On December 19, 2018, sleeping residents of Abule-Egba, on the fringe Lagos metropolis, were rudely shaken out of their deep slumber by a deafening explosion.
The time was about 3.30a.m. Petrified out of their wits, they hurried outdoors, while other glanced out of their windows.
They saw an inferno, which appears to have wings, racing madly towards their homes. Screams and shouts of fear ricocheted through the community as the inhabitants scrambled to vacate their homes.
Residents took flight in different directions. This saved many lives, but scores were injured. It was a bloody and scary day many in the community would never forget in a hurry.
By the time the inferno was arrested, property worth millions of Naira had been destroyed. It was later discovered that the explosion was a case of pipeline vandalism. The explosion started from Awori Bus Stop and tongued to Abule-Egba Bus Stop. Many cars and buildings were destroyed.
The police said more than 100 houses and 77 cars were destroyed.
One of those badly affected by the explosion is Mr. James Adeosun, whose auto mart was burnt to ashes.
It was his worst nightmare. When he was able to reach the venue of his auto mart and beheld the cars, he lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital.
Speaking with our correspondent at Abule-Egba, Adeosun said that since the incident, he had attempted suicide twice.
He disclosed that his precarious financial situation hit him hard after his daughter took ill and he couldn’t muster a dime to take her to hospital.
While he was worried sick about his daughter and his burnt auto mart, partners who invested in the car sales business started hounding him.
“When the incident occurred, I thought I would die. I lost 18 vehicles valued N96 million. The explosion was like a dream to me. In fact, after that incident, life for me and members of my family was terrible and was like a physical torture,” Adeosun said.
He described the explosion as a disaster, disclosing that 20 of his business partners in the auto business cars were also affected.
“It was a very painful experience. I have heard a lot of things. There were reports that I had died. There was a day I was in a tricycle and somebody claimed that I had been buried. I could not say anything. I was just dumbfounded. How many people would I react to when I knew what I was battling with?
“I attempted suicide on two different occasions; first was when I didn’t have money to take my sick daughter to hospital. The second time was when my business partners, whose cars got burnt in the inferno, started threatening to ruthlessly deal with me. They demanded that I pay them. Those two periods were traumatic times for me and my family members,” he added.
Adeosun said that since the incident, he had not received any assistance from anyone, let alone the state government.
He noted: “I now beg friends and families to survive. Worse, some of my business partners are still pestering me to refund money they invested in the business. As I speak with you, I still plan to settle all of them whenever I have the money. I believe in God and strongly believe that things would go back to normal.”
Adeosun said he started with just one car after his contract job with Chevron was discontinued. According to him, he went into the auto business because he didn’t want to be idle.
He said: I started the auto business with just one car, after my contract with Chevron was stopped. I waited for some months in anticipation that the contract would be renewed. When the contract was not renewed, I thought of starting something of my own. I started the business.
A few days before the incident, I started taking counts and realised that things were no longer going smoothly with the business. Sales were drastically down. I decided to go to a mountain at Ifo, Ogun State, to pray.
I could no longer provide for my family. I couldn’t drop money when I was leaving for the ‘prayer mountain.’ Before the explosion, I had already emptied my account. I used every penny I had to stock my auto shop; I was anticipating a big Christmas sale. I was anticipating a boom.
“I had spent only two days on the mountain, when my Manager, Hamzat, called me that fire had engulfed our office. I told him to proceed to the nearest police station to lodge a complaint. I was still on the mountain. I didn’t know the level of the damage. He went and lodged a complaint at the Abattoir Police Station.
“When my mother heard about the fire, she rushed to the scene before me. She was afraid to call me because of the enormous damage the explosion caused. People were also begging me not to come to the scene; I ignored them. I left the prayer mountain and proceeded to the scene.
“On getting to the scene, I saw that nothing was left. All the vehicles were gone. The office, equipment, electronics, all vehicles’ particulars and auto spare parts were completely burnt. I felt a very sharp pain in my chest and immediately I became unconscious.
“I later woke up to find myself at the Ahmadiyya Hospital, at Ijaiye. I spent two weeks and some days there. I left the hospital even though I was not alright. I couldn’t continue to stay in the hospital while medical bills continued to multiply. I just decided to leave the hospital to the shock of the nurses and doctors.”
Adeosun said that life was difficult for him after the explosion.
“I couldn’t hide the fact that life has been very difficult for me. I find it very hard to feed my family, let alone being able to meet other expenses. In fact, I considered ending my life.
“I invited some of my friends in the auto business after they lost their jobs. I trained them on how to deal in auto business. Some of them bought vehicles and put them in my shop for sell. I also have friends overseas, who sent vehicles to me. They sent the vehicles, while I did the clearing in Nigeria for them. When I sell such vehicles for them, we share the profit. These business friends are threatening me because of their money.
“The first time I attempted suicide was in the middle of the night, while contemplating how to start afresh. One of my business partners called, asking for a refund of his money in the business. He threatened to deal with ruthlessly, if I didn’t pay his money.
I became depressed and became preoccupied with taking my life,” he said.
Adeosun disclosed that the second time suicide took over his thought was when he realised that he didn’t have money to buy drugs for his sick daughter.
He said: “I called some of my friends and what I got were insults and abuse. It was then I started thinking of killing myself.”
Adeosun said that what annoyed him most was that those responsible for the explosion were walking freely in the community.
He said: “The police claimed to have arrested the perpetrators, but now they are back on the streets. I’m more saddened by the fact that nobody is ready to assist me. I have written two different letters to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for assistance. I am not blaming them for the mishap, but I know they have the financial capacity to assist me, at least to start life all over again. I am yet to get any favourable reply from them since December last year that I wrote the letter.
“I have also written to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and I was directed to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA). NEMA told me that it didn’t have the capacity to help me. I have also written to the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; I’m yet to hear from him.”
Adeosun lamented that the explosion occurred during the campaign period and that many candidates visited the scene. Some of them even collected his phone number from other residents, promising to call and assist him.
“Nobody has called since then, let alone to assist me,” said Adeosun.
“The effect of the explosion was more biting on me because as at the time of that incident, I just brought in some new vehicles, two of which were 2016 edition. I hoped to recoup my investments during the Christmas and New Year sales, but everything was consumed in the inferno,” he added.
According to him, despite his challenges, he still thanks God for everything.
He said: “I blamed my manager, who was around, during the time of the incident, for not trying to salvage some of the vehicles, which were at the back. If I had been around, I would have attempted to break into some of those vehicles at the back and move them away from the fire. Who knows, what would have happened? Maybe I would have been burnt to death.”