ADO-EKITI—TEARS, anguish, wailing and gnashing of teeth, could best describe the mood in Iworoko-Ekiti, a serene and agrarian community, 15 minutes drive from Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, last Saturday night, over the trailer tragedy that took the lives of 15 inhabitants of the town.
Iworoko-Ekiti, is a very popular community in Ekiti, where majority of the students of Ekiti State University reside.
Crushed and Trapped
When it is dusk, the shops are lighted up by electric generators, which is a major pull for residents and students alike, who besiege the area in their numbers to charge their phones and these also increase the patronage of many traders in the market.
It was this scenario that was playing out when the truck, which was on transit on the dual carriageway that connects the community to Ado-Ekiti from Ifaki-Ekiti, suddenly lost control at about 8:45 pm on the fateful night and rammed into the market, crushing three shops and a commercial bus, popularly known as Akoto, which had some passengers.
One of the shops, a barbing salon, had residents and students charging their cell phones inside. They were all trapped in the accident.
Among the 15 persons said to have been dispatched to early graves are students of the Ekiti State University, EKSU, a corps member, residents, traders in the area and a mother and child.
ASUU Strike Action
Save for the ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the tragedy, according to eyewitnesses, would have been monumental because the death toll would have been more than what was recorded as more students of EKSU would have fallen victim of the tragic incident.
Vanguard gathered that the market, which the truck ran into, used to be crowded with many students when the school is in session.
Bewildered and embittered sympathisers had gathered at the scene of the accident on Sunday morning, wailing while others were cursing profusely as according to them, such tragedy had never happened in the community. It was a strange occurrence, especially coming early in the new year.
Death of Monarch
As if there is no end to the tale of woes, barely six days after the ill fated crash claimed the lives of 15 persons, including that of a yet-to-be identified corps member and mother and child, the monarch of the community, Oba Michael Oluwafemi Aladejana, passed on.
The late Alaworoko, who was said to be in his 80s, died in the early hours of Wednesday at an undisclosed hospital in Ado Ekiti.
News filtered into town at about 8am on Wednesday that the long-reigning monarch had died.
When journalists visited the town around 12:00 noon, the traditional rites had already begun with the cutting of trees and blockage of the dual carriage Ado-Iworoko-Ifaki highway as a way of paying their last respects to the departed king.
The youths and other age groups also trooped to the streets, killing house pets like goats and sheep sighted roaming about as tradition demands.
One of the prominent indigenes of the town, who craved anonymity, said the accident which claimed 15 lives and injured four had worsened the health situation of the monarch.
The source said: “Our monarch was rushed to the hospital after the accident. Though he had been having health issues before but that incident really made the situation worse for him.
“When the news got to the town, he was said to have felt so devastated and the family had to rush him to the hospital early on Sunday.
“His health was said to have improved on Monday before it relapsed on Tuesday causing his untimely death,” the source said.
The ill-fated Trailer
The ill-fated trailer, which many in the community had christened Trailer of death, was conveying bags of rice, which were branded with All Progressives Congress, APC, logo and colour, had the name and picture of Ondo Central Senatorial candidate, Tayo Alasoadura on them.
A bereaved youth, armed with a cutlass, suddenly began cutting open the bags of rice and threw them on the ground. But for the intervention of elderly people, he would have destroyed virtually all the bags of rice in venting his anger on the foodstuff.
The angry mob chased away a towing truck of the state’s transport office which got to the scene at about 8am, saying that it had come too late to rescue the victims. They stoned the vehicle, forcing the driver to drive off.
They also made attempt to chase away the advance security team of the deputy governor but were intimidated by the presence of heavily armed security operatives who later came to bring the deputy governor to the scene.
Govt timely intervention
Speaking with the chiefs and angry youths of the community, Ekiti State Deputy governor, Mr. Bisi Egbeyemi, who represented the Governor of the state, Kayode Fayemi said: “The state governor condoles with families of those who have lost dear ones. We pray for their souls to rest in peace. Government will also ensure that those who were wounded have their hospital bills paid. We will also take care of other things.
“However, we appeal to our youths to calm down and not cause trouble. No one wishes for this kind of tragedy to happen. And no amount of anger and violence will bring back those dead. So let us be calm. The Governor would have been here himself but he is on some national assignment. He has assured that the state would take care of all casualties in the accident,” he said.
Egbeyemi who also visited the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital along Adebayo area of the state capital, where the bodies of the dead and others wounded were taken to, told the doctors to begin urgent treatment of the wounded assuring them that the bills would be paid by the state government.
Confusing death toll
While the hospital management told newsmen that 12 bodies of those who lost their lives in the accident, including students of EKSU have been deposited at the state morgue while four wounded victims of the accident are receiving treatment in the hospital.
The Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Ekiti Command, Kugu Ismaila, confirmed that 14 people died while five others were injured in the truck accident, in which two mini buses were crushed beyond recognition.
Claiming that the driver must have dozed off before the trailer rammed into the market, a leader of the Tipper Drivers in the state, Ganiu Tijani, said: “I want to believe that the driver of the truck must have slept off before the vehicle rammed into the market. If not, he would have been able to manoeuvre the truck and hit the culvert on the road and prevented this tragedy. The fact that the vehicle jumped over the road and ran into the market speaks volumes about the driver’s alleged carelessness.”
Wailing profusely, another sympathiser, a grand mum, Raliat Karimu, mourned the death of her daughter, simply identified as Funmi, who died in the accident, and had her son and grand daughter also losing their lives in the accident. She lived at a house, 5, Layelu Street, Iworoko, behind the three shops destroyed by the truck.
Madam Karimu said: “When the accident occurred, witnesses came to inform me that my relative, Funmilola, a mother of a young boy, had died in the accident. Her son, who died is Olu and her granddaughter, Titilayo was seriously wounded and in the hospital now. She was selling pepper and foodstuff at the market,” she said.