Mr Adekunle Adeyemo, 49, is the owner of a roadside car dealership that was consumed in a tanker explosion on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on November 7. He tells TOBI AWORINDE about how the incident has affected his livelihood
Your business was affected in the recent fire at Kara Bus Stop, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. How bad was it?
I’m the owner of this place, Oriowo International Ltd. I had 14 vehicles that were burnt in the fire. I had two second-hand buses, one Mazda and one Hyundai; four tokunbo Mazda cars; two Toyota Picnic minivans; two Toyota Corollas; and two Mazda pickups. The worth of all the cars is N32m. I am still in the process of recovering from the loss. As I am, I have lost my memory. I am slowly trying to regain my memory and get back to my old self. I don’t know how Nigerians can help me. This money is not even mine. I got the cars with loans from the bank and cooperative society. I gathered all the money to get the cars from Europe and the United States of America.
Were you supplied cars from Cotonou, Benin Republic as well?
I didn’t get cars from Cotonou. I got them directly from the US, Belgium and Germany.
What day did the fire happen?
It was on November 7, 2020. I got a call at home in Magboro, Ogun State at 1.45am. I saw the call from a strange number and said, ‘Who is this?’ It turned out to be one of my boys who spends the night on the lot. In fact, his handset got burnt in the fire; it was God that saved him. He was in one of the buses when the explosion happened sometime after 1am. Before he was able to gather himself, it was 1.45am. I got here at 2.10am. I saw everything on fire.
Was it a tanker that exploded?
Yes. The motor boy and the driver died on the spot. I saw the bodies. We carried the bodies after the fire had been quenched. They were burnt beyond recognition. We just know it was two people.
How long have you sold cars at Kara?
I have been here for almost eight years.
Do you have insurance?
I don’t have insurance.
Do you have a family?
I do. I have one wife and three children. My mother is over 90 years old. I have other extended family members that I take care of. The two fairly used were commercial vehicles. Those are the ones I used to take care of my family. When the drivers were done for the day, I would ask them to park them on the lot for the night, until the next morning. Both of them were gutted in the fire.
Since then, how have you been coping?
It is my friend that has been helping me.
Have all the debris been cleared from the roadside?
Yes, they have all been gathered and sold as scraps. I know that the environmental protection agency has taken all the scraps and sold the vehicles for N50,000 each.
How much did you make on a weekly or monthly basis?
Some months, I could sell two or three vehicles; some months, I would sell four. The vehicles vary in price. The Mazda buses would go for about N3.5m. Toyota Camrys would be about N2.2m. The Mazda pickup would be about N2.7m.
Were there other vehicles that were not burnt?
No. All the cars were burnt.
Before then, did you consider the risk of being so close to the expressway?
I didn’t think about it. I had no idea something like that would happen.
Will you return to the same spot?
No. That is why I have arranged the lot in a way that it is meters away from the area where the vehicles used to be parked. I have moved farther from the road. I wasn’t this far from the road before.
There are two buses here that are not burnt. Are they yours too?
Yes, they were at my home when the fire happened. I just brought them back.
Are they commercial buses?
Yes, they are used for commercial purposes. One is for sale and one is tokunbo.
What is the next step?
I need help. I am praying to God for help.
Do you want the government to help?
I don’t mind any help from the government.
Will you make an official complaint to the government?
I won’t complain to the government. I have reported the incident at the police station. I have the police report.
Do you have all the documents for the vehicles?
Yes, I have the documents for all of them.