A 24-year-old puff puff seller at Adabata junction, Agaka in Ilorin, Kwara State, Abdulqudus Bello, was bathed in hot vegetable oil by a hoodlum where he works, on August 10. He speaks to TUNDE OYEKOLA at a private hospital at Apalara area, Ilorin, while receiving treatment for the injuries he sustained
How long have you been selling puff puff at the place?
I started the business of selling puff puff about six months ago. I attended Babaoko Secondary School, Ilorin. I dropped out of the school in 2016 because I could not pay the West African Senior School Certificate Examination fee for final-year students. I was a self-sponsored student. I sponsored my primary education, selling pure water and charcoal. I stayed with my mother in Adabata, Ilorin and I used to assist with her pure water and charcoal trades. When I finished Primary Six, I decided to continue my education. I was responsible for it up to SSS3, but my parents could not provide money to pay for the WASSCE.
After dropping out of school, what did you do?
I was helping some traders offload rice from trailers at Oja Tuntun. I later went to Lagos, where I also did menial jobs. I came back with N40,000, which was spent on feeding because, when I got home, my mother and the other siblings found it difficult to get food. I later enrolled as a shoemaking apprentice. I learnt shoemaking but there was no money to do ‘freedom’ (graduation). I then teamed up with a friend to fry puff puff at Adabata junction, Agaka which is not far from where I live.
Where did you learn how to make puff puff?
I did not learn it from anyone but I used to watch a man who made puff puff at Kuntu area of Ilorin, which is not far from our place of residence. I decided that since he’s a man and I’m also a man, I can do the job as well.
From where did you source your initial capital?
I didn’t have capital when I wanted to start the business, but I approached some traders who were selling flour, vegetable oil and sugar and they obliged me with the materials on credit and I used to settle the debt by paying them after the sale of puff puff, which we did every night.
What happened to you on the night of Monday, August 10?
On that day, around few minutes to 8pm, the puff puff that we prepared had finished, but there was a man who used to come every night and he used to tell us to make puff puff for him. We left his portion, which came to about N100, in the frying pan. It was at this point that one of the hoodlums came and said he was sent to collect puff puff and money. It was the first time that that particular person would come, although others used to come to ask for the same things. I told him to be patient but he said he would beat me if I didn’t answer him. He even threatened that he would pour the hot vegetable oil on my head, if I didn’t answer him quickly. I was pleading with him when, suddenly, he lifted the frying pan and emptied the hot vegetable oil on my head. I was wreathing in pain, I saw death and soon became unconscious. The people around the place prevented him from running away when he wanted to do so. They were also the people who took me to a nearby chemist where they were advised to take me to General Hospital, Ilorin, which was not far from the place the incident occurred. I didn’t know when they carried me to the hospital.
Was that the first time the thugs came to approach you for puff puff?
No, they were coming every day. Sometimes, they would come and ask for money, in addition to puff puff and, some days, we spent up to N2,000 per day to pacify them. Sometimes, when they would come like that, we would plead with them and some of them who are very passionate would leave us. But this one who came for the first time did not listen to our pleadings. He threatened me and poured the hot vegetable oil on my head. I later learnt that he had been to prison in Lagos State and Ibadan (Oyo State) and even Ilorin and that he was among those recently pardoned.
As a result of their constant trouble and demand in the area, we were planning to relocate to Mejindadi in the Ojaiya area of Ilorin. We have almost got our materials ready before the incident occurred. Our gas stove and a few other materials were all that was left. That was the reason why we had not moved to our new location.
Do you want to continue with this business after your discharge from hospital?
What is on my mind is to continue my education. I want to sit the WASSCE if I can get money or if God would send a Good Samaritan to sponsor my education. I would like to further my education to university level. I have the intention of reading and I believe that I have the capacity to do it.
Secondly, the doctor who is treating me said I can no longer engage in difficult work and that I should not go near fire. That means I can no longer fry puff puff. I will go back to my shoemaking job, if I can get people to assist me to get the instruments for making shoes. But furthering my education is uppermost in my mind if I can get someone to sponsor me. I also need help with the treatment of my burns. My neck is not healed and it is still stiff.
What are your requests concerning your attacker?
I learnt that the case is no longer with me. It is now with the state government. Since the man has been arrested by the police, I want the government to do the right thing and get justice for me. The pain is unbearable.