By Evelyn Usman
A glance at the one-storey building located at 9, Oloje Street in Papa Ajao area of Mushin, Lagos would not give a clue of any recent tragedy. Just last week what was considered a strange fire, engulfed a two-room bedroom flat located on the ground floor at the back of the building, consuming the entire members of the Madus family.
The fire, according to eye witnesses and residents of the area, was considered strange because only the Madus flat wasÂ affected. Aside this is the fact that only the sitting room which comprised a settee, television, two air conditioners and a rug were affected, leaving every other property in the bedrooms, kitchen and toilet intact.
Vanguard Metro gathered that members of the family woke up that fateful morning without any premonition of the tragedy that later befell them.Â Members of the family comprising Mr Ike Madu whose age was put at 37; his wife, Mrs Josephine Madu who was still weaning her three months old baby; their seven-year old daughter and Mr Maduâ€™s 65-year-old mother-in-law, Mrs Sussan Asi, were as usual carrying out their respective householdÂ chores when they were confronted by the sight of fire in their living room.
An eye witness who spoke to Vanguard MetroÂ said none of the other occupants of the building was at first aware of the fire until a lady whose identity was not disclosed saw the highly disturbed nursing mother carrying a bowl ofÂ water which she frantically poured insideÂ the sitting room.
So hysterically-charged was the woman that she failed to respond to enquiries on what was going on. It was only whenÂ the inquisitive lady reportedly peeped through the sitting room that she sighted the fire.
The eye witness who simply gave his name as Ifeanyin said: â€œI was just standing outside when the lady ran out to call an old woman that sells fruits in front of the building. The old woman ran inside the compound and later came out shouting: Fire! fire!! That was how everybody ran inside and started calling on Mama Chidera but there was no response. One of the sympathizers asked them to try and open the door so that they would all escape. One of us peeped through and saw they had all moved to the kitchen side.
At that moment, we were battling to put out the fire. We used detergent and water to pour inside the sitting room. Some even pulled down the burglary proof when we realised that the sole entrance and exit door was that of the sitting room door where the fire was burningâ€.
Continuing, he said one of them suddenly shouted that there was an alternative route of escape through a door which demarcated the Maduâ€™s flat from a barbing salon. â€œWe all rushed to the barbing salon from where we tried to open the door which we eventually did. But we were confronted by a container that was used to block the door.
This we again succeeded in putting out of the way before we eventually gained entry into the flat where to our shock, we met Mr Madu, his mother in-law and two children all on the floor.Â We quickly carried them out and rushed them to the hospital whereÂ they were unfortunately certified dead.Â But Mrs Josephine was said to still be alive and was immediately admitted in the intensive unit of the Lagos State University teaching Hospital(LUTH)â€
The nursing mother as gathered, was in a coma for two days before she regained consciousness.Â But unfortunately, she passed on at about 5pm on Sunday, thereby dashing growing hope of survival.
Weeping, lamentation in Mushin
When news of the death of the nursing mother filtered into the neighbourhood later, the entire area was thrown into renewed mourning.
When Vanguard Metro visited the affected flat, some persons were seen in a group discussingÂ the tragedy, wondering what could be the possible cause of the fire. One of them , a woman asked: â€œWhat could the man be doing at home by that time?â€ And in response another said: â€œThey said they saw him that morning come out to pick something from his car and then went back. I guess he was preparing to leave for hisÂ place of businessâ€.
In an emotion-laden tone, the first woman said: â€œOh , I really pity the old woman. Just to think she was billed to travel back to the village in a few days time after taking care of her daughter who just put to bed. Ah, it is so sadâ€.
For now, the PoliceÂ said they were yet to ascertain the exact cause of the fire, as investigation was still ongoing.Â Police sources said the only person who could have helped in this regard was the late Mrs Josephine. However, they added that they were still exploring other means to ascertain the cause.
Investigation meanwhile is geared at ascertaining the possible cause of the death of the five, except Mrs Josephine, who were carried out of the scene without evidence of having been burnt.Â They were said to have been discovered in a still position in one of the rooms .
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Frank Mba said although investigation was still ongoing, he suspected that the victims could have been choked by smoke.