Celebrant, neighbours abandon building after guests die after party

Residents of an unnumbered building on Adekoya Street in the Ilepa Area of Ikare Akoko, headquarters of Akoko North-East Local Government Area of Ondo State, have fled their house following a tragic incident that occurred at the place on Saturday, February 12, 2017 during the birthday party of a young man identified only as Azeez.

The celebrant, according to findings by Saturday PUNCH, had invited several of his friends over to the house on that fateful day for his party when the unexpected happened.

Azeez, as part of efforts to make the occasion interesting for guests, mixed a certain plant called ‘gegemu’ along with other substances to boost the alcoholic content of the local wine. Crisis was however said to have begun by midnight, several hours into the ceremony, when those, who drank the concussion started reacting negatively. By the dawn of the next day, two young men had died while several lay in critical conditions across various hospitals. One more victim passed away four days after the tragedy, bringing the number of the dead to three.

According to a resident, who asked not to be named, one of the victims identified as Kazeem Ogungbemi, was reported to have collapsed several times during the party before being rushed to a government-owned hospital where doctors’ strike and lack of personnel to attend to him cost him his life.

“We woke up on that day to learn that many of the boys who attended that party drank ‘gegemu’. I have never seen such a thing before in my life. They did not go for soft drinks but went for that type of harsh mixture that even adults too cannot stand.

“Before Kazeem died, he collapsed several times with blood gushing out of his mouth and nose. He died while being rushed to a private hospital following the non-response by officials at the government hospital,” the source said.

Relatives and neighbours of the victims refused to speak to our correspondent during a visit to the area on Thursday. A handful, who however spoke, refused to give their names or allow their photographs to be taken.

A middle-aged woman, whose son was revived the next day after the incident, told Saturday PUNCH that they were yet to get over the fear and shock the incident left them.

“My son has not been able to speak even though he is in a stable condition now. I have spent so much money trying to save his life and ensure that he is back to normal. I still cannot understand what is really going on,” the enraged woman said.

A youth leader in the community, Ibitoye Kehinde, told Saturday PUNCH that the incident still surprised many of them because it was the first time that such was happening in the town.

“I was surprised by the incident; we pray that this would not happen again. Azeez plucked the plant (gegemu) and soaked it inside water for seven days before mixing it with other alcoholic substances to make it appeal to guests. It was a deadly move which has thrown the entire community in sorrow,” he said.

When contacted, Public Relations Officer for the Ondo State Police Command, Mr. Femi Joseph, confirmed that the drinks consumed by victims indeed contained toxic substances harmful to the body. He said that investigation into the matter had started and that they were on the trail of Azeez and his cohorts.

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