Simon Utebor, Yenagoa
Mr. Mientei Ayawei, the son of a former Bayelsa State Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Chief Nimibofa Ayawei, and his girlfriend, identified only as Happiness, have been burnt to death in an apartment fire.
The incident occurred on Saturday at the NIIT area of Tombia, in the Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state.
The cause of the fire could not be ascertained, but a man close to Ayawei, who is presently the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Board of Internal Revenue, said the fire was caused by a high electricity voltage.
The man, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorised to speak on the incident, said the high voltage caused the fire around 4am on the day.
He said the fire, which razed nearly all the rooms and valuables in the one-storeyed building, adjacent to Dannielo Pulo, a filling station owned by the former commissioner, started from the apartment where Mientei and his girlfriend were.
The man, who claimed to be a sibling of the victim (Mientei), said when the fire started, the duo of Mientei and Happiness were sleeping.
He said the deceased became aware of the fire after the room they were had been enveloped by smoke.
He said on the day, there were two other persons who were in another room in the house, adding that they managed to escape death by a whisker.
He said Mientei, 25, just completed his degree programme in Human Resources Management from a university in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Another source, who described himself simply as a pastor, said Mientei was from the Southern Ijaw area of the state while his girlfriend, Happiness, hailed from the Ogbia LGA.
He said the fire destroyed all the valuables in the house as many rooms were razed.
It was learnt that firefighters arrived at the scene after some hours.
The presence of the firefighters, was, however, said to have saved other buildings in the neighbourhood, including the filling station, from being consumed.
He said the firefighters did their best to put out the fire, noting that their efforts were commendable.
When PUNCH Metro visited the scene on Saturday, scores of sympathisers on the premises were still discussing the incident in hushed tones, wearing mournful faces.
One of the sympathisers, who gave her name only as Preye, said she saw the building burning around 5am, unknown to her that her friend, Happiness, was involved.
Preye said it was in the morning of Saturday she learnt that her friend had been killed by the fire.
Preye, who lamented that she had lost “a wonderful friend”, said they were together earlier in the day before her friend (Happiness) said she was going out.
She prayed that God would forgive Happiness, whom she described as “beautiful, easygoing, intelligent and amiable.”
When contacted, spokesman for the Bayelsa State Police Command, Asinim Butswat, confirmed the inferno, saying the police also responded to distress calls on the inferno.
He, however, said he had not been fully briefed on the casualty figure.
He promised to make further contact with the Divisional Police Officer of the division to ascertain if the fire caused any deaths.
He had yet to get back to our correspondent as of press time.
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Simon Utebor, Yenagoa