Enugu metropolis was tension-soaked on Thursday as news filtered into town that a fully loaded commercial bus fell into the valley at Milikin Hill, Ngwo.
The news was followed with reports thatthe driver and unspecified number of passengers were burnt to ashes.
DAILY POST gathered that the incident occurred as operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, were pursuing the driver for a yet to be identified offence.
Sources within the vicinity hinted that the NSCDC personnel, who were chasing the driver, shot at the vehicle, forcing it to slide away from the road. The commercial bus caught fire in the process, burning all the occupants.
It was gathered that only a female passenger, who was thrown off the vehicle, survived the accident. She is however, receiving treatment in an unknown hospital.
The incident gave rise to a tensed atmosphere as residents and commercial bus drivers mobilized in protest of the deaths.
Their attempt to take their protest to the NSCDC office located at the New Market Axis, few kilometres to the scene of the accident, was resisted by operatives of the corps.
They fired several shots to scare the protesters away. In the process, one of the bus drivers told journalists that the windscreen of his bus was shattered with bullets.
“We are still talking about the lives they snuffed out of several people few minutes ago and they are still baying for blood”, he said pointing at his shattered windscreen.
“Are they not supposed to be shooting in the air, or even use rubber bullets? But see what they have just done”, he said.
Our correspondent reports that the charged atmosphere was calmed as of the time of this report by the Enugug State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Dan Mallam.
The CP’s arrival saved the situation as commuters, including journalists, were all trapped as angry residents barricaded the Ngwo Road.
Speaking to journalists, the Police Commissioner described the incident as unfortunate, stressing that they would not allow anyone jeopardize the peace in Enugu State.
He said, “What happened is very unfortunate, especially with the peace we are enjoying. This kind of thing should not be allowed. That’s the reason why I am here. I have appealed to them, they should leave everything to us.
“Investigation has started, we asked them, people who witnessed what happened, they should come forward and give us discreet statement, which will help in our investigation. We are assuring them that whoever is involved is going to be brought to book.
“As far as I am concerned, these people you are seeing, they are the major stakeholders, if they are not here, I have no business being here; that’s why I left my office to come and appeal to them. The peace we are enjoying should be sustained.
“The incident that happened is unfortunate, but they should allow us to investigate; we have made some arrests; whoever is found culpable will be brought to book.”
On the female survivor, he said, “she is in our hospital, she is being treated in the hospital, life is first. I understood she is in stable condition. So, when she has fully recovered, she will tell us what she knows about the incident.”
When asked to give some clue on the possible cause of the accident, the police chief said, “the issue, what we heard is that they were pursuing the bus, I don’t know who is pursuing who, but investigation will reveal what happened. Who is pursuing who and for what reason. But we shall get to the root of the matter in order to give the public the assurance that nobody is above the law. We all know the consequences.”
Meanwhile, when contacted the spokesman of the NSCDC, Denny Manuel Iwuchukwu said no gun shot was fired on the commercial bus involved in the accident.
“We have a directive from the State Government that nobody should pick passengers along that road. So, when the driver stopped to pick passenger, our operative told him that it was wrong for him to do that.
“As our man entered the bus, he zoomed off with him. So, other officers on ground chased after him. In the process, the bus fell into the valley. We chased after the vehicle because he drove off with our man. However, not gunshot was fired”, he claimed.
Our correspondent reports that charred remains of some of the victims were taken to the Eastern Nigeria Medical Centre, Enugu, mortuary.