By Bilesanmi Olalekan
As you descend the steep road beside the Festac link bridge towards the site of the incident, even after three days, you could still see clusters of people discussing the tragic incident. The common denominator among the groups is the raining of curses on the assailants of the late Chief Pius Oladele. The mechanic workshop, under the bridge, had just two saloon cars. Even then, the mechanics there, two of them, in mufti, merely sat down doing nothing. The same thing with trucks carrying sand, all were packed, just as the sand, in different portions, were left untouched. At the right side of the site were houses by the bank of the river.
In between the mechanic workshop and the portions of sands was the late Oladele’s white Toyota SUV car. The four tyres had been deflated. The impact of the explosion that killed him on Monday was such that days after killing, there were still traces of blood at the site and even shreds of blue Jeans littered the floor. It appeared that Oladele was very important to the community, which, besides being a sand dealer, he headed as Baale. Virtually all the people Sunday Vanguard met with spoke glowingly about him. At some point, one of the respondents, Bimpe, 32, burst into tears. “ There is nobody here that can say Baale was a bad person. He was good to all of us here. That is why all of us are shocked at what happened. What could he have done to have warranted being killed in such a cruel manner? I know that whoever is behind this act will not have peace for the rest of his life”, she said.
The large number of canoes on the river attracts your attention as you move closer to the bank. Each of the canoes, Sunday Vanguard was told, had, when discharged, two lorry loads of sand. There were about sixteen of the canoes, empty, by the bank. This site is just a discharge point. They don’t dredge sand from there. Bola, 42, one of the confidants of Olaldele said sand is sourced from Tin-Can, Igbede around Volkswagen, Ijegun and Ibeshe. Usually, according to him, the canoes with sand get to the site from between 12.30 a.m. and 5 a.m. It could be five or eight at a time such that by the time the workers off load the sand and start working, the total workers on site is not less than 50, that is excluding the drivers and motor boys of the tippers. Said he:”I was into oil before.
I joined this business about six years ago. It was him (Oladele) that brought me into the business. We get the sand from Ijegun and environs. We only use this place as discharge point. We work round the clock here including Saturdays and Sundays. However, our presence here is subject to movement of the canoes; if, for whatever reason they could not load at the dredging sites, that means there would be no work here but there was hardly anytime we had this challenge. Each of the canoes carries two lorry loads of sand. Each lorry load of the sand is sold for N11,000 which is about five cubic. Anybody from Ikotun, Okota, Festac, Surulere, all come here to buy sand.
Even the Chinese construction company, when they were doing Okota road, came here to buy sand. So this place is very popular. He was the chairman, Sands Dredgers Association from here up to Ikorodu, Ijegun and Badagry. He became the chairman about six years ago, just about the time he introduced me into the business. At the moment, as you can see, nobody is working, even from our dredging sites, as soon as we called and told them of the incident, everybody has stopped working and returned to base here. Nobody is working, from the tipper lorry drivers to those who paddle the canoes to the off loaders and even the carpenters who work on the canoes till next week”.
According to Bola, Oladele arrived the site with his wife at about 8.30 in the morning of the fateful Monday. He (Bola) was there earlier. The deceased then called him to get him rice and fish – N100 rice, N600 fish. As he made to go, he found that his wife also wanted to eat Amala. “So he gave me money to buy fod for himself and his wife. But as I was about going, he said we should go together as he had a memory card for his car radio system which he had bought earlier but which he didn’t collect. The place is just around where I wanted to buy the food. We returned from there. Not long after, his friend, a policeman, came. After he ate a little, he passed on the remnant to me. He complained that there was a Sienna vehicle behind his house for days, he said he was suspecting trouble.
Incidentally, somebody who knew the owner of the vehicle was around during the conversation with the police officer, he then called the man who said the vehicle had mechanical fault, he promised to pick up the car that same day. “And as they (Oladele and the police officer) wanted to delve into other issues, out of respect, I just moved away from them. It was not up to two minutes when we heard the blast. Of course everyone ran away before regrouping minutes later to discover it had dismembered our boss”, he narrated.
While Lagos Police Commissioner, Mr Umar Manko, said the explosion was triggered by electrical fault, many people said the account was not true. Wesey Felix, 47, the Otun (the second in ranking to Oladele) of Ifesowapo community, took Sunday Vanguard on a journey of the event.” When the policemen came here after the incident, in the course of searching for evidence, we all saw them as they pulled two strings of wire, one of which had its source from one of the canoes by the bank, just close to the perimeter fence Baale was seated.
That canoe happened to be the one the association’s carpenter was working on the previous day. The wire was laid under ground from where the explosion happened and terminated inside the canoe. And he was on that same canoe the previous day. The carpenter has been arrested today (Wednesday) though. And, thankfully, he has started singing. Since the source of the wire that triggered the explosion was from the canoe, we all immediately suspected the carpenter”, he explained.