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Berger motors inferno: Auto dealers count loses

By Charles Kumolu

SAIDI Olopade presents the picture of a regular worker in Lagos who on a normal day, concedes three productive hours to traffic jam, just as he spends over five hours on hectic days when a truck breaks down.

But for Sundays, Olopade works every day of the week. This is why he rarely has time to spend with his family-a reason why he readily tells whoever cares to listen that he would rather move out of Lagos than to work for anyone on Sunday. But last Sunday, Olopade swallowed his words, as he made an unexpected trip to his mechanic work.

*Distraught auto dealers watching helplessly as fire ravages their vehicles

His journey to his workshop was not to fix damaged cars as usual, rather the father of two was on a mission to save his source of livelihood from being consumed by an inferno.

“We don’t work on Sundays so we did not come to work. I was with my family when the call came through that our workshop was on fire. I was surprised when the call came. I had to rush to my workshop because the cars here belong to my customers. I am so confused. If not for some Abokis the damage would have been much because they helped in rescuing some vehicles from being burnt before our arrival,” the obviously worried Olopade told this reporter at the scene of a fire incident at Berger Motors.

While conducting VanguardMetro round the scene, he lamented that the incident may not be unconnected with the activities of some people who reside in shanties behind the workshop.

Pointing at the compound that houses the huts he said: “ The people residing there are in the habit of burning cooper wire; that is why we are suspecting that the fire might have started from there, although we were not here when it started. We can’t even find any of the residents of that compound now”.

Olopade was interrupted by someone, who simply identified himself as Emeka. Unlike the mechanic, Emeka could be described as the biggest loser because his car worth over N1.5million was the most expensive out of the burnt vehicles.

Emeka, who appeared sober blamed one of the mechanics for the predicament.

Though he did not link the cause of the inferno to the auto mechanic, yet he maintained thus: “If not for the carelessness of the mechanic I gave this car to fix, I would not be agonising now. This car was brought here two weeks ago just for the oil seal to be changed and also for the repairs of other minor things. But the major problem was oil seal. This man did not do my job, he delayed it until I got a call that the car was burnt beyond recognition”.

Continuing, Emeka, who resides in Ikeja said: “Initially the car was not parked here; when I discovered that he had removed the vehicle from the original place it was parked, he told me that he did that to prevent the vehicle from being impounded by LASTMA officials. Now the fear of LASTMA has even done the worst damage”.

An attempt to speak with the chairman of the park, which is also known as Las Vegas Park, did not yield much result as he denied being so identified.

“That is the chairman; his name is Mukaila, he will tell you more,”Chibuzor Nkem, whose vehicle was also burnt, said.

But Mukaila, who was seen pumping water into the wreckage, in order to prevent further fire outbreak, nervously said: “Mukaila is not around, I am not Mukaila, I don’t know where he has gone to”.

Meanwhile, further investigations revealed that some unidentified fellows usually smoke Indian hemp at the park after working hours and non-working days.

This informed an appeal by Chinedu Nnabuife, who called for adequate security in that vicinity.

“Boys usually smoke here when people are not around. Even a fire incident before this one was caused by a cigarette filter. Those boys should be prevented from coming here to smoke. Adequate security should be provided. The leaders here should also discourage the dumping of refuse behind this park. The loss recorded is estimated at over N10 million naira,” he stated.

Nonetheless, it was gathered that no fewer than 10 vehicles were razed beyond recognition in the massive inferno that gutted a portion of Las Vegas.

The fire which started around 4.00p.m was said officials of a private fire agency have emanated from a refuse dump situated at the back of an auto mechanic workshop in the park, and it mysteriously spread to some vehicles undergoing repairs at a mechanic workshop.

Meanwhile, traffic at the exit part of the Kirirkiri Link Bridge was grounded for hours as motorists pulled out of the road for the fear of running into the fire.

However, sympathizers at the scene made concerted efforts to rescue vehicles at the park.

It took the timely intervention of sympathizers and fire fighters from the Federal Fire Service, State Fire Service and the Nigeria Navy to put out the fire.

Policemen from the Kirikiri Police Station were also at the scene to provide security.

Vanguard Metro gathered that the burnt portion was gutted by fire two years ago, just as eyewitnesses said the source of the fire remained a mystery.

The owner of a burnt Vetro car, could not control himself as he burst into tears when he saw the carcass of his car. The man, who identified himself as Chibuike said he had invested all his money in buying the car, saying that he was new in car business.

He told Vanguard Metro: “It is not long I started this business and I have invested all the money I have in it. I was only hoping to sell this car and re-invest the proceeds. Where do I started from? Nothing was wrong with that car, I brought it here because there was no way.”


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