The day after: Aleshinloye market traders recount losses
Ten years after a fire at the popular Aleshinloye Market in Ibadan, the Oyo State, part of the facility went up in flames again last Friday, destroying goods and property. OSEHEYE OKWUOFU reports on the cause of the inferno and efforts being made to restore the market and assist the victims get back to business.
Last Friday 15, August 2014 darkness fell on the popular Aleshinloye Market in Ibadan when a night fire outbreak wrecked havoc, destroying goods and property worth several millions of naira. The victims, numbering over 200 are yet to recover from the shock of the fire disaster, even as some of them were making effort to clear the ruins of the destruction and start reconstruction of their stalls when The Nation visited last Monday.
Others who wore glooming look mill around their burnt shops, discussing with one another the fire incident.
Bricklayers and labourers were busy moving bricks and blocks and other building materials to site to begin reconstruction on some of the burnt open shops.
A victim, Mr Luke Onwuka, dealer in textile materials whose shop was completely burnt said the incident was the worst ever since the last fire incident on March 9, 2004.
Onwuka who said he does not know where to start from having lost over N300,000 worth of goods to the inferno blamed the fire outbreak on power surge .
He said: “according to what I heard when I came here, it was as a result of power surge. They said the electricity supply company brought high voltage and some people who have their shops around that area left some of their appliances on, and immediately the light came the freezer went up in smoke and flame. It happened on Friday around 8.30pm.
“By the time the fire began to spread, the fire fighters had arrived with four water tankers but three out of the four did not have water. If the four had water they would have been able to stop the fire”.
Many of the traders expressed concern that the fire could do so much damage in spite of the presence of a fire station within the market, and called on the authorities to investigate the remote causes and why the fire men were unable to curb the inferno.
“The victims should have been saved the bitter pills if the fire fighters in the market were alive to their duties”, said one of the women traders who would not want her names in print.
Mrs Iyabo Owanikin, owner of T120 and a dealer in jewelries said she was heartbroken when she got the news particularly a day after she stocked her shop. She appealed to the state government to with the reconstruction of the burnt shops as well as give financial assistance.
Also, Mrs Easter Oladeji, who sells clothes at shop T121 next to Mrs Owanikin wants the management of the market to assist in putting an end to fire disasters at the facility as this has continued to bring untold hardship on the traders.
The Oyo State Emergency Management Agency (OYSEMA) officials were busy at the market on Monday, making a list of shop owners affected by the fire.
One of the officials who pleaded anonymity told The Nation that they came to the market on the directive of the governor who asked that a comprehensive list of victims of the fire be compiled for urgent assistance.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi who was said to have visited the market at 2am, about four hours after the fire outbreak has pledged government’s assistance to the victims of the disaster within the next one week.
The governor, who summoned leaders of the market to a meeting on Monday, made the pledge while inspecting the level of damage at the market and expressed sympathy with the traders.
Apart from first visiting the market by 2am on Saturday before visiting the place again later that day in the afternoon to identify with the affected traders, Governor Ajimobi has directed all the top government officials to visit the victims to assure them of government concern and support.
He described the fire incident as very unfortunate, pledging that necessary machinery would be set in motion to provide succour for the victims to cushion the effect of the inferno.
Governor Ajimobi recalled his experience when his private residence in Lagos was gutted by fire in 1993, praying that God, who assisted him to overcome the incidence, would also compensate the traders.
He directed the affected traders to form a committee to meet with government representatives for the provision of necessary assistance.
The governor urged the leadership of the market to ensure the equitable distribution of whatever assistance offered by the government, stressing that it should not be politicized.
The Chairman of the (Fancy) section of the market affected by the fire, Mr Rahman Olabamiji said no fewer than 1000 shops were affected , while appreciating the state governor and Caretaker Chairman of Ibadan South West, Alhaji Taoheed Adeleke for their prompt visit.
Olabamiji further thanked Governor Ajimobi for his past assistance to the traders, just as he pleaded for kind assistance to the victims to cushion the effect of the huge loss.
He blamed the fire men for not rising promptly to the challenge, adding that the fire would have been put under control if the firefighters had water in their tankers.
Investigation revealed that when the fire initially started, five shops were affected while the private night guards on duty alerted men of Oyo state fire Service nearby.
It was also learnt that the fire fighters could however not get enough water to contain the fire, a development which worsened the situation.
It was a sad tale for many of the traders who got to know of the incident as late as midnight as hoodlums had already vandalized and stolen their goods before getting to the market.
The leader of Igbo community in the state, Eze Ndigbo of Ibadanland, Eze Alex Anozie on Monday led other Igbo chiefs to the market to sympathise with the traders .
Describing the loss as very devastating, Anozie made a passionate appeal to the state government to assist the affected traders financially and also help in reconstructing the shops.
He also suggested that the market be ordered to close by 6pm daily, leaving only the security personnel to man the market, and to open for business by 7am .
“I remember that since such was introduced at Onitsha market, frequent fire out break there stopped”, Anozie added.