I have attempted suicide twice, I now beg to live

•Man who lost 18 vehicles to Abule-Egba, Lagos pipeline fire laments

He thought that the end had come for him when, on the 19th of December 2018, pipeline explosion caused a fire that burnt out his automobile shop in Abule Egba area of Lagos State. In the incident, said to have been caused by pipeline vandals who were siphoning petroleum products, James Adeosun lost 18 different kinds of automobile vehicles at his mart, valued at over N96 million.

Thereafter, there were reports around the scene of the explosion that the owner of the burnt auto shop, James Adeosun, had died. A few days after, some other reports claimed that he had just been buried.

However, Adeosun, while speaking with Saturday Tribune on the incident, said it was still “like a dream”. He added that life for him and other members of his family has been “harrowing and full of torture.” He added that the explosion also affected about 20 other people, who he said were his partners in the auto business.

The beleaguered auto dealer said: “It has been a very painful experience. I have heard a lot of things. There were reports that I had died. There was a day I was in a commercial tricycle and somebody claimed that I had been buried a day before that day. I could not say anything. I was just dumbfounded. How many people would I react to?”

Adeosun said he has been hearing different kinds of reactions to those who committed suicide and has just been amused. “I have heard people reacting in different ways to those who committed suicide. I am very disappointed in some of the comments from people. I had attempted suicide on two different occasions but I thank God.

“I have not received any assistance from any government, agency or individual, since the incident. I now beg friends and families to survive. Worse still, some of my business partners are still pestering me for their investments in the burnt business and I still plan to settle all of them.”

According to him, “I started the auto business with just a car after our contract josb with Chevron was discontinued. I waited for some months in anticipation that the contract would be renewed. When it was getting late and the contract was not renewed, I thought of starting something on my own and I started the business with just a car.”

He recalled that “some days before the incident. I had feelings that things were not going well. The business was not going on smoothly.  Sales were unusually low. I decided to go on a retreat and pray at a mountain in the Ifo area of Ogun State. I could not even give my family any money when I was leaving for the prayer mountain. I had used all the money in my account to replenish my stock in anticipation of the Yuletide boom in our business.”

“I had spent only two days at the retreat when my manager, named Hamzat, called me that fire had engulfed our office. I told him to proceed to the nearest police station to lodge a complaint. I was still at the mountain I did not know the level of damage done by the fire. He went and lodged a complaint at the Abattoir police station.”

The distraught auto dealer added: “My mother, who had arrived at the auto mart before me called me not to come to the scene. Other people were also begging me not to come to the scene at that point in time, but I ignored them. I left the prayer mountain and proceeded to the scene.

“On getting there, I saw that nothing of all the cars and other goods was left. All the vehicles were burnt. The office, the equipment, electronic gadgets, particulars of all the vehicles and auto spare parts were completely burnt. I felt a very sharp pain in my chest and I became unconscious.”

He said he woke up at the Ahmadiyya Hospital, where he had spent over two weeks receiving treatment for shock. “I was not even okay when I left the hospital, because I was still feeling the pains in my chest. I had to leave the hospital. I could not continue to incur bills on money that is not even available. I just decided to leave the hospital, even to the surprise of the doctors.”

On life after the explosion, the victim said “I cannot hide the fact that life has been very difficult. I find it very hard to feed my family, not to talk of other expenses. In fact I have considered ending my life on two occasions “

He also said that “The fact about the business is that I have many partners. They are my friends who joined the business because of me. Some of them lost their jobs and I trained them in auto business. Some of them bought vehicles and put them in my shop for sale. I also have friends abroad, who sent vehicles to me. They sent the vehicles, while I did the clearing in Nigeria and sell and we share the profits

“Some of them, whom I had helped to start business, now see me as their enemy. One thing that has always been on my mind is to find a way to settle all of them. Some of them have also gone down like me. They cannot take care of their families. I want them to get back on their feet.”

On his thoughts of ending it all, Adeosun said: “The first time I attempted suicide was in the middle of the night, when I was still contemplating how to start afresh and one of my business partners called me, asking for his investment in the burnt business. He was threatening to do anything he wished to me, unless I paid his money. I became more hopeless and thought of ending my life.”

He said the second time he thought of killing himself was “when my daughter was sick and I could not take her to the hospital. It was so hard that I could not even buy her drugs. I called some of my friends and what I got were insults and abuse. What came to my mind was suicide.”

The victim lamented that he still feels the pain of the incident and often very sad. “The police claimed to have arrested the perpetrators of the pipeline vandalism that triggered the fire. But the people are back on the streets I am even more saddened by that and the fact that nobody is ready to assist you. I have written two different letters to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for assistance. I am not blaming them for the incident but I know they have the financial capacity to assist me, at least to start life all over again. I am yet to get any favourable reply from them since December.

He said he had also written to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). “I was directed to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) NEMA had told me that they didn’t have the capacity to help me. I have also written to the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I am yet to get anything from anybody.”

Adeosun cried that “the explosion and fire occurred during the political campaign period and many candidates visited the scene. Some of them even collected my number from people, called and promised to assist us. But he has not even called me back since then, not to talk of anybody assisting us.”

He bemoaned that the effect of the destruction was more biting on him because at the time of that incident, “I had just brought in some new vehicles, two of which were 2016 edition. I had hoped to recoup my investments during the Christmas and New Year celebration but everything was consumed in the inferno.”

Adeosun, despite all, was however thankful to God for his life. “I thank God for my life. Maybe I would have died. I blamed my manager who was around during the time of the incident for not trying to salvage some of the vehicles, especially those at the back. If I had been around, perhaps I would have attempted to break into some of those vehicles at the back and try to push them away from the fire. Who knows what would have happened? Maybe I might have been burnt to death too.”