28 December 2012

Nigeria: Fire Guts Obasanjo's Hilltop Mansion

Photo: Vanguard
The former president's home on fire.

The Hilltop residence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was yesterday afternoon gutted by fire which destroyed the office section of the multi-million naira mansion.

And in Lagos, one of those who sustained injuries in the Jankara Market inferno has been confirmed dead, just as the state government has resolved to demolish 10 buildings in the area.

The fire incident at Obasanjo's house, which started at about 4:20pm, was said to have been caused by a power surge from one of the personal offices of the former president, and burnt some valuable documents.

When LEADERSHIP visited the scene, security agents, which included the rescue team and other personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), State Security Service (SSS), as well as relations and close friends of Chief Obasanjo were seen trying to put out the fire and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the house.

Two fire fighting trucks of the Ogun State Fire Service, marked OG 122 AO9 and OG 127 A09, roared into the compound an hour after the fire had been put under control by officers of the NSCDC.

It was also gathered that the fire started barely 20 minutes after the former president left the mansion for his family house at Ita-Eko, still within the Abeokuta metropolis. The development, however, forced him to return to the mansion to ascertain the level of damage to the building as well as the welfare of his wife, Mrs. Bola Obasanjo, who was said to be indoors during the fire incident.

Speaking with newsmen, the Ogun State chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Dipo Odujinrin, confirmed that valuable documents were lost to the inferno that lasted about 30 minutes.

Odujinrin, who was one of the early callers, expressed appreciation to God that no life was lost to the inferno, also said that the damaged documents could be recreated.

In his own reaction, Chief Obasanjo noted that it was only a part of his secretary's office that was affected, maintaining that the burnt part would be rebuilt and made more beautiful.

The fire incident, however, attracted a heavy presence of security operatives, which included the state commissioner of police, Ikemefuna Okoye, and the state director of the State Security Service (SSS), Joseph Okpu, among others.

Also among the sympathizers that gathered at the scene were the chief of staff to Ogun State Governor, Alhaji Shuaib Salisu, the state commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Olamilekan Adegbite, and former commissioner for environment in Ogun, Anthony Ojesina.

Meanwhile, in Lagos, one of the 40 persons that got injured in the Boxing Day fireworks explosion has been reported dead at the Lagos Island General Hospital where he and others were rushed to for treatment.

The deceased, simply identified as Murphy, who owned a hotel in one of the buildings badly affected by the explosion, it was gathered, also resided in the building.

LEADERSHIP learnt that his son had died shortly after the explosion, while his daughter and wife also sustained serious injury. All were rushed to the general hospital for treatment.

The news of his death was broken at the scene of the explosion, Ojo Giwa Street, Jankara Market, Lagos Island, yesterday.

As a result of the incident, officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) yesterday demolished three buildings that were severely affected by the fire. It was gathered from LASEMA officials that 10 houses had been marked for demolition.

The general manager of LASEMA, Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, revealed that 12 houses were affected by the inferno, but only 10 were severely damaged.

According to him, the state government had commenced the demolition of 10 houses to prevent further danger to the environment, adding that integrity test would be conducted on the other two to determine their fitness for human habitation.

Our correspondent observed officials of LASEMA, armed with heavy equipment, pulling down the affected buildings at Ojo Giwa/ Okoya Street, Jankara Market - the scene of the tragedy.

Residents who commented on the demolition exercise said it was a proper step to take, asserting that the owners of the building could renovate the buildings and rent them out to traders without conducting soil and building integrity tests.

They commended the police, LASEMA and National Emergency Management Agency officials for their prompt intervention when the incident occurred, pointing out that the prompt intervention of fire fighters from both the federal and state agencies salvaged the situation.

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