It lost control and plunged into the river.
“I learnt about five people were rescued by divers organised by the local government area chairman and they were taken to a hospital. We could not ascertain the number of people on board because the vehicle has not been found.
“Being a group outing, we do not know whether they observed COVID-19 protocols. That kind of bus normally carries up to 30 or more passengers. We do not know whether it was fully-laden. Search and rescue is still on and our men are on the ground. The divers said it was already dark and they could not continue.”
The police spokesperson in Ebonyi, DSP Loveth Odah, told our correspondent that one of the rescued victims had died while the four others were receiving treatment.
A preliminary report on the tanker explosion released by the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, indicated that the petrol-laden tanker fell while in motion.
It read, “The agency responded to distress calls and upon arrival at the scene of the incident, it was discovered that a tanker with unknown registration number conveying PMS lost control while in motion and subsequently fell sideways. This led to an explosion in which two unidentified vehicles were burnt.
“A joint team of responders led by LASEMA, LASG fire service, LRU fire unit, Nigeria Police and LASTMA are working together to curb the inferno from escalating further. Casualties cannot be ascertained at this time (11pm) Rescue operation is ongoing.”