No fewer than 100 houses, 100 shops and 50 cars went up in flames in the early hours of Wednesday in Abule-Egba and Agege areas of Lagos, rendering several families homeless.
However, no life was lost in the inferno said to have been caused by an explosion from a vandalised Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline on Pipeline Road, off Awori, in Abule-Egba area. But some residents sustained varying degrees of burns.
The pipeline vandals, as gathered, stormed the area at midnight with three trucks. Residents said they dug a hole at a connecting point in Segun Akinola Street, opposite Tipper Garage, off Awori Road.
Thereafter, they broke the pipe and connected their hose, from where they siphoned the combustive product until 2am on Wednesday, when the fire started. Residents on Pipeline Road, who were jolted from sleep by the explosion, scampered in different directions, as the ravaging fire spread.
Streets affected included Akerele, Adebowale, Shogowole, Cantowi, Taiwo Adewole, Awori, Santos, Iyalode and Shobowale. Others are Charity Road Junction, opposite Oko-Oba market, down to Abattoir and Ile-Epo areas of Agege.
When Vanguard visited the scene, the charred remains of 15 vehicles in a car mart at Hamzart Park were sighted.
Eyewitness narrated that the timely response of emergency officials prevented the fire from spreading to Samar Petrol Station, which is close to the scene of the incident.
On Iyalode Street, Vanguard counted eight houses, 28 shops and eight cars that were razed. Eight cars were destroyed by fire on Santos Street, while a storey building and 15 shops were affected on Shobowale Street.
Ironically, on December 26, 2006, similar incident occurred in same area and hundreds of people were burnt to death. Other rescue teams that responded include men of the Lagos State Fire Service, the state Police Command, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC); Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA); Lagos State Emergency Ambulance Service (LASEMBUS) among others.
While taking a tour around the affected streets, a widow, Mrs Ruth Joseph, who sustained burns but took to self-medication, caught the state commisioner of police Imohimi Edgal’s attention.
He directed the Divisional Police Officer-in-Charge of Abule-Egba Division, SP Harrison Nwabusi, to take the injured to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja for treatment, promising to take over the medical expenses.
In his address to members of Awori community, he warned them against indulging vandals in their nefarious activities.
Narrating her close shave with death, one of the victims, Mrs Ruth Joseph, said: “We were sleeping when we heard the shout of fire. By the time I got up, the fire was already in my apartment.
“I immediately rushed to rescue my children, but I was only able to get two of them out unhurt. By the time I went in for Samuel, the fire had taken over the entire apartment.
“I am a poor widow and do not have money. That is why I decided to treat myself. But my joy of getting better treatment is fulfilled with the CP’s directive that my son and I be taken to the hospital for treatment.”
Sunday Alade, a resident in Awori, said the activities of illegal bunkerers had been going on in the area for a while without any moves to checkmate them, as they employed the services of miscreants and armed personnel to carry out the nefarious acts.
According to Alade: “The incident happened around 3.30am I woke up to a loud sound and fire from afar. People started screaming ‘fire’ to alert neighbours who were probably asleep, as the raging fire spread at a fast pace.
“On getting close to the scene, I could see some people carrying various kegs of petrol. But thank God people were able to escape from their houses before the fire could reach the buildings that included retail shops.
“Also, save for the timely intervention of firefighters and rescue team, the damage could have been colossal, as they promptly put out the fire. We really thank God, no life was lost.”
Another resident, Mr Toheeb Ismaila, said: “The vandals dug a hole to connect their hose to NNPC pipelines. They dropped the hose inside the gutter without shutting the valves. This was what caused the fire.
“The fire spread through the gutter where the products spilled. It passed through Just Rite Shopping Mall, Samar Filling Station to the canal near Agege Abattoir and Charity Road Junction, opposite Oko-Oba Market.”
Meanwhile the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru has commiserated with victims of pipeline fire incident in Lagos.
Baru made this known in statement signed by the corporation’s spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu, in Abuja, on Wednesday.
He assured of adequate petroleum products supply in Lagos and its environs despite a fire outbreak which occurred in the wee hours of Wednesday from a portion of the vandalised NNPC pipeline at Abule Egba in Lagos.
He directed the Nigerian Pipeline and Storage Company (NPSC), an autonomous business unit of the corporation, to carry out a full investigation of the incident and undertake immediate repairs of the affected part of the vandalised pipeline.
He further reassured that effective strategies were in place to ensure that the unfortunate incident would not undermine products supplies during the festive period.
“NNPC had enough stock of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise called petrol, and other products.”
The company’s petrol stock will last about 45 days even in the absence of fresh supplies, advising members of the public not to engage in panic buying.