Harmattan: A season of rampaging fire incidents

It’s the beginning of a New Year.  Celebrations are still high up with many in anticipation for a pleasant year. Ironically, fate has a different plan for some Nigerians as there are fire outbreaks across the country. New Telegraph’s report

 

 

IBADAN

It was a humongous New Year tragedy at the popular commercial centre, Akesan Market, in Oyo town, early Sunday morning when a power surge in a shop led to a conflagration that destroyed almost the whole market leaving the traders with loses running into billions of naira.

The fire broke out at about 2.00 a.m, but due to inability of the only vehicle available at the Fire Station (20 metres to the market) to move, the fire raged on till dawn. The fire fighting vehicle from Ogbomoso Town (several kilometres away) arrived to extinguish the inferno. Before its arrival, many of the shops in the multiple lanes in the massive market had been burnt without much of the goods salvaged. It was wailing and sobbing galore on Sunday afternoon as victims and sympathisers were seen gathering and smarting from their losses.

New Telegraph gathered that the fire erupted from a shop when power supply was restored. Due to the devastating extent of the damage, some protesters were said to have besieged the Fire Station and vandalised the two vehicles in the compound, as well as the offices. In the melee, one of the protesters got killed. Two others were said to have received gunshot injuries and taken away for medical attention.

When New Telegraph visited the market at about 11.30 a.m, the road leading to the Alaafin’s palace (about 30 metres to the Fire Station) was seething with crowd. Some of the shops were still oozing out smoke. It was lamentation all over the surroundings as people were blaming the great loss on the ineffectiveness of the Oyo State Fire Service.

Responding to the incident, Mr Moshood Adewuyi, Deputy Director, Fire Service spoke, who was on ground controlling the situation, said: “When the fire occurred, the firemen on ground rushed to the scene to salvage it. In fact, when they got there, it was only one shop where restoration of power supply led to surge that was burning. As soon as the electricity was restored, people heard an explosion and the fire began. Instead of the people to support the fire fighters and extinguish it, as soon as they identified my men as fire fighters, they said, ok, you didn’t come with vehicle, and so they started beating them and said they would machete my men.  As soon as I was informed, I told them that they should run for their lives, safety first. And you see, instead of the people to support the fire fighters to extinguish the fire in that only shop, they didn’t do anything and so the fire started spreading. The next thing they did was to go to the Station and vandalised the whole vehicle and equipment. Even the two brand new tyres I brought here few days ago for the vehicle were taken out by these protesters and burnt on the road.

“I have informed my boss and he said I should withdraw my staff from the place because they cannot be staying outside. They vandalised the whole station to the point of felling the walls. When I learnt that the fire was gaining momentum, I had to send the Fire Vehicle you are seeing, from the Secretariat, Ibadan, to come here and I followed, because I went back to Ibadan yesterday evening,” he said.

On the allegation that the vehicle could not be moved to the scene because it had no water, Adewuyi said, “As I am talking to you now, the vehicle is fully loaded with water. I can take you there so we can climb it and you confirm. Can you even believe it that the overhead tank we use to preserve water is filled with water? These people went there and removed the valve and started wasting the water in anger because they thought we had water but didn’t want to use it. See that!

“The Imperial Majesty, Alaafin, himself said that he was outside in the night seeing people holding machetes and other dangerous implements on the road. The melee got to an extent that one of the fire men (Abdulsalam Ibrahim) was beaten and injured. It was Alaafin who conveyed the staff to a hospital.”

On the rumour that men of the Operation Burst (a combined state security outfit) manning the Fire Station opened fire at the protesters, killing three of them, Adewuyi explained that, “the protesters were stoning the Operation Burst men. Actually, about three persons were involved. One person died and two others were injured. They were taken to a hospital. Even, the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Kehinde Ayoola, has taken it upon himself by referring the injured to another hospital in Ibadan.”

