Properties worth several millions of naira were destroyed in the Abule Egba area of Lagos State on Wednesday as fire from a petroleum products pipeline ravaged the area.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the affected streets were Arowolo, Shobowale, Iyalode Abule-Egba, Taiwo Adewole, Adepegba, Wamon Taofeek, Santos and Owode.
It was learnt that the explosion was as a result of the activities of suspected petroleum products’ thieves from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s pipeline in the Arowolo area.
When our correspondents visited the site, a total of 63 vehicles, 98 shops, four tricycles, six houses and one church were counted to have been razed by the fire, which reportedly began around 2am.
It was gathered that the rescue teams that responded to the incident included the Lagos State Fire Service, the state Police Command, Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Lagos State Emergency Ambulance Service and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency.
An eyewitness, Junad Aderogba, said the fire arose from the activities of vandals scooping fuel from a pipeline, adding that the incident was a reoccurrence of a similar one on December 26, 2006.
The 48-year-old said, “This is the third time such a fire incident is happening in the area. The hoodlums, who vandalised the pipeline, came with three tankers to steal fuel. When they finished scooping the fuel, they did not close the pipe and the fuel passed through the gutter and flowed down to the abattoir.
“Some butchers, who were roasting cow skin at the abattoir, were not aware that there was fuel in the gutter. So, the fuel attracted the fire and that was what led to the fire outbreak.”
A visibly distraught widow, Nkem Esezobor, who sells foodstuffs and pastries in the area, said her loss was too much for her to bear.
She said, “A friend called me around 4am to inform me of the inferno but I could not come out at that time because I was alone in the house. By the time I got to the scene, everything in my shop had been destroyed by the fire.
“I lost my husband in July and I moved into the shop barely two months ago. What was lost in my shop was worth over N1m. I don’t know where to start from.”
An automobile mechanic, Mr John Ishola, said he had yet to come to terms with the loss.
He said, “I live in Sango, Ogun State. I was called by my friends in the Abule Egba area. By the time I got to the scene, all the vehicles in my workshop had been razed. When I called the owners of the vehicles, they were not ready to listen to my explanation. I don’t know where to start from now.”
A haulage truck driver, Saka Jibola, begged the government to come to the aid of those who lost properties to the inferno.
“Our members lost eight trucks to the fire. We want the government to help us. We all have families to take care of and this is our only means of livelihood,” he added
One of the residents, whose house was razed down by the fire, accused the police of being accomplices of the fuel thieves.
She said, “The police know those bursting the pipeline in order to steal fuel. Now, the situation has spiralled out of control and they have rendered many of us homeless.
“They are not just doing it; it is the police that have been shielding them. They are the ones who make it possible for the vandals to perpetrate the act. As of 11pm yesterday (Tuesday), policemen were chasing us into our homes after which they stood guard for the thieves. They should make arrests around here too, because some major stakeholders in the area also know about the activities of these thieves.”
However, some properties and a church, Jesus Chosen shepherd Ministry, were spared by the inferno.
Victor Aigbogun, whose shop was spared by the inferno, attributed it to providence.
“When I was called about the fire incident, the first thing I did was to go on my knees and pray. I told God to take control and I had the faith that my prayer had been answered,” he said.
The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Mr Adesina Tiamiyu, said in a statement that the fire started around 2am.
“The spilled fuel from bunkering activities came in contact with an ignitable source and the impact resulted in the inferno, which razed several houses and cars. No fatality was recorded and the few people injured were immediately attended to by the Lagos State Ambulance Service and the agency’s paramedics,” Tiamiyu stated.
He added that a car lot inside a petrol filling station was affected by the inferno as several vehicles parked there were destroyed.
Giving an inventory of the burnt items, Tiamiyu said nine streets were affected with 38 vehicles, four tricycles, 71 shops, 30 rooms, two blocks of flat and one church auditorium burnt, while several other properties were salvaged, including the Just Rite mall, petrol filling stations and other facilities around Abule Egba bus stop, Awori and U-turn.
The LASEMA boss noted that investigation was ongoing to determine the cause of the inferno and the people involved.
The Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, said undercover operatives of the command were on the trail of the vandals.
He said, “The Commissioner of Police visited the area for an on-the-spot assessment and he was able to speak to the residents to be on the lookout for the vandals, who brought this hardship on the people.
“The source where the fire emanated from was also visited. The CP has detailed undercover operatives of the command to fish out those behind the fire outbreak.”