At least three persons have died in Oyo Town following gunshots by security operatives after people protested the failure of the firefighters in the town to stop a ravaging fire Sunday morning, witnesses have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The fire razed Oyo’s central commercial area, Akesan Market, almost entirely, leaving only a few shops and a filling station, witnesses, including two traders who suffered losses, said.
The fire started around 2 a.m. However, the fire service, whose station is just opposite the market or some 20 metres away, could not respond. People who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES as the fire was raging said the firefighters complained their equipment was not functioning.
“We condemn this failure of governance service but we will respond more appropriately on this later,” Oyo Global Forum, a civic group of Oyo indigenes, said.
At about 6 a.m., response came from Ogbomoso, 50 kilometres away, with firefighters based in that neighbouring town mobilised to stop the Akesan-Oyo fire.
“All Akesan has been razed,” a witness said. “It is only the filling station that is yet to be affected.”
But angry residents started protesting at the gate of the fire station in Oyo and were said to have made a fire with used tyres.
In response, police officials and security operatives attached to ‘Operation Burst’ started firing gunshots, which claimed the lives of at least three persons.
PREMIUM TIMES has received the pictures of one of the deceased and could hear sounds of gunshots during telephone calls with residents.
The Operation Burst team in Oyo State is made up of soldiers and officials of the civil defence. The police are not part of the team. Witnesses, however, said the team was joined by police officers from a nearby police station.
It is not clear if it was the Operation Burst officials or the police that fired the fatal shots.
“Three persons have now been killed but they have left with the remains of one,” one witness said. Two more persons confirmed the killings.
As at the time of this report, the firefighters from Ogbomoso were still trying to stop the fire.
The police spokesperson for Oyo State, Gbenga Fadeyi, initially denied the police involvement in the shootings.
“I have called and can confirm there was no police shooting and nobody died,” he said. But when told there were pictures contrary to his claim, he said, “I will intensify efforts and make calls again to confirm.”