No fewer than four children lost their lives in Ondo State last week when a newly installed power cable fell on a container shop at Oke-Igbo axis in Ile- Oluji/Okeigbo Local Government Area. ADEWALE MOMOH writes on the incident
The incident of April 21, 2022 which occurred in Oke- Igbo in Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo Local Government Area of Ondo State was one which no parent would wish for in their lifetime.
The agrarian community was rocked to its very foundation when four children were electrocuted while playing in a metal container shop. A newly installed power cable was said to have fallen on the container shop they were playing in. With some of the children still in the hospital, two of the deceased were siblings who visited their aunt for the Easter holiday.
The deceased are Akinfisoye Samuel, Akinyemiju Motunrayo, Akinyemiju Jesutofunmi and Adebiyi Adebowale and they were aged between nine and 14 years. One of the survivors whose name was given as Blessing explained what happened.
“We were playing when suddenly, power was restored. So, we shouted ‘up NEPA’. “Immediately, we heard the sparkling sound and we ran out of the shop, not knowing that the new cable wire had cut and fallen on my mummy’s container shop.
“As we ran out of the container, the wire trapped our legs and we could not walk again. So, I sat on the plank that was close to me, but the remaining children started shaking and vomiting blood. “I shouted for help and people came to rescue us and we were rushed to the General Hospital in Ile-Oluji,” she said.
The owner of the shop, Mrs Ronke Adebiyi, who was visibly distraught, said she was not present when the incident occurred. According to her: “In the evening, I received a call that my shop was burning. So, I ran down to check on my children. On getting there, I saw people gathered and I kept asking, where are my children?
“Later, one of them, Blessing ran out of the shop, but the others were lying on the floor. “They were rushed to the hospital, but there was no sufficient oxygen they could use for five of them. So, four later gave up the ghost. But the case of the sixth child was not critical as she could walk and talk.
“The remaining two were taken to Trauma Centre in Ondo for treatment. One has been discharged, but the second child has been referred to the OAU Teaching Hospital for further treatment.
“Two out of the four children are my sister’s daughter. They came for holiday.” Her husband, Chief Olumide Adebiyi, who was the most severely affected by the incident, having lost a child and two nieces, claimed he had submitted everything to God and that he was not interested in seeking justice for the incident. He said: “I was at my in place of work at Ayetoro when they put a call across to me. They asked me to come back home urgently.
“Of course being an emergency call, I became worried. I asked the person that called me to tell me the truth and should not hide anything for me. “On my insistence he broke the news to me. He told my children were in the mortuary. Suddenly, I fainted, people around had to revive me.
On getting to Ile Oluji, I saw a crowd of people. “In fact I almost died of shock, it was a very sad incident for me personally because, all the victims are mine, out of the four children that died, one is my biological child and two are my nieces.
“They came to spend holidays with my family here, they always spend their holidays with me because their father is not around here and their mother is a nurse, living in Ore. “So during holidays they would come here and after the holidays they would go back.
My first child was also affected as part of his body was burnt; he was affected when he was trying to rescue the children. He tried to rescue them but when the fire became overwhelming for him; he left them in the fire and ran out.”
However, the 50-year-old timber contractor absolved his family of responsibility for the catastrophe, claiming that the container was placed under the electrical wire out of ignorance and that the government had issued no warning or order to relocate the store.
Justice belongs to God’
He stated: “I will not say we are at fault neither would I blame the government. I believe that God that gave us the children understands everything, I cannot be fighting the government neither will I be fighting my community. “I have surrendered everything to God almighty, He understands everything and I also believe that God will compensate our family.
“It’s been long the wire was there but no one told us to remove it under the wire, even the town planning officials of the government had come to inspect the place and they did not tell us to remove it. So we believed the place was okay and safe for the structures underneath the wire.
“Let us believe we are novices about such things, but the government officials that do come there often did not see anything wrong with it and we thought we are right by having a container shop at that location. “If they have warned or ordered us to leave the place, we would have left. Even the BEDC (Benin Electrical Distribution Company) officials do come there to collect money from us and go.
They never told us to vacate the place.” He, however, expressed no interest to fight for justice on the matter, insisting that the justice belongs to God and he was not ready to seek justice, by virtue of his position in the community According to him: “I have left justice for God, people have been coming to console the family, the police have come, the monarch of Ile Oluji have sent delegation to visit us, those in the government have come, many people have been coming to condole us, what else do I want?
“The youths wanted to protest, I told them not to, I don’t want a crisis to erupt over the incident, and like I said earlier God understand why it happened. The BEDC officials too have come to console us. I told them to go and visit the other bereaved family.” The terrible tragedy sparked a flurry of arguments and counter-arguments, as well as blames, as to why the shop should have been located under the high-tension cable.
Government authorities, on the other hand, were criticized for allowing unlawful structures to be under high-tension cables for business purposes.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Tofowomo, the Senator representing Ondo South Senatorial District, has called for a thorough inquiry into the incident, stating that justice must be served. The senator, an indigene of the Ile-Oluji community said: “We cannot allow lawlessness to continue in this country. I will pursue justice for the parents if investigations showed culpability of the BEDC. “Moreover, the government must do its job by not allowing shops or buildings to be erected under power lines.
The lives of these precious children would not have been wasted if individuals do their jobs accordingly,” In a reaction, the Corporate Affairs Manager of the BEDC, Ondo State, Mr Michael Barnabas, said the incident was fatal because the metal container shop was illegally under the high tension electric cable.
He said: “Sadly, we received information about the electrocution of four little children within our network in Ile-Oluji due to an 11kv line that snapped. As a company, we condole with the families of the children because life is very sacred and should not end prematurely this way.
“According to information available to us, the children were in an iron container shop that was directly under an 11kv line that snapped which led to their electrocution when they had contact with the wire.
“The deaths would have been avoidable if there was nothing within the 11 meters right of way statutorily required for such a line. “While we don’t have the powers to relocate people directly living or trading under our electricity lines, we shall be very brutal in disconnecting such customers from the public power supply and ensure they never have access to it again which would probably lead to them relocating voluntarily out of the harm’s way.
By this, we believe we can prevent future occurrence of similar sad incidents in future.”