One of the victims of the fire incident, Madam Sidikatu Oladipupo (Iya Asake Alaso), whose shop is at Youth Line in the market, relieved her experience to New Telegraph, saying that she was informed four minutes after 4.00 a.m that Akesan Market was on fire and that the fire had consumed her shop where she was selling clothes. “Apart from my shop that was completely burnt, my daughters’ shops- Mutiatu Oladipupo, as well as, those of Mosunmola Ayodele, Balikis Oladipupo, Kafilat Eruonike and Amudat Adeleke were also burnt down. They sell clothes, cosmetics and foot wears. This is a great loss.  In the shop of Mutiatu Salami, goods destroyed will be in the region of N2m. I recently lost a relation and all that people dashed me including clothes and money were kept in that shop. I have lost them all. We want our government to assist us in whatever they can because we are now helpless,” she pleaded.

Another victim of the incident who sells Babies materials, Mrs Ajibade Rasidat, said that, “my shop is at No A1. They have considered us as bush people in Oyo. If not, how can there be a Fire Station close to the major market in the town like this and only one vehicle will be available. If one vehicle is damaged or faulty, why can’t they have one or two more on a standby? They said there was no water and the vehicle was faulty and they watched until the whole Akesan Market got destroyed. When it is electioneering period, they will come here and be making promises, yet they cannot equip the station and protect us.

“It is true that there was water in the vehicle but the vehicle didn’t work, it could also not move. Our night watchmen went to inform the fire fighters but they could not do anything because their vehicle could not move. It was around 4.00 this morning (Sunday) that angry people went to meet them, asking them to act. Whatever assistance the government can do is what we are expecting. The goods we have lost as a whole in the market is nothing in the region of millions, but billions. My mother is trading here as well as my elder and younger sister, a whole family. And there are many other families like that with shops in Akesan Market. Many are graduates who didn’t get job and so pulled resources together to be trading because we cannot steal. How can we survive this? There is one woman in the market whose shop was burnt and the Operation Burst security still killed her male son. They said others were injured. Should they be firing gunshots in such a situation? The worst they should have done was to have fired tear gas to disperse the angry protesters. They have taken us for bush people here,” the distraught woman said.

When the image maker of the Oyo State Police Command, Gbenga Fadeyi (Superintendent of Police) was contacted for reaction, he told New Telegraph that one person actually died and three persons sustained injury, but that “Police did not shoot. It was not police that shot the person that died,” adding that a press statement will soon be made available on the incident.

Oyo Govt

The Government of Oyo State has promised to acquire 10 modern fire-fighting equipments through competitive bidding process.

The State’s Commissioner for Infrastructure, Transportation and Public Works, Professor Raphael Afonja, who made the disclosure while undertaking an on-the-spot assessment of the fire-ravaged Akesan Market on Sunday (Oja Akesan) in Oyo town, said that the process that would lead to the acquisition of the equipment would start on Monday (today).

This position is coming on the heels of fire incidents that led to loss of lives and destruction of goods and properties worth multi-millions of Naira in Ibadan and Oyo, with the Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde, expressing sympathy to all victims of the incident.

Earlier in a post on his Facebook and Twitter handles, Governor Makinde sympathised with the victims of the Akesan Market and promised to get to the roots of the incident.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the Governor and the Commissioner for Works as speaking on the unfortunate fire incident that ravaged Akesan market in Oyo Town in the early hours of Sunday.

The Commissioner for Works, who visited the scene of the incident with the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Kehinde Ayoola and the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health, spoke at the Akesan Market and the Palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III.

He stated that the Government of Engineer Makinde inherited a Fire Service Department with weakened capacity as a result of obsolete equipment.

According to him, the incumbent Government in Oyo State had flagged off a process of rehabilitating the serviceable fire-fighting trucks so as to provide immediate service to the people.

He also stated that the process of rehabilitating the inherited trucks was still ongoing when the outbreak of fire incidents occurred repeatedly.

The Commissioner said: “The last time fire-fighting equipment was procured in the state was in 2006. The present government has, however, kick-started the rehabilitation of the few serviceable fire-fighting trucks. The one that was vandalised in Oyo was just repaired the day before when it developed gear problems after returning from an assignment.

