A few days into the New Year, a ‘ strange ‘ fire engulfed a segment of the popular Kugbo Furniture Market in Abuja Municipal Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory leaving behind huge losses. CALEB ONWE reports
here is yet no consensus on how and the exact time the fire started but those who saw it first said it began as a negligible flame in one of the shops and later grew into a wild inferno consuming everything on its way.
Inside Abuja‘s investigation showed that the segment of the market where the fire started was an industrial site where most of the furniture in the market were produced.
In the end, not less than 22 furniture workshops were reduced to rubbles as the furniture and industrial machines in them were burnt beyond recognition.
The inferno was said to have consumed both finished and unfinished furniture works as well as industrial machines worth over N40 million.
Although no human life was lost to the fire disaster, several of the victims said they suffered huge losses and have been rendered miserable debtors.
Inside Abuja‘s investigation also revealed that many of the victims do not have showrooms where furniture are displayed in the market but were professional furniture makers, who get jobs from different clients to produce and deliver to different destinations.
The most disturbing and pathetic narrative of their ordeals, is the fact that many of them allegedly obtained loans to execute the jobs.
Chairman, Kugbo Furniture Market, Mr. Austin Onu, who is also one of the victims, confirmed that the fire incident has dealt a big blow on him and his colleagues.
Onuh said he incurred personal losses of both furniture and other goods to the tune of about N21 million. He noted that the full account of the losses suffered by members would be made known after a thorough evaluation of the damages.
He also confirmed that the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had visited the burnt market to evaluate the damages. He expressed surprise that the current disaster occurred in spite of the fact that the market leaders had put up some measures to prevent fire outbreaks in the market before now.
“We have some measures here that have been helping us in fire prevention. We embarked on routine environmental sanitation to ensure that the environment was cleared of everything that could cause fire disaster in this industrial area.
“We are yet to determine the cause of the inferno but my furniture worth over N21 million have been burnt by the fire. Some of us here just returned from Christmas and New Year celebrations, and started work that our customers gave us but by this morning, we only came to see ashes”, he said.
Leader of the Task Force in the market, Mr. Ade Oshogbo, said the fire started around 10pm and not midnight as some traders had said, adding that fire fighters arrived the scene of the incident within 30 minutes with four trucks of water.
“We got to know about the fire from 10pm, after people started shouting fire, fire. The fire actually started close to my own shop. I quickly rushed to the place. I also called the police team in charge of the area. I don’t have the Fire Brigade contacts.
“It was the Police that helped to call the Fire fighters, who arrived within 30 minutes time with 4 trucks of water. The fire fighters struggled to put off the fire around 3am, early in the morning of the following day.”
According to him, out of the shops razed by the fire, about 10 of them had heavy industrial machines and other equipment worth millions of Naira.
“Many of the victims already had finished jobs that were due for delivery but all were burnt down. Some of the victims had jobs they were doing for their various clients as contracts. All that were consumed by the fire. These victims are now heavily indebted and do not know where help will come from.
“One of the victims lost about N12million because of the industrial machines that were burnt down in his shop. This man also has a new shop he just built and has not put to use. All of them were consumed by the fire.
“We have not been able to pinpoint the cause of the fire. While there is a suspicion that it might have been caused by electrical light, we also believe that the fire disaster was a mysterious one because where the fire started from does not have an electricity connection”, he noted.
Some of the victims who lost their furniture to the fire said they were already negotiating with their clients on how to resolve the debts hanging on their necks.
Monday Apute, a victim, said he lost goods worth over N3million to the disaster and has not received any assistance from anywhere.
“The major challenge I have now is the how to talk to my clients whose jobs were consumed by the fire. Some of the clients appear to be very difficult and not considerate. They are already pressuring us to deliver their jobs,” he said.
Babaniyi Arotiba, another victim, noted that he also lost over N3 million to the fire .
” I have already made set of sofa chair, with the industrial machines. The contract work I was undertaking for my clients before the fire incident was worth N1.5million. I have been pleading with my clients to be patient with me, so that I can put myself together to deliver on our agreements,” he said.
The story is not different for Abdul Abdulmumin and Anayo Chineto, who said they lost N2 million and N1. 2 million respectively to the fire.
They also said that while they were already trying to rebuild their burnt shops and start life afresh, they were also negotiating with their clients on how to make up for the burnt finished and unfinished jobs.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the Federal Capital Territory Emergency Management Agency(FEMA), Alhaji Abbas Idriss could not confirm what his agency was doing about the ordeals of the victims of this fire disaster.
In an SMS reaction to Inside Abuja‘s inquiry, Idriss revealed that he was just coming back from a trip and was yet to be briefed on the findings of the agency’s team that visited the place.
“I am just coming back from a trip. I haven’t received any report on the incident. Fire Service must have done their report but I’m yet to see any report on that”, he said.