BY OLA AJAYI, IBADAN
One may be tempted to ask if the angel of mercy guarding the Mercyland Prayer Ministries, Alaro Ibadan was on another divine assignment on the day a mystery fire suddenly issued from nowhere and killed three members of the church. Or could it be that prayers of the church were not enough?
These were some of the numerous questions on the lips of sympathisers who thronged the church on March 10, 2014, few hours after the fire tragedy.
Tears flowed freely from the eyes of residents in the area, including school pupils, when they saw the lifeless bodies of the victims waiting for evacuation.
When the trio decided to sleep in the church after service that day, they obviously had no premonition of their tragic demise. Unfortunately death came knocking around 2:00am in a painful way.
According to some residents in the area, the fire started from the back of the church and before those sleeping could wake up, thick and suffocating smoke had engulfed the whole building.
As at the time of filing this report, the cause of the fire was not yet clear. Some claimed that the fire started from a generating set, while another account has that it started from the home of a fellow living behind the church. What is now left of the beautiful church is mere rubble and burnt remains of sewing machines, drum sets, ceiling fans, plastic chairs, pulpit, and many other items.
Pathetically a man who was identified as Big Daddy died in the process of trying to save others from the fiery furnace. After successfully rescuing some people, he went back to save others but ended up being consumed by the inferno. Some of the victims were burnt beyond recognition.
About five persons ran outside and escaped. But, two others, a woman and a 92-year-old man were not that lucky: They were said to have suffered stroke. Vanguard Metro gathered that the two of them had been ill for quite sometime. Also, another pregnant woman, Mrs. Sade Oyediran who is the mother-in-law of the owner of the church, Pastor Joshua Oyediran, had swollen legs and could not move. It was a man called Damola who reportedly dragged and pulled her out to a safe place.
Speaking with VM, one of the pastors in the church, Pastor Akinrodolu Samuel Tope who joined the church about two years ago, said he was not around when the fire started but a member called him on phone to inform him.
He said: “I wasn’t in church. Someone called me on phone and said the fire started from the back. He said Big Daddy came out unhurt but because of the people who were trapped inside, he went back to save them. We held a service here just yesterday”.
One of the survivors, Mrs. Sade Oyediran said: “I was sleeping. When I woke up, I moved to the toilet and went back to bed. It was the noise of somebody shouting fire! fire!! that woke me up. I shouted but I could not move. By this time, I did not see anything again. Smoke had enveloped the whole church. A man came and dragged me out to safety”.
Narrating how she got the bad news, the daughter of the owner of the church, Miss Comfort Oyediran, said her father was not around when the fire started. “My father was far away at the time the fire broke out. He came around 11 am today when we called him. He was not okay when he saw everything in ruins. In that trauma, the police took him away”.
Confirming the incident, the Director, Oyo State Fire Service, Mr. Oyekunle Kareem, said at midnight, a distress call was made to them that “there was a fire incident at Alaro and we rushed there immediately. We put out the fire but three bodies were recovered. Only the doctor can certify them dead”.
When VM got to the scene, bodies of the burnt members of the church and a coffin were in the church.
Scores of sympathisers, including school children, gathered in clusters discussing the incident.
When VM called the police for comments, the Public Relations Officer of the command, DSP Olabisi Ilobanafor, confirmed the incident and added that the police did not arrest Pastor Oyediran as claimed by his daughter but he was only invited for documentation.