Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
No fewer than 15 shops and about 10 vehicles were burnt to ashes at the Mechanic Village, Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, in the early hours of Wednesday.
The cause of the inferno which started at about started 5:00a.m. was yet to be unravelled but allegations were rife that the cause might not be unconnected to the leadership crisis rocking the market.
Last Friday, there was pandemonium in the artisans’ market when some suspected thugs invaded the business premises to disrupt commercial activities over the botched election by the artisans.
The hoodlums, suspected to be hired, also set up bonfires as they rampaged. Save for the timely intervention of a crack team of policemen, the situation might have gone bloody.
Mr. Christian Enwerem is one of the victims. He lamented that his shop which was razed had some equipment including calibrating machine worth N3 million, motor parts, properties belonging to his clients among others which were all burnt to ashes.
“I was in my house around 7am this morning when somebody called and told me to come to shop immediately that everywhere was on fire and that our workshop has been burnt to ashes.
“When I came in, I discovered that my workshop has been burnt down by fire. We don’t electricity here, I have generating set to energize my workshop here
and I always off it whenever I am through with it. My injector calibrator machine, motor components spare parts inside the shop were gutted by fire”, he narrated.
Caretaker Chairman of Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association (NATA) in the market, Mr. Chidiebere Uzo, while speaking to newsmen expressed sadness over the disaster. He however alleged that it was masterminded by enemies of the Mechanic Village.
“I was in my house this morning when I received a call from one of the security men that there was fire in the mechanic village. I engaged many security men to be guarding the mechanic village but the crisis we had here last Friday stopped them from coming here again. So, some of them called at 5:30 am that this place was on fire.
“I had to drive to the mechanic village. I rushed to fire service office and alerted them and we followed together and came to the mechanic village. Before we could get to the scene, vehicles have been burnt to ashes, shops have also been burnt. The fire wanted to enter other shops but the fire service men quenched it.
“But I must tell you that the fire is suspicious. There are four burnt tires in four different locations where the fire emanated from. It is not an ordinary fire. It is a planned deal and I wonder what the person who did it will benefit from it. Soon, they would be fished out because they cannot succeed no matter the way they planned it”, Uzo assured.
Police spokesperson in the state, Loveth Odah, confirmed the incident but dismissed the allegation by some artisans that the fire was masterminded. She said that preliminary investigations showed that the fire might have been caused by phone batteries connected to the electricity in one of the shops. ENDS