“Last month we engaged a company that will help us refurbish and salvage some of our existing trucks including the one that was vandalized in Oyo.

“We are also publishing by tomorrow (Monday) the tender request that will allow companies to bid for and supply the State with 10 modern fire-fighting trucks through an open and competitive process.”

In a post on his social media handles, Governor Makinde had commiserated with the victims of the fire incident, assuring them of his Government’s determination to end such disasters.

The Governor wrote: “I received with shock, the news of the fire outbreak at Oja Akesan in Oyo Town, in the early hours of this morning (Sunday morning). Words cannot convey my deep sadness at this incident and I sympathise with the victims. I appeal for calm as we investigate the circumstances around the unfortunate incident.”

RIVERS

A fire outbreak, which started in the early hours of Sunday in Port Harcourt, rendered about 18 families homeless after the fire burnt down a whole compound.

According to some residents of the compound, situated at number 7, Dim Street, Mile 3 Diobu, Port Harcourt; the fire started around 12am, shortly after the tenants had entered their apartments for night sleep.

The residents who described the fire as mysterious because it started in a way they are still struggling to comprehend, lamented that the fire, apart from burning into ashes their life belongings, equally noted that it has rendered them homeless.

While the fire destroyed properties worth millions of naira, no life was lost neither was any injury sustained as the tenants rushed out of their apartments immediately a tenant raised the fire alarm.

Some of the tenants in the highly populated compound stood outside and watched as the fire spread to every part of the compound, and destroyed their properties, as a violent mob gathered

A tenants identified as Rumene Jabin lamented that despite efforts by some of the tenants to salvage some properties, their efforts ended in futility because no one was able to pick anything.

Another tenant who was also affected by the fire said that most of the tenants were concerned about the safety of their neighbours, hence worked jointly to ensure that everybody was evacuated despite the reality that their properties were being burnt by fire.

The tenant, who declined to state his name appealed to the Rivers State government to come to their aid through financial support to enable them replace their properties and rent new apartments.

He said: “This is the third day of January, and already we are counting our losses, instead of our blessings. But the good thing is that no life was lost and nobody was hurt. That alone gives one the hope that God is still in control.

“I am appealing to the state government to come to our aid. As I am talking to you, I don’t have any other clothe apart from this trouser and shirt I am wearing. That is also the case with other tenants. We are seriously in need of assistance.”

A personnel from the Rivers state Fire Service, Uchechukwu Igbor, who cited the incident on storage of petroleum products as the cause of the fire, disclosed that the fire would have spread to other compounds had the fire service not intervened.

Akwa Ibom

Tragedy struck residents of Yoruba fishing settlement in Iwokpom community , Ibeno local government area of Akwa Ibom state following fire outbreak that occurred early morning on Friday destroying more than 300 houses and outboard engines as well as other goods worth millions of naira.

An eyewitness Mrs Funke Awolabi told New Telegraph in Ibeno that the fire started at exactly 12:30 am and destroyed all the fishes, houses, outboard engines and other valuables including undisclosed cash owned by residents in the fishing settlement.

“The fire started at exactly 12:30am destroying all the houses in the fishing settlement. As I am talking now, we don’t have clothes to wear even where to stay. All of us are homeless,” she said.

Another victim simply identified as Bimbo said she was in the church for the New Year programme when they called to inform that her house was gutted by fire.

Narrating her ordeal, Bimbo said she rushed back home to see that her house was burning while she watched helplessly, she sobbed.  “Look at me now . Where am I starting from in a strange land ? No cloth, no house , no money to continue my fish business .I don’t know what to do”

Conducting New Telegraph round scene of the fire incident, the Vice Chairman of Ibeno local government Hon . Sunday Etor Isokobo said he had a distress call from one of the fire victims at about 1: 05 am before he knew that fire has engulfed the entire fishing settlement.

“Immediately I got the call, I abandoned what I was doing to see things for myself. When I came to the scene, the fire was too big that nobody could penetrate. I mean nobody could near the fire,” he said.

