Inside Abuja

How inferno brought loss, sadness at Yuletide

Recently, a popular shopping mall in Abuja, was razed by fire, resulting in the loss of goods worth billions of naira. DEBORAH OCHENI reports.


The shop had closed on 24th December 2021 in order to allow its staff and customers to celebrate the Christmas holiday. It was scheduled to open at 12 noon on December 26, 2021 being Boxing Day.


The cleaners, cashiers, security and bakery staff came into the shop in the early hours of the resumption day to clean and get all the facets of the store ready for operations. But the cleaners had barely finished cleaning the store, when the fire started from one of the departments in Next Cash & Carry superstore.


The staff immediately alerted the fire fighters, as well as security operatives and they all assisted in no small measure to reduce the extent of the damage caused by the fire. General Manager of Next Group,Neil Pape, said investigations has commenced to ascertain the extent of the loss.


He, however, implored the government to support the process of the investigation as well as the efforts geared towards rebuilding the business empire. He disclosed that Next Cash and Carry Facilities and Stores were built and operated according to international standards.


“As the General Manager of Next Cash and Carry Nigeria, I had worked in the best retail outlets in the world before joining Next Cash and Carry Nigeria and with my wealth of experience i can confirm that the operations of Next Cash and Carry Nigeria and facilities are of first class standard.


“The Roof covering of Next Cash & Carry building is fire proof and was built by -Tower Aluminum Kaduna. Next Cash and Carry limited has a competent Firefighting truck in Abuja which has assisted the Fire Service in several fire incidents in Abuja.


The company has fire extinguishers and fire hose reels con  nected to the hydrant placed in strategic positions all within the store under the FCT Fire service supervision. The FCT Fire service conducts quarterly fire outbreak training for all staff & certifies all our operations.



“Next Cash and Carry has outsourced & employed a professional security company (Olode Security and Technology Nigeria Limited). The company also has a staff strength of about 1000 direct and indirect staff and over 3000 vendors with 200 farmers supplying items to the store.


“The company would like to appeal to the investigating authorities to conduct a thorough investigation to ascertain the immediate and remote cause of the fire outbreak which is strange and has the effect of adversely affecting future investments in the FCT and Nigeria at large.


“The losses are under investigation and it is huge. As soon as we have the total amount lost and we get the records of all the stock in our business, we will give a feedback in a press release. We will need the support of the government as we streamline plans to open a new store,” he said.


Pape assured the staff of the departmental stores that none would lose their jobs as a result of the fire incident as the management of the retail outlet was looking at the possibility of giving saving packages and redeploying our staff as soon as the business opens.


Shittu Saheed, one of the persons who helped out in salvaging some items described the inferno as a sad occurrence that happened on a day of celebration.

He said: “It is most unfortunate for those who lost their goods at this critical time, I live somewhere behind next, I was passing to go home when I met the incidence. “The little I could do was to help in packing out goods that were still safe and when I started, others joined me.


“With the help of those that joined me, we were able to save a lot of things from catching fire but I was so disappointed when I saw a trending video that we were looting the items but them god sees out heart and will reward us accordingly.”


Isreal Enebi, a regular customer of the superstores, cautioned shop owners to be more vigilant to avoid such infernos and avoidable losses. “I felt so bad when I heard of fire outbreak. I was not long after I and my family finished shopping from there when it happened.


“This is the harmattan season and prone to a lot of sparks and fire disasters, shop owners, traders and market dwellers to be more vigilant and endeavour to switch off all appliances before leaving their shops and market.


The fire in Next Cash and Carry  is very unfortunate and we pray that this does not happen again,” he said. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development,


Sadiya Umar Farouq, who visited the site of the inferno to ascertain the extent of damage at the facility, described the losses as catastrophic and colossal.


“This is a very unfortunate incident. It is catastrophic and a loss not just to the management of the company, but to the government and Nigeria at large.


Immediately the fire started, we deployed officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) together with other sister agencies to come and assist in the rescue operations.


“As you can see, the extent of damage cannot be quantified. The government offers its deepest sympathy to the management and team of Next Cash and Carry and we will also come in as a government to see how we can support you.


“I hereby call for caution to avoid more fire outbreaks. This is because, incidence of fire outbreaks are usually high during the harmattan season.


“It is also critically important that an establishment like this or any other commercial or public building should put in place necessary arrangements to prevent disasters like this and also update their fire prevention drills,” Farouq admonished.

Leave a Reply