By Dayo Johnson
JUMOKE SANUMI, the 35-year-old mother of the six children who were roasted alive in their one-room apartment allegedly set ablaze by the jilted boyfriend of her junior sister, Deji Adenuga, in Igbodigo in Okitipupa council area of Ondo State, said she escaped death by the whiskers in the early morning arson.
“Were it not that l left the room to answer the call of nature few minutes before the arsonist came and set the room on fire, l would have died along with my sick husband and the six children”, Jumoke told Sunday Vanguard.
Aside the six children, four boys and two girls, namely, Adebayo, Joy, Mercy, Johnson, Adesewa and Temidayo, Jumoke’s husband, who had been down with stroke, and a visiting child were killed in the arson.
The suspected arsonist, a 45-year-old palm wine tapper, said to have been jilted by Titi, set the room in which nine family members were in deep sleep on fire at about 2am, thereby roasting eight of them alive.
He said he purchased N500 worth of petrol purposely to burn the two sisters, Jumoke and Titi, and not others who slept in the room that night.
Ironically, the two sisters, who were the targets of the assailant because, according to him, they had turned him to their Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and wanted to dump him, survived the arson.
While Jumoke suffered minor injuries from the fire while trying to rescue the children and her husband, Titi, according to a family source, is on admission in a hospital for injuries she sustained in the fire.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard in Igbokoda where she is staying with one of her relations, Jumoke said her life had crashed and she was in serious pains.
“Since the tragedy occurred, my life has become empty. But all l want is that justice is done to this killer”, she told Sunday Vanguard.
Narrating what happened on the ill-fated day, the arson survivor said, “The incident happened around 2am. I woke up to use the toilet and I suddenly heard a sound at the back of the door.
“He must have poured the petrol inside the house while we were sleeping.
“l was still in the toilet when suddenly l heard the sound like a bomb in the room with heavy smoke coming out. The sound woke neighbours but, before long, all the occupants of the one-room apartment had burnt beyond recognition, mostly my children, who could not help themselves from the fire and the smoke at the same time.
“I quickly ran to open the door for my sister whose head was already on fire. I pulled the mats on which the children were sleeping and they rolled to the door. I started throwing out the children. It was in the process that I was affected by the fire. I lost all my six children, my husband and one of my junior sister’s children.
“I need justice in this matter. The man must not be allowed to go away with what he has done to ruin my life”.
‘Don’t let me die’
Appealing to public spirited people, the widow said, “I beg you, don’t let me die. I don’t have money to take care of myself. I need help. I am in serious pains.”
According to her, the lantern that was lit inside the room must have aided the fire which burnt the eight persons beyond recognition.
The arson suspect, who was arrested in ljebu-Ode, Ogun State, five days after he allegedly committed the heinous crime, had said he was infuriated because Titi aborted the four-month-old pregnancy she was carrying for him without his consent and that she had refused to return the N55, 000 he kept with her.
Ondo State Police Commissioner, Adie Udie, alleged that Deji was an ex- convict who murdered his first wife, Aboye Akinola, in year 2000 with a knife, detained on the grounds of the alleged crime pending trial but escaped during a jailbreak at the Olokuta Prison, Akure, the state capital.
The suspect explained that he was also provoked by the refusal of his girlfriend to return his money (N55, 000) and planned to ditch him in connivance with the sister, Jumoke.
“Titi and her sister, Jumoke, were fond of taking advantage of our relationship to dupe me”, he had said.
“Each time we had a misunderstanding, she would move to her sister’s place until I could provide money to settle the sister and my girlfriend. I was angry because she aborted my four-month old pregnancy and failed to return my money to me. The money was N55, 000.
“Her mother made several efforts to intervene but she refused. It was her sister, Jumoke, whose house I set ablaze, that was behind the whole issue. We lived together in my house. We started our relationship last year. She has no issue for me. The pregnancy was about four months and she aborted it.
“I asked her to return my money to me if she was no longer going to marry me. She refused. That’s what caused the fight and they threatened to deal with me if I ever returned to ask for the money”.
Jumoke, when confronted with the suspect’s allegations by Sunday Vanguard, denied.
Her words, “I don’t know the man. I don’t know what led to the incident. It is still a mystery to me. My sister came to me and she didn’t tell me anything about her disagreement with the man. She slept in my house and the man came to pour petrol on us. That was the first day my sister would sleep in my house. She always came to greet and play with me after which she would leave.
“It is true she was befriending the man. I was not aware of the money he said he gave to my sister. He told lies against me. I didn’t go to their house. I was not aware they had any disagreement. My sister didn’t tell me about it. She just came to my house. My sister didn’t bring her properties to my house.
“I had gone to sleep by the time my sister came. I always come back from the market late, in the evening, and tired. We used two rooms in the house. My children were still playing when I slept. They were the ones who usually lock the doors.”
The survivor added, “Titi (sister) is now on admission at the Intensive Care Unit of the Trauma Centre, Ondo town. She sustained serious injuries in the inferno which affected her ankle, wrists and skull”.
Meanwhile, condemnation has continued to trail the fire incident.
The traditional ruler of Igbodigo, Oba John Ebunola Ayeku, said the fervent prayers of the people of the town led to the arrest of the suspect.
He wondered why anybody could decide to kill a whole family because a lady jilted him.
Ayeku said “Deji Adenuga is from Ode Erinje in Okitipupa Local Government Area. He came to live here in Igbodigo. I don’t know him. I have never met him as we speak. What they came to tell me here is that Adenuga and his girlfriend had a disagreement.
“She left the house of Adenuga for her sister’s house. We heard that the man went to buy petrol and wet the room where his girlfriend and other members of her family were sleeping. He set the house ablaze and ran away. As at now, eight people have died as a result of the incident.
“It is a sad development. When we received the report, the family of the deceased came to me as the king of the town. The community made efforts to ensure that the man was arrested so that the problem would not be compounded. We met twice on the issue.
“The deceased people are from Moferere community, Etikan area of Ilaje. Members of our community were worried. The police made efforts. We also made efforts. The incident put the family in trouble and we are not happy about it.
“We have appeased the family of the deceased. They have come to me here. Erinje, the community where the deceased man came from, does not have a monarch. It only has regent. I have spoken to the leaders of the community to find ways of appeasing the family of the deceased so that there will be peace. The regent and chiefs accepted my proposal and pledged to implement it.”
The suspect has been arraigned before an Akure Chief Magistrate Court and the matter adjourned till the 10th of June.