Isokobo added that more than 200 wooden Houses , more than 50 blocked Houses, many outboard engines owned by fishermen and fishes worth several millions of naira were completely burnt down. He lamented that,”by my calculation, more than 200 Wooden houses , more than 50 block Houses ,Outboard engines and fishes have been destroyed ”

He said from investigation, the cause of the fire was not known as residents attributed it to electrical fault while some suspected women who smoking fish in the settlement.  Isokobo urged government and every well meaning individual including corporate organisations to rise up and bring succour to the fire victims.  “There is one Yoruba woman I saw there. Her case is very pathetic, she went for Tarry Night in her church with entire family only for her to be called to inform her that the entire house was completely razed. “She could not picked anything. I saw her with the clothes she wore last night.”

Also speaking, the Special Assistant to the Chairman of Ibeno local government  on Non Indigene Matters Foli Ogungbemi said the fishing settlement is predominantly Yoruba people with few Ibeno people living there to transact fish business.

He lamented that some Yoruba residents have travelled and would be stranded when they returned to continue in their business.

Emmanuel sympathises with victims of fire disaster

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has sympathised with families of victims of the fire disaster that destroyed more than 2, 000 houses and rendered 4,000 people homeless in Iwuokpom community in Ibeno.

Emmanuel while accessing the inferno that happened yesterday at about 12:30 a. m in Ibeno Local Government Area on Sunday, assured the victims of his administration’s support and commitment to give them a new phase of life.

The governor promised to salvage Iwuokpum community from their present predicament which he described as “unfortunate and pathetic’’.

He expressed shock over the level of devastation and sufferings the inferno had caused Iwuokpom community. Emmanuel, represented by Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, the Secretary to the State Government, commended the villagers united efforts for initiating a fire-front fighting approach to put off the wild fire without any life being lost.

And no fire burnt injuries sustained even without the help of the fire Service officials.  He told the homeless fishermen whose houses had been destroyed by the inferno that his administration was ready to provide adequate funds and necessary support to effectively assuage their sufferings and pains.  The governor advised that access road should not be interconnected when structures of any kind was to be erected.

He emphasised that a design that would reflect global standard when reconstructing the devastated fishing area at Iwuopkpum in order to avert future occurrence must be strictly adhered to. “Our coming here on his directive is to ascertain level of damages for possible rapid action to ensure the sufferings and pains of Iwuokpum people caused by the inferno is assuaged. This indicates the governor’s love for his people,’’ he stated.

Also Speaking, the Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation Development, Mr Okpolupm Etteh, expressed pains engulfing the people of Iwuokpom whom he said were peaceful, loving and hardworking.  He encouraged them to remain calm while awaiting government rapid attention and support to the fishing settlement.

“Gov. Emmanuel is a man whose words are his bond. He is not happy that this unwholesome incidence happened hence our coming to help map out measures through which those affected can be assisted and the area rebuilt,’’ Etteh said.

The village head of Iwuokpum village, Chief Okon Akpanowung, who spoke on behalf of Iwuokpom community, appealed to the governor for a speedy donation of relief materials to ameliorate the sufferings of the affected fire victims.

New Telegraph gathered that Iwuokpom is predominantly occupied by fishermen. The area engulfed by fire was popularly called “Yoruba Quarters’’.

The properties calculated to have been lost to the fire inferno include; thousands of fishing nets, hundreds of canoe boats, uncountable outboard engines, houses among others.

EKITI

Tuesday 31st of December 2019 would forever linger in the  mind of traders and regular buyers at the main market known as OjaBisi in Ado EKiti, capital city of EKiti State.

The Popular market named after the current deputy governor in the state, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi  was established in 1992, during old Ondo State , when Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua was the governor  while the deputy governor (Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi)was the Chairman of Ado Local government .

New Telegraph gathered that the fire incident was caused by a trader who attempted to fuel his generator while it was still on. When fire sparked, out of fear ,he threw the fuel Jerry can to another side where several shops were located, thus, the fire spreads  all over , which led to destruction of properties worth of millions, while several people ran for dear lives.

Goods destroyed by the inferno included clothing materials,  household items food stuffs, educational materials and personal effects.

