TO many traders and residents in the Ajegunle bus stop area, Lagos, along the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, the petroleum tanker fire of the early hours of Friday, April 22, 2022 will remain indelible.
The tragedy occurred at about 2am when the driver of the tanker was attempting to negotiate a turn into a filling station, the Ayinde Petrol Station, to offload fuel. What happened next was a series of unfortunate events. Eyewitnesses told The ICIR that the head of the tanker got disjointed from the body, leading to a spillage of petrol into a gutter on a shoulder of the road.
The petrol was said to have flowed into a live wire lying in the gutter and the connection created a spark, which led to an inferno that immediately razed three stalls near the filling station, with all the goods in them.
The tanker itself was extensively burnt.
The affected traders blamed the dilapidated state of the roads in the axis as a major cause of the oil spillage, and consequently, the fire and for the loss of goods worth millions of naira.
When The ICIR reporter was arriving at the scene of the explosion on Friday afternoon, he was caught up in the gridlock that had happened as men of the Lagos State Fire and Rescue Service (LSFRS) cordoned off one side of the dualised expressway to carry out their job. Already, a statement by the LSFRS chairperson, Margaret Adeseye, revealed that the incident claimed one life and three vehicles.
The stall owners who suffered losses to the fire incident were too shellshocked to speak with The ICIR. One owner could only stand in front of her burnt stall as a friend of hers, Lance Ajakaiye, explained how the tragedy occurred.
Ajakaiye said, “What happened was that about 1.30am to 2am today, a tanker wanted to offload fuel into the filling station there. While he was turning, the head fell off from the driver’s side, disconnecting from the body bearing the petrol. As that component got disjointed, fuel began to pour into the gutter towards the toll gate. At the toll gate, there was a live wire on the floor which drew flames to the stalls. Everything got burnt.”
Ajakaiye brought a Bagco sack which had many currency notes in it. “These burnt currency notes were some proceeds from her pet drinks business,” pointing to his friend and adding, “It is a great loss. The money burnt is over N150,000 cash.”
He wrote off any chance of any government assisting the affected traders. “The state government has not said anything. But then, what caused this is a government problem. It is bad roads. While turning, there was a pothole there which impeded the tanker’s movement. But the government would term it carelessness on the part of the people. Unfortunately, the government does not attend to matters like this,” he lamented.
Ajoke Adetunji was virtually speechless as she surveyed the burnt stall of her husband, who was gathered to have just spent over a million naira on purchasing vehicle spare parts and engine oil to stock the stall.
Adetunji said, “I don’t know what to say. This is the shop of my husband. He just bought goods of over a million naira yesterday. He deals in oil and spare parts.”
One look into the stall and all that was left were scraps of vehicle parts and burnt cans of engine oil. Some hands could be seen in the stall engaging themselves in whatever they could salvage, if there was anything left to salvage.
For Taiwo Adelaja, a widow and mother of four, who deals in bread, the events of today can well be termed a bad dream.
Adelaja said, “While the fire raged early in the morning, some people broke into our shops to loot and steal money. They took my bread, and my own money and contributions (ajo) from other people that were with me, all totalling N500,000.”
She told The ICIR that she didn’t even know how to recoup her money and those of others in her care, as she had no insurance policy whatsoever.
Showing our reporter the shop, she added, “The chairman of the local government has been here, and the councillor as well. I did not insure my goods. If I don’t sell, I can’t eat. I have four children and I am widowed. I participate in monthly contributions and the money is all gone now,” she lamented.
The Southwest Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria (NEMA), Ibrahim Farinloye, revealed that the sole fatality was a 15-year-old, Oluwatobi Lawal, who was preparing for his West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations.
On February 18, 2022, 17 people had died after a fuel tanker exploded in a collision with another vehicle in Ogun State.