I Still Struggle To Believe My Mother, Others Burnt To Death –Unu, Woman Who Lost Five Relations In Fire Incident

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Since last Saturday when Biagbini community in Ese Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State lost 70-year-old Moyo Jide and her four grandchildren, a somber atmosphere has been cast on the area. Though people go about their business as usual, not many are able to hide their sense of gloomy despondency as a sorrowful mood still seems to hang over the community like a dark umbrella.

The woman and her grandchildren – one girl and three boys – were killed in a fire incident around 12am on Saturday, July 6, 2019 in the riverine community, largely inhabited by Ijaw people, who largely depend on fishing. The deceased children were Jennifer, three; Bigdaddy, five; Gbana, seven; and Wisdom, nine. Though not confirmed, the fire is believed to have been caused by a lantern which was usually left on in the night. The fire was said to have been aided by the bamboo used as building material for house.

Two of the children were said to have been living with their grandmother since the death of their father (Moyo’s son) a few years ago.

One of Moyo’s daughters, Mrs Erebite Unu, has still not reconciled herself to the sad reality. For her, it is difficult to come to terms with the fact that her mother’s affable presence will be no more and that she will “On the night my mother died, we wanted to attend a vigil in my church, so I sent one of my children to her house to get some food for us that we would eat in the church before the service would begin.

“When my child returned, she told me she met Mama and the children sleeping. So, my child went to the kitchen to take the food. It was while we were eating the food that we heard some noises from outside. Somebody told me that my mother’s house was on fire, but by the time we got there, the damage had already been done. It is a calamity to us and the entire family. It’s hard to believe they are all dead; I still find it hard to believe it,” she said.

Describing Moyo as a caring mother and the matriarch of the family, Unu said, “My mother will be greatly missed by the family, the community and the church because she served with all her heart until her death.

“She is a very caring mother, who did not want her children to suffer. She had eight children – two males and six females – but the first child, our brother, died some years ago.

“After he died, my mother started taking care of the children he left behind; she did not allow them to feel that their father had died. But unfortunately, the children of my late brother also died in the fire. You can see that it is a serious calamity. I lost five relations on one night; it was the saddest moment of my life.”

Similarly, a brother-in-law to the deceased, Mr Suffy Uguoji, described the incident as a devastating shock to the family and the entire community.

“Her husband is my first cousin and I am very close to the family. We were shocked to hear what happened and are still in a state of shock. We are really sad in the community.

“Everybody has just been crying because the woman was very nice; she was also a good and committed Christian. Every Sunday morning, she was always the first person to get to church to work. Everybody loved her.

“It is very unfortunate that the father of two of the deceased children died some years ago, while Mama’s second son is in the Niger Delta.  Before the incident, the woman asked her second son to send money to her and he sent some amount to her. It was the day the money got to Mama that the incident occurred; she didn’t live to spend the money,” he said.

Uguoji blamed the tragedy on lack of infrastructure in the community, saying efforts made by the community to save the lives of deceased persons were futile because there was no passable way to reach the burning house that night.

“The incident happened around 12am on the fateful night. Even her neighbours did not know on time that the house was burning, but even when they saw the house engulfed in flames and tried to rush there to rescue the victims, they couldn’t get to them.

“You know, in our community, there is no road as we live in the creeks. Our houses are linked by wooden walkways but most of them are dilapidated and not passable. They are like death traps in the community.

“Even in the afternoon, it is difficult to use the walkways let alone at night. When the house was burning, people just watched it burn helplessly because there was no way to reach the building. We need concrete walkways,” he said.

To this end, the traditional ruler of the community, High Chief Moses Uguoji, appealed to both the federal and state government to provide infrastructural facilities in the community.

“The death of Mrs Moyo Jide and her four grandchildren could have been avoided if the government had provided basic amenities in the town,” he said.

Appealing to the state governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu; Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission; and Niger Delta Development Commission, the traditional ruler urged them to come to the assistance of the community by providing adequate infrastructure.

The state Police Public Relations Officer of the Ondo State Command, Mr Femi Joseph, however, said investigation into the incident was still ongoing.

“We are still investigating the unfortunate incident, but we do not suspect any foul play yet,” the police spokesman said. [PUNCH]


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