Residents of Makarahuta area of Azare, headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State are still in shock following the death of an Islamic teacher and his entire family members in an early morning fire in their flat.
The early morning inferno killed Malam Jamilu Musa Zaria, his wife Yusra and their three children while trying to escape from the fire that engulfed their house.
Malam Jamilu Musa Zaria, 29, his wife Yusra, 24, his daughter, Hauwa 5, his son Sulieman 3, and last child Halima, who was two months and six days old were trapped inside their flat at Makarahuta area of Azare after the fire broke out at about 2 am in the morning of March 4.
Jamilu’s next door neighbour, Abubakar Lawal, told Saturday Sun, that his wife heard the distress call from Yusra for help. He said that he immediately, stormed out of his apartment to see what was the problem in his neighbour’s flat only to behold fire that had completely consumed Jamilu’s flat.
“Before we knew it, the fire had spread to my own flat forcing me , my wife, children to rush out into the compound. I tried to force the door into Jamilu’s flat opened but the heat coming from the inferno was too much,” Abubakar, a Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), recalled.
After escaping with his own family, Abubakar discovered that the key to the gate was in his flat.
“We couldn’t come out of the compound, so my wife and I continued to shout for help.”
Abubakar said that his wife went towards Yusra’s windows and called out to see if the helpless mother could at least hand the two-month old baby, Halima, over to her through the window. But the burglary proof and the raging fire made that impossible.
While Abubakar and his family escaped unhurt, they lost all their belongings to the inferno. “I lost everything. I only came out with the shorts and vest on me. My wife came out with the only wrapper on her. Same with my children,” he said.
Abubakar is squatting in a neighbour’s house while well-meaning neighbours and residents of Azare have been trooping to his abode to condole with him over the death of his neighbours, with many coming with clothes and food items.
According to him,
“Up till now, I am still in shock. My neighbours and his family died the most painful death. I am doing a programme at the College of Education, Azare and I almost deferred it because I don’t know how I can cope because, the sad memory of their death is always with me. My wife even fainted that very day as she heard the screams of Yusra. As a mother, it is painful to watch another mother and her two -month old infant dying and there was nothing you could do to rescue them. My wife is still traumatised and she used to have nightmares”
Abubakar said nobody knew up till now, the cause of the fire. However, it appeared the family was woken up from their slumber by a thick smoke and it was too late to come out with the flat secured with iron bars.
Saturday Sun also learnt that the power supply had been disconnected from the vicinity for quite some time so electrical fault was ruled out as possible cause of the fire. One of the versions had it that it was a mosquito coil that the family was using before they retired to bed that caused the fire.
Another speculation was that perhaps, Yusra left something on the fire in the corridor inside her flat where she normally cooked. Whatever was the case, the death of the family has brought much sorrow to the people of the area who described the Islamic teacher as a good man.
Abubakar, an indigene of Hawul in Borno State, said:
“We have been living together peacefully for over a year now. Jamilu joined me after my former neighbour moved out and since then, we have been living cordially as neighbours. He was a good man and he didn’t quarrel with anybody. He was a peace-loving person.” According to Mustapha Shehu, one of the deceased’s neighbours who was among the people that evacuated the charred bodies of the victims, what he saw after the incident was better imagined. The fire reduced the property in the house to rubbles and burnt the occupants beyond recognition, he said.
“I saw one of the adults, Jamilu I presumed, because it was difficult to tell the features whether it was a man or woman, clutching two of the children in the toilet. They apparently died there as they tried to escape. The body of the other adult whom we assumed was the wife, was found in the bedroom perhaps holding her two months old baby before they died. It was the most shocking scene I have ever witnessed in my life,” Mustapha said.
Jamilu’s elder brother, Mallam Suleiman Zaria, a well known Islamic teacher in Azare, who brought the late Jamilu up was still in shock when Saturday Sun correspondent visited his house which is a stone throw from where Jamilu and his family lived and died.
According to Suleiman after whom Jamilu named his second child, in honour of the man who brought him up like a father, he was at home when there was a knock on his door at about 2:30 am on the fateful day.
He said he wanted to come out but his mother prevailed on him that it was late, so he obeyed her. He said that the knocking came the second time but by that time, the old woman had slept, he opened the door and was told of what happened. Suleiman said when he rushed there, the sight he saw was gory and he was shaking and had to be led quietly away.
“It was a sad incident. Jamilu was with me since he was seven years old. He died at the age of 29 years, seven months and eight days. I can remember that before their death, strange things happened. One, on that fateful day, which was March 4, 2016, he came to my house more than six times. He never met me at home each time he visited. When my wives told me when I came home, I asked him to come and we spent some time together talking.
Secondly, my two wives had dreams at the same that five corpses were being washed. Thirdly, Jamilu’s wife dreamt that she saw blood flowing. She came to my house to inform me of the dream and I prayed with her and gave her some verses of the Quran to read. Jamilu’s death and the way he died with his family is painful but we’re leaving everything to Allah. What I can say is that I respect him because he lived a good and exemplary life. I have been on medication since the incident happened because I developed high blood pressure. May their souls rest in peace”
A neighbour, Malam Umaru Shehu, said it was sad that Jamilu struggled to save his family from the inferno to no avail. Shehu urged the state government to establish more fire fighting stations and equip them with modern fire fighting vehicles and gadgets to prevent such unfortunate and sad losses during fire outbreaks.