Three days into the new year, tragedy struck at Ehin Grammar Bus Stop, Ibadan. A midnight fire killed three siblings locked inside the house by their father, who said he left them in the house to go for vigil in the church. Tempers rose against from irate residents who threatened to unleash mayhem on him for alleged negligence. Our Correspondent who visited the scene of the incident reports that the entire building and valuables were lost in the tragic incident in addition to the precious lives of the three innocent siblings, leaving tales of sorrow.
At number 6, Orisunbare Street, Ehin Grammar Bus Stop in Ibadan South East Local Government Area of Oyo State lies an eighth-room apartment. It is easily one of the oldest bungalows in the area. Around 2am on Friday, January 3, residents in the neighbourhood were woken up by distress calls from occupants of the building, shouting for help as fire had enveloped a part of the building where three siblings were locked up by their father.
Eyewitness accounts said that many residents of the house would have died in the inferno but for the quick intervention from neighbours who promptly responded to the distress calls.
“However, concerted efforts made by residents to rescue the three children of the same parents who were trapped in the fire yielded no fruit as the fire grew in intensity and enveloped the entire building, particularly the living room where the children were.
The fire, in fact, started right in the living room before it quickly spread to other parts of the building,” said Mrs Adijat Layiwola, an eyewitness.
The parents of the three children, Mr Tunde Emmanuel and his wife, Christiana, a cook in an undisclosed hotel, according to residents, were living together with their three children, Glory (14), Samuel (8) and Darasimi (3) in two of the eighth-room apartment before the tragedy struck.
Some of the neighbours who spoke with our correspondent said Mr Emmanuel would have been lynched by angry neighbours if he was found at the time of the incident because he was in the habit of locking up the children to sleep elsewhere.
A neighbour, Mr. James Oni, said: “As I am talking to you now, their father, popularly called Baba Ara, dare not come to this area. On the day of the incident, the residents were searching desperately for him. I am sure that if they had got him, he would have been killed by an angry mob, because the people felt pain.
“How can he as a father lock the children up and went away to sleep elsewhere, allowing the poor children to die untimely. He said he went for a night vigil. Which night vigil did he go that he could not go with his children?
“The people around here know that is what he does all the time. That is why he ran away to the police station, otherwise it would have been a different story.”
Emmanuel’s elder brother, Mr. Samson Peter, was at a meeting with the Caretaker Chairperson, Ibadan South East Local Council Development Authority, Hon. Mrs. Kehinde Eboda, the Chairman, Ehin Grammar Landlord Association, Alhaji Lateef Adegoke; the mother of the three siblings and a retired civil servant, Mrs Christiana Emmanuel and the landlady of the building, Alhaja Fausatu Lamidi Adeleke, on Tuesday.
Mr. Peter said the news came to him as a rude shock, adding that he could not explain what really happened because he lived far away from them. Asked about Emmanuel’s whereabouts, Peter said, “He’s not here, and I cannot explain his whereabouts.
Addressing the meeting after inspecting the level of damage caused by the fire, the caretaker chairperson, Ibadan Sour East Local Council Development Authority, Hon. Kehinde Eboda, could not hold her emotions as she broke into tears. Standing beside the mother of the deceased siblings, Eboda sympathised with the victims of the disaster and prayed God to grant the parents the strength to bear the great loss.
She also promised to reach out to the state government and other relevant authorities to assist the victims of the inferno.
The spokesperson of the Oyo Sate Police Command, Mr Olugbenga Fadeyi, a Superintendent of Police (SP), told The Nation that he would not foreclose the possibility of prosecution of the father of the three siblings until the preliminary report of the ongoing investigation was released.
The police said the case, which has since been transferred from Sanyo Police Station to the state CID, was still under investigation, adding that in the end, there would be a preliminary report. On the possibility of prosecuting Emmanuel, the police said the outcome of the investigation would determine whether the parents of the deceased children would face prosecution in the court of law.
The Chairman, Ehin Grammar Landlord Association, Alhaji Lateef Adegoke, was at the scene of the inferno, leading other landlords on Tuesday to access the situation.
He described the fire incident as a great disaster which would linger in the minds of the residents for many years.
He said: “It is a terrible disaster for us here, and we are not happy about that. But we believe there are reasons why God allowed it to happen, and it is only God that will give comfort, especially to the family of the deceased children. It is only God that can compensate them.”
The Landlady of the house, Alhaja Fausatu Lamidi Adeleke, who was full of grief over the incident, said she was shocked when a call was put across to her informing her that her building had been razed along with three children.
While sympathizing with the family of the deceased, Alhaja Adeleke wondered how the parents of the three kids could lock the children alone in the house in such unholy hours.
“Let the world ask the whereabouts of the father of the kids in such an hour of the night. Should he not be able to care for the children, knowing that their mother had gone to work in search of what they would eat? Who will question the man or who will challenge his headship in the family?”
Alhaja Adeleke, who lamented the loss of the three children and her building, explained how her late father willed the building to her as her only inheritance.
“But now, look at what is left of the house. Everything is gone. I live far away in my husband’s house. I don’t stay here. The rooms in the bungalow were let out to tenants and I only come to the house when the need arises. Now, everything is gone,” she said.
As the police intensify effort at unravelling the mystery surrounding the inferno and the death of the three siblings, Emmanuel, their 44-year-old father, is helping the state Police Command in their investigation.
Emmanuel, who attributed the tragedy in part to the crisis in his marriage, described the death of his children as a mystery and an act of God.
The 44 year old electrician, while explaining the reasons why the children were locked up in the home at midnight on the fateful day, said he could not give the details about the incident because he was not at the scene during the fire outbreak.
He said: “I don’t know how it happened. Let’s just hand everything over to God. Even my neighbours could not say something cogent on how it happened. I don’t understand them.
“The children used to sleep at home alone. I’m not always around. I attend Celestial Christian Church of God. I went for a programme that night; it was a vigil.
“My wife went to the place where she sells beer in a store owned by her pastor. I have been at Sanyo Police Station since the incident happened. The police are interrogating me.”
The man, who explained that he has another woman out of wedlock, said: “There was a little misunderstanding between my wife and I when I wanted to marry another wife about a year ago. She didn’t want me to marry another wife. We tried to settle the dispute.”
Speaking on the incident, the Deputy Director, Oyo State Fire Service, Mr. Moshood Adewuyi, attributed it to electrical surge from appliances that were put on but not attended to when power was restored.
He said: “The family lives in a room and a parlour. The fire started from the sitting room. The alternative door the children could have used to escape had been blocked with their belongings.
“It was wrong for the parents to leave the children behind unattended to. They have limitation of reasoning. Nothing stopped them (the children) from going for prayers too.
“We urge people to always switch off all appliances when there is no light to avoid a fire outbreak.”