•Spirits of my dead kids haunt me –Woman, who lost 5 children in fire
•Life is meaningless now –Husband
By GILBERT EKEZIE
It was one of the most tragic incidents of last December, preparatory to Christmas and New Year celebrations. It happened in Lagos. Just as it is customary for many to travel to their native homes during the period, Mr. Augustine Ikwuagwu and his wife, Margaret, had rounded off their own arrangements to travel with their five kids Chukwuemeka (13), Ifeanyichukwu (10), Bright (8), Joy (6) and Victoria (4). They were to travel the next day but they were unaware of the calamity awaiting them that night. Fire gutted their residential building at 29 Comfort Oboh Street, Kirikiri, Lagos. It was December 13 at about 10pm.
The fire roasted all the five children dead. The children were sleeping in the family’s one-room apartment when the fire started in one of the rooms in a large compound of about 36 rooms. Unfortunately, both parents were in their shop within the area when the incident happened. When the fire started, other residents were busy evacuating their own children and other belongings to think of the helpless Ikwuagwu children or to alert their parents.
It was someone else who alerted the couple on what was going on. But before they could get to the scene, all the five children and their belongings had burnt. The incident was a black Christmas for the Ikwuagwu family from Abia State, their in-laws in Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State, relations, friends and well-wishers. Having lost almost everything they laboured for, they are now taking refuge at different locations.
While Augustine is staying with his brother somewhere at Iba New site in Lagos, Margaret is staying with her elder sister at Okokomaiko, also in Lagos. As it is, the couple is in temporary separation and going through psychological trauma. Since then, their individual families have been responsible for their upkeep and they have not had the opportunity for normal marital relationship. Filled with grief and agony, Mr. Ikwuagwu told Saturday Sun that life has been very tough for him and his wife after about 10 weeks of the incident.
“Having lost almost everything we laboured for, we were forced to separate temporarily due to lack of accommodation and means of livelihood. I am not living with my wife, I do not know how she is faring and she does not know how I am doing.” He said although some people have been giving him some relief materials, it has not been easy for him.
According to him, “in spite of the psychological trauma we are going through, we do not have accommodation, no job and no money to start life afresh. In fact, we have been living like people bereft of hope. We need more support to survive in our present condition.” His wife, Margaret said: “I have not been myself. For me, it appears my life has ended. You can image what it means for a woman to bear five children and lose them in a disaster. Now, I live without even a child. Even when food is offered to me, I would not have appetite to eat,” she moaned.
The distraught lady revealed that since the children died, their spirits have been appearing to her. “Sometimes, I hear their voices. In fact, they do not allow me to sleep, eat or do anything,” she said. She wondered if she can survive her trauma, coupled with the challenges of how to start life afresh without support. “The problems are legion; we are faced with physical and psychological problems,” she said. Regrettably, she said she and her husband are destitute of the required assistance to live meaningfully.
They are looking up to public spirited individuals, or bodies and government to bail them out. “My husband and I are not supposed to be hanging around and each time I remember our present condition, it makes me feel that my life has no meaning. So, while we are praying to God to give us the courage to bear the calamity that struck us, we need people around us to assist us materially,” she pleaded. She noted that a Catholic group in Lagos and other individuals donated some amount of money, food items and other materials to them, but pointed out that what has come in was not enough to secure another accommodation.
“We appreciate those who have been sending money and materials to us, but we are still appealing for more support so that we can secure a new accommodation and have some money to start business. In fact, we don’t want to depend on alms; what we want is empowerment. Once more, we are calling on Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, other governors, corporate bodies, religious groups, NGOs, philanthropists and individuals that are touched by our condition to rescue us from our present helpless situation.”
The bereaved woman also expressed fear of not producing more children because they had already stopped bearing children some years ago. “Our major problem now is how we will start producing children again when we had already stopped it some years ago,” she regretted, but prayed “that God should visit us in this time of need. He should forgive the sins we have committed against Him and our fellow human beings and give us the opportunity of having more children.
In fact, I wish God could return the children to us.” Assistance could be rendered to the couple through Austin Ikwuagwu. He can be reached on 07066252605, 0802540062, 07037591544 or No 3, Jimoh Street, by Okoko Bus Stop, Okokomaiko, Lagos.