By Bose Adelaja
Seven days after an ill-fated Toyota Hilux van plunged into Majidun river in Ikorodu area of Lagos, the exact number of victims is yet to be ascertained. While an eye witness account gave the figure as four, local divers, Nigerian Navy and other emergency agencies said only one body was recovered.
The van, with number plate KSF918AU, belonging to Ikoyi Golf Club, was said to have plunged into the river around 5.30am after an all night event at the club. While some eye witnesses said the driver, who was also the Club manager was in company of three others, some staff of the Club said their manager was a lone occupant of the vehicle.
Another version of the report said the deceased Kolawole Ahmed gave a ride to three others, but a colleague of the deceased said the passengers alighted at Palm grove bus-stop leaving the lone occupant in the vehicle.
An eye witness, who simply gave his name as Olasupo Fadipe, said he was excreting around the area when, the vehicle plunged into the river. ‘’The vehicle was floating on the river and the occupants shouting ‘help, help’, and I ran out of the bush to knock at people’s doors for help but before I came back, waves of the river had taken the vehicle away.”
The incident caused a hitch in traffic for some hours but the effort of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority later saved the situation.
Also, the cause of the accident could not be ascertained as some of the sympathisers attributed it to recklessness or drunkenness of the deceased while others believed it was as a result of bad road.
While some sympathisers blamed the incident on the victim(s) for plying the highway when he they was were supposed to be observing a rest, others blamed government for lack of prompt response to emergency services.
One of the sympathisers, Mrs. Rukayat Oladele, said the incident was caused by government insensitivity which ought to have barricaded the river against fatal plunges. While the incident occurred around 5.30am, only the police and Lagos State Fire Service arrived the scene on time, but could not make any impact until the arrival of the National Emergency Management Authority, NEMA, and any navy who recovered the vehicle around 9.30am.
The search continued the following day and the driver’s body was recovered around 8.23am but efforts to recover other bodies proved abortive as the rescue agencies combed the river for several hours before they eventually left the scene.
An eye witness, who pleaded anonymity, said he was driving very close to the ill-fated van. “I sensed danger as soon as we got to Itowolo but I never knew it would end that way. The vehicle moved haphazardly about 20 metres to the river which it plunged into before I could raise the alarm.’’
NEMA commiserates with victim’s family
NEMA has, in the mean time, commiserated with the recovered victim’s family. In a statement signed by its South West Information Officer, Ibrahim Farinloye, it said, ‘’While we commiserate with the family and staff of the victim, we need to state that the identified body of Mr. Kolawole Ahmed, who drove the ill-fated Toyota Hilux, van, was recovered at 8:23 a.m on Sunday.
The possibility of further recovery is highly remote although eyewitnesses, who gave the account of four people in the vehicle, have maintained their views but accounts of the Ikoyi Golf Club contradicts the witnesses. Nevertheless, the emergency agencies are working towards further searches. The staff said Mr. Ahmed was heading to his house under construction which was his daily routine after close of work before going to his house at Ikeja. He might have picked some people on his way after dropping his colleagues.
“The body had been deposited at the General Hospital, Ikorodu in company of his relations and staff for documentation, immediate collection and burial as the victim was a Muslim. We commiserate with the family and staff of the victim.’’
The incident occurred barely three months after a Toyota Sienna bus plunged from the Third Mainland Bridge into the lagoon but the occupants were immediately rescued by local divers.