It was gathered that the trader who caused the inferno, still managed to secure  his own goods before he ran away for fear of jungle Justice by aggressive traders. No fewer than 16 traders reportedly lost several goods and property worth millions of naira.

The most painful  according to one of the  victims Mrs Omotayo Joel who sell clothing materials is that, I just came back from Lagos where I went to buy new market, only for inferno out of someone’s carefree attitude to come and gulp my sweat, very painful. “

The traders explained that they didn’t only loose goods, but also cash.They lamented that many of them rely on loans to keep up in their various businesses, describing the incident as a great loss in New year Eve.

Another trader from the East, Jacob Chuck’s who lamented profusely stated that the trader out of his carelessness has put them in a huge debt.  “This is a terrible situation when you are suffering from the carelessness and ignorance of another. It’s very unfortunate.”

The traders appealed to the government to come to their rescue, saying the incident has put them in a huge debt.

A 50 year old Mrs. Olubunmi Ilugbusi regretted she lost many things to the fire incident, she recounted  her losses as grinding machine, three big stabilizers, sewing machine, big ward robes full loaded with clothing materials and big coolers. Ilugbusi, added that, “cash of N85,000, was  also  lost to the incident.”

Ilugbusi’s son Pastor Adeleye Oluwaniyi while appealing to government to come to their aid, “the only cloth with my mother is the one she was wearing presently.  It was a disaster”

The fire also destroyed some houses within the market where some of these traders reside.

A trader, Mrs Rali Jimoh who belongs to this category , said she lost about N150,000 cash in the fire which she put in the house. 

Another Mrs. Bello Sherifat who  sells readymade dresses, said she lost N2.5million.

Other traders who lost goods /money includes

Adedayo Ogunmola, who sells bales of clothing materials said ” it was a sad incident, which has forcefully taken about N3 million from her and several from others.

Mr. Taiwo Adelere, who sells bales of fairly used cloths, bags, said that, ” my goods that worth N7 million were destroyed in the fire accident.

Other traders who recounted their losses in different ways include Ayuba Sherifat, who deals in Turbans and neck laces. She claimed to have lost N700,000, in the inferno Olorunshomo Tosin, who sells sugar, ground nut in her stall, also amounted her losses to N43,500.

Some of the traders also claimed to have lost their valuable documents and that of their children. Among  these category, is Adelere Oluwafemi, who just got admission to the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Adelere Deji, a  student’s of Federal Polutechnic, Ado-Ekiti.

However the affected traders have since submitted pictures/evidence to the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, in Ado-Ekiti, for government intervention.

Also on January 1st, fire a residential building at Isinle street, Basiri area in Ado-EKiti, it reportedly started around 11 .15pm on that day. Properties belonged to the occupants completely got burnt.

One of the residents, Mr. Adebayo Ajiboye who spoke on behalf of the occupants explained that, “the fire started when we had all retired to bed sleeping around 11.15 pm on Wednesday, New year day.”It was a disaster, all what we laboured for have been destroyed by fire.”

Meanwhile hopes have  come way of the fire victims when the Deputy Governor, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi, on Monday, January 6 visited the   market. Egbeyemi described the fire incidents as very sad and unfortunate.

A statement by the Special Assistant (Media) to the Deputy Governor, Odunayo Ogunmola, said a total number of 20 traders and five members of Saruku Family at Bisi Market had their goods and property consumed in the end-of-the-year inferno.

Consoling victims of the fire incidents during separate visits, Egbeyemi said God should be praised that no life was lost which gave them a ray of hope.

While regretting that the fire victims suffered losses worth millions of Naira, Egbeyemi prayed God to mitigate the loss and restore the lost fortunes.

The Deputy Governor who also prayed that God will wipe away the tears of the victims said government would not leave them to their fate at their trying period. He however stressed that government alone cannot provide for all their losses, Egbeyemi assured that government would assist within its limited resources.  “The Lord will take care of your losses and compensate you appropriately, wipe you tears away this year and send helpers to you. Although government cannot do it all but government will surely assist.”

Related posts

Leave a Reply