100 shops, 50 vehicles burnt by pipeline vandals

Victim of the Fire
100 shops, 50 vehicles burnt by pipeline vandals

100 buildings including houses and over 50 vehicles were yesterday destroyed after a raging fire caused by vandals burnt through Abule Egba and Agege area of Lagos .

The fire which started at about 2 am in front of a private school at 4, Segun Akinola Street, opposite Tiper Garage, near Awori Bus stop, Abule Egba, was triggered by activities of vandals, who brought in three tankers and syphoned Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
It was gathered that about five persons including a widow, Ruth Joseph and her son Samuel sustained burn injuries.

Narrating how she was burnt, the widow said they were sleeping when she heard a loud sound and people screaming.
“We were sleeping when we started hearing shouts. I woke up and saw fire inside my home with plenty of heat. The first thing that came to my mind was to rescue my children. I was able to get the other two out unhurt but when I went for Samuel, the fire caught up with us.

“I am a poor widow and do not have money for the hospital. That is why I am happy the Police Commissioner has directed that myself and my son be taken to General Hospital Ikeja.
According to residents, the vandals who dug a hole to connect their hosts to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines had dropped the host inside the gutter without shutting the valves.

The PMS was said to have circulated through the gutter to Abbatoir where it sparked fire apparently as a result of activities of early morning butchers. What followed was sounds of explosions with fire gutting every property along the path the PMS traversed.

Areas affected by the inferno included Arowolo Street, Shogbawole, Adefegba, Katonwi, Santos, Taiwo Adewole, Wamon Taofeek, Owode, Akinlere streets. It passed through Justrite Shopping mall, Samar Filling Station to the canal near Agege Abattoir.
Others include Charity Road Junction opposite Oko Oba Market and parts of Ile-Epo.

John Ogbu said people fled their homes as soon as they heard the explosions, adding that several other persons sustained injuries as a result of stampede or occasioned by confusion.
“I did not care to pick anything. The first thing that came to my mind was to run to safety. People were wailing, running in different directions. So many people sustained injuries.
“It is not true that people were scooping fuel. If at all people did something like that, maybe they are those who did not witness  December 26, 2006, where hundreds of people scooping fuel were roasted alive,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Lagos fire service personnel were still t putting finishing touches on the remaining small fire to avoid burning further.
A resident said: “We saw many 33,000 fuel tankers were heading towards the tipper garage. We could not send distress calls to police on time because we thought that they were NNPC officials on duty with the police.

“It was when the vandals finished, failed to lock the velve and put their host in the gutter for fuel to be flowing that we knew something was wrong. In of time, the fuel started burning and that was how people started running,” he said.
The residents also accused fire service of late arrival to the scene, noting that emergency responders got there around 4 am.

General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Adesina Tiamiyu, Police Commissioner Imohimi Edgal and officials from NNPC, other agencies visited the affected areas. The
Commander, Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Tunji the, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) was on the spot with his men preventing hoodlums from looting victims property and money when they ran for their lives. Personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Red Cross officials were also on the ground.

According to Tiamiyu, the fire affected nine streets, destroyed 38 vehicles, four tricycles, 71 shops, 30 rooms, two blocks of flat and a church auditorium.
He said: “LASEMA and other stakeholders responded to the fire outbreak which occurred as a result of the activities of suspected bunkers around the NNPC pipeline in Abule Egba, Ojokoro Local Council Development Area (LCDA) which destroyed properties worth millions of naira.

“No casualty was recorded and that few people injured were immediately administered to by the Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS) and the agency’s paramedics.
“The incident occurred at about 2 am on Wednesday. On arrival at the incident scene, the spillage from the bunkering activities came in contact with an ignitable source. The impact resulted in inferno as it ravaged several houses and cars.

“Prompt intervention by the Lagos Fire Servicemen and LRU firemen, who immediately deployed fire trucks and personnel to combat the inferno thereby curtailing the further spread to adjoining buildings and the nearest Filling Station in the area saved the day.

“However, the car lot in a filling station was affected by the inferno as several vehicles parked in the filling station were destroyed. The fire affected nine streets, destroyed 38 vehicles, four tricycles, 71 shops, 30 rooms, two blocks of flat and a church auditorium destroyed.

“Several other properties were salvaged around the axis including the Justrite Mall, Petrol Stations and other facilities around Abule Egba Bus Stop to Awori the.
“Investigations are ongoing to ascertain the cause and people involved. The situation has been brought under control, and people are free to go about their normal businesses.”

Edgal accused the residents of complicity, adding that they cannot claim they were not aware of activities of vandals in the area.
He told them to be thankful that the fuel passed through the gutter which cushioned the severity, noting that it would have been disastrous if it was not through the gutters.
“However, intelligence report gathered by some of my operatives revealed that this area is notorious for activities of pipeline vandals. While I am not confirming, I would not completely rule out that this fire was attempt by some vandals to puncture some of the pipelines, so our investigation is also going to extend in that direction.

“Already, I have received credible intelligence on some of these vandals and their locations. I can assure Lagosians that very soon, I personally will be leading the operation to arrest some of these vandals and the reason is obvious; we will not allow the greed or unpatriotism and economic sabotage of a few to affect the vast majority of Lagosians.

“You can see that a lot of innocent people now have lost valuable properties. Fortunately for us, no life was lost. However, the incident is bad enough because millions of naira have gone down the drain. We are pursuing this from two angles like we said. When we get report from the expert, who are currently investigating the cause of the fire, we will let Lagosians know the actual cause of the fire.”

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